A few weeks later, my mother spoke to Troy on the phone.
Kavita: “Troy, did you get the good news? The federal court is going to hear oral arguments on your case on December 9th.”
Troy: “Oh, so that’s why people kept telling me to call my attorneys.”
Kavita: “Martina just told me and wanted us to tell you when you called. They just found out five minutes ago.”
Troy: “That’s good, I suppose. Kavita, I hope I’m not a burden with all these collect calls. I know y’all are paying four or five dollars per call, and with us talking so much that can really add up.”
Kavita: “It’s not a problem at all. Don’t worry about it.”
Troy: “I’m calling to tell you that I finally finished that poem I was going to write. I was thinking about my life and the things Priya was saying and all the conversations we’ve had. It got me, this so-called tough guy, all emotional. I didn’t want it to get too teary-eyed, but I wanted it to make people think. It’s about our visit and how ya’ll touched my life. You all have really touched my life in ways you will never understand.
“I had decided this morning to finish. I wrote both Gautam and Priya’s names on the same envelope, and that will be the envelope that has the poem in it, along with letters to both of them. In Priya’s letter I’m challenging her to stop texting so much, and for one month to spend more time with Gautam and not worry about what others think. I want them to study at the same table, for her to reach out to him for help and see how different things will be. I challenged her to figure out what she’s really made of and to see how her friends react when she really pushes herself.
“I told Gautam to reach out to her and embrace her, to sit and do homework at the kitchen table and be there to help her. It seems like he really misses his little sister.”
Kavita: “Gautam has always gone out of his way to be kind to her, but she has tried his patience a lot. Gautam is like you. He’s very strong, but very gentle and kind. As a kid he would always go down the slide and then open his arms and wait for her. She would run across and shove him out of the way.”
Troy: “You have been a good friend, no, a great friend. What I admire about you is that, unlike many other people who’ve come into my life, you’re not doing this for selfish reasons. I am very honored to have met all of you. You all inspire me. At one point, I had given up on having real friends. Then Ledra and Walker and their family came into my life. And then when I met your family, I realized there really are genuine people out there who care about others, who don’t think about what another person has to offer them. When y’all came into my life, y’all didn’t come in to get to know some death row inmate. You came here to get to know Troy. You and your family have opened up your hearts to me. It’s an amazing feeling to know that right when I was about to give up on true friends, sincere people like you showed up. I really appreciate it.”
Kavita: “We’re with you through the end, Troy.”
Troy: “I think you’re really going to like the poem I wrote. I put both of their names in the poem to let them know this is for them. I have the rough draft here, and I want to read it to you over the phone and see what you think. It’s called ‘Remain Free.’”