- maconsun posted this
Lloyd the Noid is what they called him back at the pen. It was unnerving, to say the least, to meet up with someone who criminals advisedly steered clear of. Trepidation shook my hands while I dialed him. I hoped with each subsequent ring that an answering machine would interrupt my call; that I would have avoided Lloyd after being so foolish as to seek him out. Lloyd the Noid answered, to my immediate dismay, just as his pre-recorded secretary was coming to my rescue.
“He-hello, Lloyd speaking,” his voice wasn’t at all expected. It was soft, not effeminate by my standards, but maybe in prison. I knew little of his disposition, but from my grapevine biography I assumed that nobody ever poked fun of his voice. Did this make him more dangerous? I chose my words carefully, trembling at the thought of this potentially volatile ex-criminal exploding with anger and embarking on an elaborate personal vendetta against me. It would be the kind of vendetta that could’ve only been contrived in a jail cell. Worse, it would be successful. What was I thinking? Avoid him, they said. Two words shouldn’t be so hard to follow.
The bedlam within my mind caused me to lose track of the conversation. This, of course, only exacerbated my situation. Not knowing whether or not I had been paying attention to my words, I was sure that he was pulling an old blueprint for murder out of his desk. He was surely crossing out the name of some bastardly prison guard and replacing it with mine. I would try to avoid him at this point, but it would be too late. Maybe it was an ironic nickname, as if to say that avoiding Lloyd was not actually possible. It didn’t matter, this would likely be my last phone conversation, other than a frantic 911 call that would be too little too late.
“Well, I’m free at any point on Sunday. There’s a coffee place just a few blocks from my apartment. Horrible coffee, but since most people know of this it’s usually pretty quiet,” he said jovially. Despite my immediate relief, I couldn’t help but consider possible ulterior motives for meeting at an empty coffee shop.
“Is there anywhere else we could meet?” I asked sheepishly.
“I’m still new in this neighborhood, but I could look into it. Why?” The way he said why caused my stomach to lurch. An overwhelming sense of “Oh Shit,” coursed through my veins. I’d done it now. I couldn’t confess why I’d requested a new venue; the guy had already been accused of murder once. I considered a bogus coffee bean allergy.
“Maybe we could grab a bite,” I said, adding, “I’ve never really been to that part of the city. You’re new to that neighborhood. We could expand our horizons,” for substance. He’s going to think I picked up on his effeminate voice and am trying to turn this interview into a date, I thought. Was he even aware of the way his voice sounded?
“For all those years, the only horizon I saw had barbed wire framing it,” he said quietly, mourning a life lost to stagnation. I’d done it. I’d officially said the wrong thing. “I’ll be damned if I let shitty coffee hold me back. I’ll tell you what; you pick a place and get back to me. Just make sure it has outdoor seating, a patio.”
We met up on Sunday at a tapas-type place. He liked the idea when I called him back. After eating prison food for nearly 12 years he would happily try anything. My nerves had calmed upon meeting him. He wasn’t particularly intimidating, nor did he try to send out those vibes. Lloyd was tall and slim, but not by any means gangly. He was built like a baseball pitcher, and his demeanor was just as pensive. I realized quickly why the outdoor seating was his only stipulation; an ashtray was already full by the time our food came out. Lloyd picked up the habit as a means to socialize in prison. He would offer his cigarettes to anyone who looked friendly, for a criminal anyway, and talk about buying them on the outside someday. I couldn’t help but smoke with him, adding ashes of my own to the cigarettes he laid to waste. Tobacco smoke was so stagnantly encapsulated within his lungs, from years upon years of packs upon packs. Smoke seeped out of this gaseous cauldron every time he exhaled, even between cigarettes. He let off decades of steam.
For hours we laughed, coughed, drank, and talked. He had just as many questions for me as I did for him. I thought he might be doing a personal interest story for his own paper that he’d send back to the prison, Lloyd’s Tabloid, or The Noid’s Noise. The whole reason I picked his story was because of his wrongful sentencing. He was convicted for two different murders and various counts of sexual aggression. 12 years into his sentence the actual perpetrator was caught committing nearly identical crimes. Lloyd and I didn’t talk about any of this; he didn’t want to go through the trial again. All he said on the subject was that the other guy was sent to the same prison, and simply added “Let’s just say I still have friends on the inside.”
I felt like I knew Lloyd like a childhood friend and he certainly knew me well enough after our outing. He had lost most of his childhood friends because they didn’t want to associate with a murderer. Here I was, talking for hours not with a murderer, but with a guy who was ecstatic about meeting someone new, about expanding his horizons. I hadn’t written anything down the entire time, I just listened. About an hour or so before the cafe was closing, there still had been no break in our conversation. Lloyd only had a few cigarettes left and was using the end of the box as a cue.
Before we parted ways I asked him a question I’d been dying to ask. “So, what’s up with the ‘avoid the noid’ thing?” I asked casually, hoping I wasn’t offending him.
After taking a drag so long that I thought he’d started a second cigarette, which he did shortly thereafter, Lloyd the Noid sat back reposefully.
“Well,” he followed with a long pause, “The guys in jail like their ears… so they tried to avoid me talking them off.” He laughed hysterically.