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I need to see Richard Arlow one last time. This is contrary to my previous resolutions, as well as the advice I've been given by my probation officer. It will be a difficult visit. But I believe Arlow owes me. On the crudest level, he owes me money, which I need. But he also owes me something else, something more ineffable. I can’t describe what that something is, but perhaps this narrative can give an insight. 

     It’s been eleven years, but I never forgot him. I couldn’t. Not for any romantic reason you might be thinking of. It’s because hardly a month of that time has passed without my being asked about him. Often it was journalists doing the asking. Sometimes people who felt they had a connection. Occasionally the police. My stock reply to all would be something along the lines of, 'He's a man of principle. I liked that. But principles are only laudable if you’re on the right side of them.' Of course, this is meaningless. But I've learned it is more acceptable to pack a great deal of meaninglessness into a few words than articulate coherently at length.  

     Why haven’t I seen him in eleven years? It’s simple. I’ve been in prison. You just can’t see everyone you want to see. You don’t even have to see people who want to see you. I turned down plenty of visiting requests. My parents, for the first year. Ola Olowe for the entire eleven—every other November, he’d ask to visit. No, no, no. For a while, he sent letters which I destroyed without reading.  

     Richard Arlow never wrote, never visited, never contacted me at all. This is another reason to see him. To ask why. 

     I served most of my time in a large women's jail in Middlesex. As my release date approached, they transferred me to a lower category prison near York and in both, I worked the kitchens earning £10 a week. Prisons cap spending at a monthly £60, but there isn’t much worth buying and so by the time of my release, I’d saved £1,260.  

     A lot of the rehabilitation programmes I'd undergone had emphasised self-reliance. The therapists told me I’d lived a life of servitude and bondage which I needed to escape from. It seems funny that a prison would want to teach you to escape from bondage. But I could see why they'd arrived at their diagnosis. I disagreed with it but it wasn't until my release day when I found myself standing in the cold in loose, eleven-year-old clothes, clutching my travel warrant and waiting for the bus into York that I realised how much of myself I’d lost. I was so scared to be outside, I asked the driver's permission to sit down. The bus stop was five minutes from the prison gate, he must have seen lots of ill-dressed women clutching travel warrants. He flicked his thumb at the seats and I got on. It was a half-hour journey, first through country roads lined with hedges and yellow fields and then the view thickened with houses and the streets became wider and then we were in the city. Arriving at York station, I looked out and saw on one side huge buildings of honey-coloured brick and on the other some kind of castle wall looming above me, and everywhere people like salt shaken onto a tumultuous meal. 

     The passengers had got off the bus. The driver was standing next to me. ‘Got somewhere to go?' 

     I did have somewhere to go. My probation officer had set me up in a hostel. 

     The driver pointed out to me a taxi rank. 'You've money? Give them the address and they'll get you there.' 

     And that’s how I came to find myself in this room in the north of the city. 

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