Getting out of jail is a great feeling. After spending months locked in an odorless, cement cage, eating tasteless food, with the only form of entertainment some awful book that I was lucky to get my hands on, being freed into the outside world left me with a new appreciation for everything from a home-cooked meal to walking down the street on a sunny day. My senses were heightened and the world would constantly overwhelm me with beauty. However, after some time went by and I became more and more integrated into society, the thrill of freedom began to slowly wear off. It became difficult not to take the simple joys in life for granted, like the fact that I wasn’t trapped in an 8x10 cell, and didn’t have a correctional officer yelling in my face as he checks my rectum for anything that might be stashed up there. I soon found myself extremely concerned with finding a job. My mom grew tired of me bumming money for cigarettes and coffee. My friends stopped calling because they were sick of paying for me to go to dinner or a movie with them. Everyone had seemed so happy to have me back around at first, but they eventually began to dislike having to take care of me and help me out. And it’s not like I enjoy being a charity case; I wanted just as much as they did to be self-sufficient. Money soon became the center of my focus, and before I knew it, I was consumed with the same stresses and worries as everyone else in Rancho San Diego, a quaint suburb of East County, where I live with my parents in the house I grew up in. One day, I became so frustrated with the fact that I could not find a job, and therefore had no money, that I decided to go through the blue trashcans left on the curb in my parents’ neighborhood and collect recyclables. I hoped I could make enough money to take the bus out of Rancho to buy a new book and grab a coffee. After only a few cans, I had already filled three trash bags, so I tied them up and began walking them towards my parents’ house, but noticed a white SUV creep up behind me and park about thirty yards back. I turned the corner to see if the car might be following me, and sure enough, it turned the corner and parked across the street. I could see a middle-aged woman on her cell phone, looking in my direction. Worried this lady might start some problems for me, I hurried the bags around the corner of my parents’ house, hid them in the bushes and quickly turned around to walk the other way. But as I did, the white SUV turned the corner. So I sat on the curb in front of my parents’ house and lit a cigarette. The woman came back around the corner and pulled up next to me. “We know it’s you that went through our trash cans,” she yelled out the window. “And now I know where you hid your bags.” I could only stare at her. “I reported you already,” she continued. “The police should be on their way.”Having nothing to say, I continued staring at her in disbelief as she sneered at me and drove off. After taking a minute to process what had just happened, I finished my cigarette and decided I wanted to avoid any encounter with the cops at all costs. I immediately had my sister drive me and my trash bags to the recycling center to destroy the evidence. I cashed in my cans and bottles and walked home, wondering how someone could be so upset over me going through their trash cans. I wondered if this woman had ever seen any hardships in her life. I doubted it. She struck me as the typical latte drinking yuppie that used to come into starbucks when I worked there several years before; whose husband made tons of money and had never had to work a day in her life. I couldn’t believe the woman was so upset about me going through a trash can; to the point that she wanted to have me arrested. I tried to remember when the last time someone in town had even acknowledged me. I thought of a time when my friend who lives up north was in town visiting his family. He and I had met at a nearby park one night to catch up on life. As we sat there smoking cigarettes, sharing our latest adventures with one another, a car slowly pulled up. The window rolled down and a woman poked her head out. “What are you doing here?” she asked in a very rude voice. “My friend is in town and we’re going for a walk,” I replied. “Is there a problem? “I just wanted to make sure you weren’t up to no good,” she snapped, as she sped off. Apparently, some of the people around here see me as a derelict that doesn’t belong in their quiet little suburb community. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t agree with them. But I try not to get too frustrated about these ignorant, suburbanite people. People who play golf and drink fine wine. People that rarely leave the bubble of fast-food chains and strip malls because “there is everything you need in Rancho.” And although I respect anyone that moves to a neighborhood in which they feel that raising a child would be best suitable, it is hard not to have a certain amount of disgust for these people who seem consumed with designer clothes or competing with the guy down the street for the newest, biggest truck. An intellectual conversation with a stranger is hard to come by out here. And though there is a certain amount of diversity in Rancho, it comes in the form of the Chaldeans (Iraqi Catholics that moved here to escape Muslim oppression), who have a church here. However, though they are nice enough people, they usually seem to be just as obsessed with material “stuff” than the average yuppie. They both have nothing better to do than sit around drinking frappachinos, talking about their vacation homes on Maui. It all is just becoming too much for me to handle. I think its driving me crazy. Though I treasure the time I spend with my parents, I can’t get out of East County soon enough; to live where people are real. People who don’t live in this cookie-cutter fantasy land called Rancho San Diego. Sometimes I even wonder if I would be happier going back to sleeping in a car parked near the beach. At least there, nobody would bother me for collecting aluminum cans and plastic bottles.

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