There’s a lot of things the government tells you when they’re trying to convince you to enter Witness Protection.
That your testimony is absolutely vital.
That the country will be better off without whoever it is they want you to squeal on walking the streets.
That you and those you care most about will be safe and protected, the program having never lost a single person under their care.
Even more extensive is the list of things they don’t tell you.
The infinite number of things that will never be the same, the sorts of decisions that are made for you in an instant, never to be reneged on.
The inability to ever visit your old home. Eat a meal at your favorite restaurant. Even visit the gravesites of your parents.
For six long years I trod through the program, checking in when I was required to, going through the motions of putting my life back together someplace new.
Trying to avoid being angry about the fact that while the prosecutor got his conviction and skyrocketed to a new position, the program got another victory to add to their tally and another story to sell on the next poor schmuck, all I got was a life I never wanted and damned sure never asked for.
A place with a name I despised and a morning ritual of staring into the mirror at a face I barely even recognized anymore.
An existence that could be shattered by something as simple as a phone call, just thirty seconds needed to deliver a lightning bolt from the clear blue sky, changing everything that had taken more than a half-decade to put into place.
Not until that very moment, standing in the kitchen of my apartment, naked save a pair of boxer shorts and a cross swinging free from my neck, bent forward with my hands pressed into the side of the sink, gasping to catch my breath, did the biggest omission the government made really come into stark relief for me.
No matter how hard they tried, no matter what strictures they put into place, reassurances they tried to give me, nobody could hide forever.
Because forever was a really long ass time.