It is the day after. Only 30 hours since the news. I feel weird. Peaceful and almost calm, but definitely very weird, as if I’ve died and come back to life in a slightly different universe. Tala is sleeping and the three of us, Okha, Rob and I are sitting on the sofa under blankets watching Deadpool on the kind of illegal download site normally banned in our film household, but frankly no-one gives a damm today.
I’m asleep really, but I don’t want to miss a second with Rob so I fall asleep against his chest and sleep deeply like a baby that can only settle on its mother. It is 11 pm but a rapping on the door wakes me. Robs answers it and I hear muffled conversation through the sitting room wall before a slight woman enters. She has come to tag Rob. He has a curfew between 10pm and 7am. She explains that we will only ever hear from the tagging service in the hours of the curfew, hence why she is here so late. It strikes me how perfect she is for her job. She is matter of fact and polite without being insensitive to how this must feel for the family. She doesn’t intrude on us, and works quickly to set up the monitoring box in the corner of the room. It has to go somewhere where it won’t be in the way or get unplugged. In the weeks to come I worry that someone will forget and unplug it, setting off the alarm, and probably a cascade of trouble, but it survives a 10th birthday party and numerous close calls with teenagers plugging in their phones.
The tag is bigger than I thought it might be. A plastic band around the ankle holds the clunky tracking device. Apparently this is an updated model that is more comfortable, and at least it is waterproof. Rob models it gamely, making light of the situation as usual. She tells him to walk around the entire house and trace the perimeter of every room. He even has to put his foot into the bath so that the motoring box can learn what is house and what is not. He can’t go into the garden after curfew or step outside even for a moment to put the bins out. Every cloud has a silver lining I suppose…
Okha is clearly disturbed by the entire thing. I am to learn that she can cope with the situation only by pretending that it isn’t happening. After this first night where she wants to be near us, she is mostly out, sometimes for days at a time. When she is forced to listen to me explaining the ins and outs of the case to my lovely sister in law, she is bored and resentful. Escapism, denial and separation are her salvation. Who can blame her? She already lost one father when we spit up when she was one. She found Rob in the yoga centre he owned when she was 3. He created Pony World out of yoga mats for her, made her laugh, taught her to wink, made her collars and leads out of newspaper so that she could be a dog, loved her, taught her to trust men again, and adopted her when she was nine so that she could be as much his as his birth daughter. Theirs was a relationship of choice, and it was all the stronger for that. It is hard to truthfully disentangle what is normal teenage journey and what is damage incurred from the threat to this primary relationship by the prosecution, but it can hardly have helped. She has given up on school and prefers to work. She can do that without thinking, pay her way and ultimately has her independence. I see the appeal. She is reliable and charming at work and everybody seems to love having her around, I am immensely proud of her for this, and I also miss her deeply.
The tag looks like something put on a pigeon to monitor its movements. When I catch sight of it I am reminded forcefully of how powerless we are to stop this train. This is happening and no amount of positive thinking, or ranting about injustice and witch hunts will stop it, and yet because of the tag, Rob is still here. We have some more time left, to prepare for what is to come. He puts a 70’s style sweat band over the tag to stop it chaffing on his ankle. Concerned acquaintances wonder has happened to the apparently bandaged joint, “Oh, its just a little something he says” with characteristic understatement, and not because he is ashamed, rather because he truly feels that he has nothing to fuss about. For him what is happening on the outside is meaningless compared to what is happening inside – the eternal practice of self enquiry.
The only time I ever hear him mention his situation is when a cold caller tries to get him to upgrade his phone contract, “Sorry mate, I’m going to prison so I won’t be needing a phone anymore”. The call is over in seconds. Iy’s a devastatingly effective approach because you don’t need anything in prison beyond what is in that shabby prison bag, and no sales man on the planet can change that. There is something genuinely liberating in this. After years of running businesses and paying salaries and bills and getting up every day to make things happen and taking care of us he is going to a place where he can’t do any of those things and perhaps the most overwhelming feeling for him might be that of relief. He is tired of fighting. What set out as a great idea to invigorate the film industry, has been kicked and beaten into a bloody pulp. He is happy to sit quietly in a cell all day so long as he doesn’t have to talk about any of it ever again.