His voice was low and quiet.
Other prisoners demanded of me a commodity: a cigarette or money for a foreigner, but he was different.
He just wanted to talk to me.

3 years and 8 months.

Is the time he waited to return home.
The morning of the long wait is over.

He was the first to take a shower, with the care of the prison guards, and all the ex-prisoners.
Three soap strokes and three rinses.
As soon as he finished the shower, he threw his toothbrush over the fence.

He said goodbye to the prisoners who have been together for a long time.
He shared an exceptionally long hug with a friend who shared his medicine with him when he had asthma.
A small notebook, where he wrote down the contacts of his friends in prison, was his entire luggage.

He became free.

After 3 years and 8 months, he was able to go where he wanted to go, to free will.
He walked about an hour, and after a long ride on the minibus, he arrived at the village where he lived.
His steps have changed.
Over his shoulder, I felt a sense of pride that I had not seen for the past month.

When I arrived at the house in the middle of the village
I was able to meet his little brother.
A brother who shared a long hug with him, as he did in prison.
He soon headed to town to meet his friends.
I was able to hear his exaggerated voice, which I had never seen before in the gap between friends I met on the roadside.

3 years and 8 months
Is the time it took him to meet his friends and return home.

—Jonghun Lee

Editor’s Note: This is a follow-on story from the original series Beyond the Wall, which you can see in full here.

Jonghun Lee also produced a video interview with Charles, the protagonist of “Waiting to Return Home,” and a short movie that brings together the lives of the other inmates.