“You’re having too much fun,” someone calls at him from down the hall. “He is,” says Sergeant Metzler.
So, yes, life in the void was grim and sad, and Robert Daniels reached a point at which he could no longer identify his own face. But life in the void gave him a new face, and as the days wore on, and as the ACLU fought for his constitutional rights, and as the TV producers called his new Cricket cell phone with that lilt of understanding in their voices, well, Daniels got to a place where he didn’t mind his new face all that much. You couldn’t help but marvel at the way that an Americanany American, even a shiftless dude in jail for being sickcould find redemption by becoming a celebrity.
He still didn’t know when he would leave the void. Late in April his captors held another hearing to talk about whether he should be moved to a less restrictive room. A doctor named Maricela Moffitt spoke for over an hour, saying that Daniels couldn’t be trusted and that his test results wouldn’t be available until at least July. She also suggested that Daniels had been spotty about taking his meds at the Monroe House, a charge that Daniels has vehemently denied, but the afflicted was barred from testifying over the phone. “I didn’t even get to say anything,” he complained to the Arizona Republic. “I’ve been embarrassed in front of the whole nation.”
The truth was that Daniels had finally got what he’d first yearned for when he rode across the land of free sugar. This was America, and he had a future.
He took to musing on the bizarre predicament of becoming a celebrity germ carrier: “A guy with deadly tuberculosis can’t be famous, you know? CNN said, ‘We’re gonna come over and do an interview that you’re a hero, that you survived this fuckin’ TB, and wow!’ And I thought, Here we go again. I think that there’s going to be two stories. One that I’m dying, and one that I survived.” Daniels had been thinking of moving to New Yorkmaybe he’d save up enough money to bring over Alla and Dimitry. They were healthy, after all; they had tested negative for TB. Then again, maybe he’d sock away some money and buy a condo back in Russia. “Moscow is like a real free city,” he said. “It’s more free than America.” He was considering writing a book. A friend had told him there might be a movie deal in this thing. People were offering him money. It was all so amazing! For the first moment in a very long time, Robert Daniels had plans. “I’ve got a lot to do,” he said. “I’m still alive.” Someone had once told him something when he was a little kid from Russia, and it had turned out to be true: That American sugar? It was free for the taking.