Alig has maintained friendships with quite a few people from his nightclub days, and they seem to truly care about what will happen to him when he gets out. “I think Michael recognizes that what he’s done is essentially unforgivable,” says Fenton Bailey, who talks to Alig on the phone every month or so. “And I don’t think he’s really pandering to people for their forgiveness, which I think is a measure of his maturity. Because that isn’t the kind of person he was when he went to jail. I just hope he can find some rather grown-up and perhaps slightly boring use for his brilliant creativity that isn’t going to send him off the deep end again.”
Not everyone is so magnanimous. “Do I think that ten years is enough for chopping up your drug dealer?” asks St. James. “Probably not. On the other hand, is he going to change anymore if he stays in another ten years? Probably not. I don’t think he’ll be a menace to society when he gets out. He needs to be redeemed too much; he needs for people to love him too much. I think he’s going to be a model citizen because the thing that matters the most to Michael is the court of public opinion. He’s going to work his ass off to do some spectacular something that he thinks will redeem him in everyone’s eyes. There’s a lot of resentment still out there for him. But then again, New Yorkers might jump on the bandwagon if he comes up with the right club or the right whatever. The further you get away from the murder and longer he stays in prison, the more fabulous he becomes.”
It is well into the afternoon, and my conversation with Michael Alig has run its course, but he does not want me to leave. “Please stay until two o’clock,” he pleads. “We have until two. I enjoy having company.” I go to the vending machine, buy some popcorn, and return to our little plywood box. He spreads the popcorn out on a napkin and picks at it. There is a guard pacing outside the door. He tells us we have twenty minutes.
I ask Michael what his biggest worry for the future is. “My focus is on, I’m going to die alone,” he says. “I’m never going to have a boyfriend, nobody is going to love me, I’m ugly. I don’t have any reason for anyone to ever have a relationship with me.” Also, he says, he feels misunderstood. “People think that I don’t care. The truth is that I care so much that I have to pretend that I don’t. I have to mask it with this flippant, pretentious persona.”
He pushes the popcorn around on his napkin. “You know, I want to say one thing: I consider myself lucky.” He stares at me for a second, waiting for me to take the bait. “Do I need to elaborate?”
Why are you lucky? I ask.
“Because I didn’t get life in prison,” he says. “I have another chance. I’m lucky because I see people in here who have done less than what I’ve done who have gotten life and they don’t have friends coming to visit them who buy them $500 Prada glasses. The other day, somebody sent me a case of tangerines from Florida. Just the smell! I hadn’t had a tangerine in ten years. People don’t get those things in here. And I have a support system of so many smart people who have continued to have faith in me despite the drug use and the havoc I’ve wreaked in people’s lives.” He reaches across the table and grabs my arm one last time. “I feel lucky.”