There was much to learn — about each other, about a life full of freedom. You have to remember, he said, “our relationship had consisted of phone calls, letters and prison visits.” He noted that he and Moore could barely hug during those visits, which were rare and held in a large, heavily guarded room full of other inmates and their loved ones.
Irons, now 41, grew up in stifling poverty. He had never ventured far from the St. Louis area, where he was born. Now he is married to a globally renowned basketball star and living with her in a recently purchased home. Everything is new. How do you use an A.T.M.? Where do you go to buy clothes? What’s it like to have a driver’s license or fly on a plane?
He has been dogged by internal agony, the result of being stuck for years inside a prison that could turn violent in a second. He has endured sleepless nights, tossing and turning, his mind working to cope with the past. He has struggled to relax around people he doesn’t know.
“The trauma is very real,” Moore explained. Her goal is no longer winning championships. It’s being present emotionally, physically and spiritually, “to help my husband through that pain.”
In January, Moore lost her 84-year-old great-uncle, Hugh Flowers, after a long illness. It was Flowers who, while teaching music to inmates at the Jefferson City prison, first took Irons’s claims of innocence seriously. Without Flowers prodding other family members to get to know Irons and start investigating, Irons might still be in prison.
Moore and Irons remember the tears they shed as they held each other tight after hearing that Flowers had died.
Life, though, has also been stuffed with joy. Their faces lit up as they spoke of simple pleasures. Playing Frisbee. Hiking. Exploring Atlanta in Moore’s 2006 Honda Civic. Flying to the West Coast, where Irons saw a desert for the first time and they kayaked in Santa Barbara.