Doing time

Doing time
Ever since I accidentally grew up, I’ve fantasized about being put in jail. This dream jail owes more to junk bond kings than to Joliet. My whitewashed cell would be starkly beautiful: just a bed, a desk, an upright chair and a modest bookshelf, like Van Gogh’s room in Arles. My meals and bills would be taken care of. (It’s beginning to sound a lot like the Spanish farmhouse where I spent my honeymoon.)

Freed from the obligation to live a productive life, I would become ascetic, meditating daily. I would write and contemplate my wrongdoing. I would read hard books, not subway books. I would carry myself with dignity, my calm expression hinting at sorrow and regret, and I would never complain. Other prisoners would hush when I walked by. They would gaze with awe on my disciplined form, but they would leave me alone. I would befriend one jailer, a hulking brute with the soul of a misunderstood poet, and he would smuggle in books for me. Occasionally, I would write hurtin’ songs.

‘But what crime would you commit?’ asked Paul when I confessed this vile, self-indulgent nonsense. Reality intruded. I’m mostly law-abiding, unless you count my quality of life crimes—aggressive jaywalking and riding my bike on the sidewalk late at night. My obedience is not born out of a strong sense of right and wrong. Rather, I have a good girl’s fear of getting caught. And I never needed to rustle sheep to feed a starving family.

I might rob a bank if it were a sweet-talking, no-guns holdup like George Clooney’s in Out of Sight, not a shambolic bullet-ridden affair like Bonnie and Clyde. But I shriek uncontrollably when someone pops a balloon nearby, so I’d be a liability in a heist. I could evade my taxes, I suppose. I could embezzle from The Man, though in a 22-person company run by my husband, that wouldn’t achieve much. I thought about organizing a violent protest in a Starbucks—so chic, so now—but my Starbucks hatred has lessened now that I realize not everywhere is as blessed with local cafés as Brooklyn and Manhattan (e.g., Queens). And no one forces people to order four dollar ‘coffee drinks’.

So what does that leave for my life of crime? I could run a brothel, like Julie Christie in McCabe and Mrs Miller. I could smuggle tormented Irish women across the sea for abortions. But I think I’ll settle for being put under house arrest for courageous, non-specific defiance of despotism. Just please don’t hit me.

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