A Cell is a Cell is a Cell


Is there such a thing as prison-phobia? If so I’ve got it. After nearly two years of thinking, reading, talking, and writing about prison, I have an irrational fear of ending up in inside myself.

Just for the record, I have not broken any state, federal, or international laws.

However, just last night I was reading the novel, “Go Tell It on the Mountain” by James Baldwin. In it, a character is minding his own business when a two robbers being chased by the police come running along and stand next to him, catching their breath. He is arrested with them and beaten mercilessly in an attempt to get him to confess, which he doesn’t. He is eventually released, but he slits his wrists the next day because he is so traumatized by the experience.

Did I mention he is black and the cops are white? Does this sound familiar? The book was published in 1953. Sadly, some things don’t change.

So that scenario is not likely to happen to me, but phobias are irrational, not rational.

I was also freaked out by the third season of Orange is the New Black. I won’t give away what the last scene of the last episode sets up for the inmates, but it had something to do with crowding/lack of privacy and it really hit a nerve.

My cousin, Molly, and I have talked over the years about buying a piece of land overlooking the St. Croix River and building a retirement community of tiny houses. You know, these are the 250- to 400-square-foot houses (75-122 square meters) made of beautiful woods and lots of clever features to store stuff and make the most use of the space. The idea is, you can have a paid-off house, live in the country, and feel good about yourself because you aren’t destroying the planet by consuming as much as the average new home built in America, which as of 2013 was nearly 2,500 square feet (762 square meters)!

Then Molly sent me this article, “Dear People Who Live in Fancy Tiny Houses” and it killed my dream:

What if you’re having a shitty day and you just want to be alone? You can’t be alone, right? Because your partner or children are sitting two to ten feet away from you at all times. Don’t you feel like a rat trapped in a cage? Don’t you ever want to turn toward your lover or spawn and shout, “Get out! Get out of my tiny house!”

The condo Vince and I are sharing is 800 some square feet. So it’s not the tiniest, but there are privacy issues. When the other Molly—Vince’s girlfriend—is over, I’m sure he wishes I would disappear. I wish I could kick back on a Friday night and watch my geek-ola shows like the PBS News Hour and Washington Week in Review with a couple glasses of wine, but I can’t.

On the whole, things are going well with us, at least from my perspective. But I have mostly lived alone since Vince left home 20 years ago, so it’s an adjustment.

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