Sunday, April 6, 2014

Boxers or Briefs: Starting Over Down the Line

Devoted readers may have noticed that for the past several days I've been writing about things other than yours truly: The Last Mile, Prison Camps, other people's mistakes. I'm not sure if that makes for better or worse reading - I haven't received comments on that either way - but for me it's a good sign. It means that I am thinking about other things - my newfound cause of prisoners' rights, other people's problems - and not myself. 

I'm afraid that readers of this blog may have the wrong impression, the perception that I'm some angst ridden navel gazer. That's actually not the case. At least not usually. Although I'm introspective and empathetic, more often than not I'm content if not happy, focused on others more than on myself, loathe to draw attention to myself. Most of the time, I actually smile and even laugh. As I already wrote, narcissism comes with the territory of becoming a felon, but it's not my normal - or preferred - state of mind. 

Lately, in fact, I've been feeling pretty content out here in the eternal sun, focused on doing what I can for my family's return - which consists mainly of putting Ikea dressers together - and hanging out with relatives over bagels and lox. But every once in a while something happens - usually something tiny - to bring me back to reality.

Today, for example, I received a less-than-friendly call from my friends at American Express. Though they apologized profusely for botching my name, I could tell that I was not exactly at the top of their favorites list. That led inevitably to memories of their calls of a very different sort - begging me to sign up for a Platinum Card - just a few short years ago. Now, I'm not yearning for the dissolute part of my past life - the drugs, the thievery, the materialism. Nor am I focused overly much on material things. But it was nice to be able to pay the bills. 

Then, later this afternoon, as I stared down at a pile of dirty clothes, I was struck by the thought that soon I will have no use for them. Should I just throw them away, I wondered, or wash them and stash them away in someone's back closet? That led to a question that I do not know the answer to: do they give you underpants to wear in prison? Do you have a choice between boxers and briefs?

For some reason, when I do find myself thinking about my situation, the thought of prison appears to me as a void, something to endure. Rather than think of that, I seem to magically transport myself to that happy day two or three years down the line when they open the gates and set me free. But for some reason, when I think about that moment, I don't feel happy at all. I feel worried. What worries me is that I'll be starting over. From scratch. With nothing. 

I think of coming out back into the world with not a penny to my name and not even a can opener or pair of flip-flops in my possession. When I left high school for college the thought of starting out was exciting. I remember buying my first bottle opener - a fancy bunny model - and how happy I was over a choice well made. Not any more. Over your lifetime you tend to accumulate enough things that it becomes difficult to start over again from nothing. As my possessions dwindle down toward zero I wonder whether I'll have it in me at the age of 46 to do it all over again. I know I will, because I have to, but the thought is intimidating and at least a little bit scary. I pride myself on my self reliance. I don't like to ask others for favors or help. But I see that day down the line where my survival may depend on it. I truly hope that's not the case.

It's strange, when I think about it. Here I am, facing prison in a month or so, and what seems most scary to me is not prison itself but what comes after. That's not to say I won't be counting down the days and hours and minutes for that longed for day of freedom. The hope and anticipation of being back together with my kids again is way too strong. But I've been a lawyer for almost half my life. Not that I loved it but it was like a crutch, a way to make a decent living that I happened to be good at. Now that is gone. My savings are gone. My dog is gone. Even my bed is gone, off to some deserving home. 

Let me stop before this dissolves into self pity or pathos. I know I will survive. I always have. Maybe I'll even thrive. I've done that before too. My family still depends upon me and I have some skills - writing for one, nuclear physics, for another - that no one can take away. 

So before I cue the melodramatic music let me say for the record that all will be well. But I can't help but wonder - with a bit of excitement but a bunch more trepidation - what the future holds. 

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