Setting: A jail cell in a county jail
Time: the present
Character: NANCY, an educated woman in her early 30s.
So, every woman here in jail with me is an addict; their addiction is stronger than their sense of what is right. (very slight beat) So, why am I here? A newbie? Which, I am. Alcoholism, I suspect. Under the surface, surreptitious, for sure, but alcoholism. I’m here because drinking feels better than not drinking. Or because I THINK drinking is gonna feel better than not drinking. Not true…usually.
(Laughs. Suddenly stops) The reality? I‘m a juicehead, and juiceheads make…questionable choices. So, where to start? Last night, I slept without my pants on since I won’t get another uniform until Friday. Don’t want them to start smelling too stinky, too soon. Might seem like a small consideration, right? One, maybe, I shouldn’t mention? Trust me, it’s a big one. My nights are restless. The lights never, ever go off except when they’re dimmed at 11:30. And, a thin plastic pad on a metal shelf is like sleeping on a goose down without the goose, and the down. Makes me wake up over and over during the night—the damn unpleasantness of it all. And the only way to tell what time it is? Is to get on my knees and peer sideways through a slit in the door. So, at the moment, there are eleven other women in our “pod”—how cute, a pod! And for now, I’m the only one in my cell, which is nice because it would be, well, dicey to use the toilet with a stranger in the room. See? That’s a BIG consideration. And, the mirror over my sink? Is so high I can see only the top of my head. Probably, for the best. (laughs) I usually spend hours during the day in the (does air quotes) “pod’ working on jigsaw puzzles with Claudia who has no money, no car, no friends, no family, no husband. And, sometimes when I’m being particularly kind to her, she clings to me like underarm sweat. I’ve spent hours listening to my cellmates compare stories, talk about God, and blame everyone but themselves for their problems. Here’s the secret about these women:
(Quickly looks behind. Intimate voice) They don’t plan not to commit crimes. They plan not to get caught committing crimes. Also, it’s their JOB to break the rules, or their fate. (regular voice) So it’s all talk, talk, talk about the technicalities of their sentences and vowing that this is it, they’re gonna clean up their lives as soon as they get out. Well, maybe, they will. Most won‘t. (sighs) I can’t really gussy up my cell ‘cause I’m not allowed to put things on the wall or store things in containers. Weird rule number one: no using my blanket as a rug. Think about it. There’s actually a rule that my blanket cannot be used as a rug. And since my top bunk is empty—FOR NOW—paperbacks from the jail library are up there and a card I got from my daughter. She’s five. This card—with its crooked stick mom—is leaning up against the books, facing me (indicates) so I can keep reminding myself, this is not my life. No just free “on the inside” for me. (shudders) What if this was the only way I could be free? No way! ‘Cause I will be free on the outside soon. (a slight beat) I haven’t said much about the guards, have I? The other “others“. A couple are fun, a couple are considerate; a couple are not so fun, not so considerate. For some reason, they all yell out “Chow! Chow! Chow!” at mealtime like crazed ranch hands clanging cast iron dinner bells. The jail likes to serve bologna and cheese sandwiches…often. I put barbeque chips inside the sandwich to make it tolerable. Okay, so the guards respond well to respect and sometimes, they’re even surprised. Even those with the most closed-in faces will smile back if I smile at them and say, “Thank you.” See? (smiles) That’s me. I want to get along. I do. Like I said, everyone in here is an addict. (a slight beat) I know up here (indicates head), and in my heart, (indicates) the only answer for me is to stop drinking, and I have. For six days now. That’s how long I’ve been this place. Six days. Alrighty then, I’m gonna go finish up a jigsaw puzzle.
copyright © 2010 Tami Canaday. All rights reserved. ___________________________________________
Tami Canaday‘s plays have been produced by The Changing Scenes, The LIDA Project, the New York Fringe Festival, Source Theatre, Buckham Alley Theatre, New York Artists Unlimited, and the Kyoryukan Performance Hall among others. She is published by Meriwether, Smith & Kraus, JAC Publishing, and One Act Play Depot.