The Boston Globe interview was scheduled months ago, when, together, we decided you should go public about the conditions at Framingham. Eventually, a Google search found a friendly ally in Beth Healy, a bright, intuitive woman who oversees the paper’s highly acclaimed Spotlight section. Coincidentally, she had been planning an expose on Massachusetts prisons, and when I called her, she was immediately intrigued; the idea of a journalist on the inside, and you were the perfect choice to be their star informant. She made it clear, however, that your contribution to the story, at least for now, would focus on mental health and suicide, general topics you have knowledge of, but still, not your story. You were okay with that and agreed to meet with a reporter. The Globe filed an official request to interview you, and Framingham said nothing, fostering the illusion that in prison, the freedom of speech vested in the first Amendment really does exist. The Medusa that is Framingham, however, rumbled and groused, and coolly made its plans to subvert and punish, despite the fact that you had good things to say about the prison as well as the infinitely reformable items on everybody’s mind, even corrections officials who confided to you, in moments of secret candor, that they hoped the Globe story would change those things for the better that the powers at the pyramid top clearly had no political stomach for. Sadly, the collective paranoia that permeates the dismal epidermis of Framingham, reacted in subtle, vicious ways to your decision to, essentially, rat their evil ways to no less than a major metropolitan newspaper. A pattern of intimidation emerged, and the IPS Blitzkrieg of random room searches were the point of the spear, in a Keystone Cops kind of way. Funny thing, though. Funny how the purloined video never made an appearance until now, the Friday before the interview. Funny how the weekend comes, and nothing happens for the prisoner unlucky enough to be popped by IPS on a Friday afternoon. Like they say, never buy a car built just after or before the weekend.

***

Our fifteen minutes are nearly up. Shotclock Man’s timing is lousy; once a running joke, because you could always just call me right back, if the phone room line wasn’t too long, but now he’s running scared, because you only get one call a day. My mind reels. Twenty four hours to hear back from you- a lifetime of cold turkey withdrawal from our usual four to six times a day. And then there’s the visit. I cannot see you until when….? I can imagine. Not until after the mythical investigation, and a mythical hearing, and only then will they release you back to the 700 club, the general population world you had grown almost accustomed to, could predict with reasonable certainty from one moment to the next, from head count to ten minute movement to final downward, to the job you no longer have, to the snores of your roommate, who, you suspect, has collaborated with the IPS brigade (for a bowl of ice cream or a slice of pizza the guards regularly call out to Dominos for) by telling them about the video in the first place. Cold comfort, my darling-at least you don’t have to listen to her fat nostrils flapping in the still tomb of your midnight wolfing hour, or be asked to slather pungent Noxzema lotion over her sob-wracked, obese shoulders while listening to the insipid drone of her love-starved insecurities or her irrational jealousy-driven critiques of you, for God’s sake, about your homewrecker slut ways dallying around with a married man. O no, there are some cold comforts right now. My phone bill, for example, is definitely going to be lighter this week. Or the gas saved on the weekend visits I cannot make. Cold comfort, indeed.

***

Surprisingly, even in lockdown, they allow the Globe reporters in to see on Monday; you-newly dressed in your scarlet CCU ensemble, (there’s an irony) cuffed and led to the visitor cubicle, with its telephone intercom and bulletproof glass, but, another irony, the state of almost total privacy, and where, you told me, you had a rollicking good time spilling the beans to the two writers who hung on your every word. You tell now that all bets are off now. The cold comfort factor strikes again. Now, this, and it is perversely liberating to say whatever the fuck you want to say. What can they do now that they haven’t already? Legalize capital punishment in Taxachusetts? I think, but cannot share this macabre punch line. You’re way too revved up. I know exactly where it comes from. They won’t give you aspirin. Your head is splitting wide open, the smell of chlorine again, and the brain lightning of a stress migraine; like your cortex is fractured from the sudden shock of gargoyle immersion and full-court abandonment under the flickering, fluorescent full-moon of the cellblock. On Saturday night, when you finally call at 8:45, (they had given you a 2 o’clock slot for your daily phone contact), you confide to me that earlier you had totally freaked, pounded the cell walls for hours, gone hysterically primal, screaming and screaming and screaming until they’d finally relented and dialed up my number on Nantucket, where, after an afternoon of dark puzzlement and worry over the silence, my muted cell phone vibrated just at the pyrotechnic apex of the latest Bruce Willis movie, Die Hard with a Hard-on, something like that-pure, unmitigated escapist fare, especially when your love is in the hole and you live in Disneyland on the half shell where a cup of mocha cappuccino won’t break a five-spot. I can’t decide if I am living in a Kafka novel or tripping on some latent hit of mescaline that’s been hung up in my colon since 1974, like unexploded ordinance. Thankfully, your voice is calm, the hysteria of the games guards play has passed, in that late call, as I hurried from the theater, bumping knees, spilling stranger’s popcorn, hurried across the cobbled lane to the beautiful Atheneum garden where, like cyber fireflies, young web surfers sit on the dark veranda, behind Corinthian columns, inhaling the free Wi-Fi fumes wafting from within the library, where Frederick Douglas once railed against slavery, earnest cyber sneak thieves bathed in the cathode-blue light of their laptops. I think of your innocuous video, Exhibit A, how laughably absurd such a crime would be out here, in the real world, where captains of industries living in ten million dollar beach cottages routinely siphon large sums of virtual wealth to offshore accounts in places like Port Vila, on the south sea island of Vanuatu, an emerging backwater only a few generations removed from cannibalism but with fifty five international laundry banks that line Main St. doing a booming business wriggling US cash through loopholes large enough to populate a hundred Framingham’s on a good day. But the poor get shown the door in my town, in every town, in the good ole US of A. That is how you are classified: an indigent inmate. Read:powerless, And your voice quivered as we talked you down from those great, fearful heights. I’m getting a lawyer, I told you. Somewhere in the fallout there are facts and errors and loopholes great and small. Lawyers are great loophole archeologists, and somewhere out there someone exists in the power corridors that will genuinely care about you, about this gross abuse of DOC power, this viciously transparent mugging against an inmate born with bigger balls than the ball swingers who control this place.

***

In the end, on Monday, they couldn’t stop the Globe from knocking on your door, and there wasn’t enough duct tape on the planet to shut your thieving, lying security-breaching mouth, and even the dreaded C CU hole cannot keep the truth of my pure love from finding your heart-All the same, you need a lawyer, a professional unraveler to unravel this noxious spume that Framingham has urped all over itself, and now expects you to clean up after them. I tell you to not be afraid. I’m here, I love you, it’s going to be ok. I am wishing half-truths, riding an exhausted nag of bravado, and you know it, which makes it intentionally possible, and thus capable of becoming true. It’s one of the hardest calls we’ve ever had, and not because I missed the finale of a bruised and bloodied Bruce Willis blowing up half of New York City, but because of your abject misery and my abject helplessness. And when you were gone, after Shot Clock Man had called it a night, at nine o-clock I followed the great tourist road home, weaving between Hummers and summer cops and strolling nightcap senoritas, whipping my Cannondale pony back to my garden shed ashram, a conscious mirror version of your Spartan micro-universe. Tomorrow, I whisper to Brown Dog, lying sideways on his heaving ribs, dream-running, lightly panting from the breathlessly muggy night air, tonight we’ll find our girl a lawyer. Just then he wakes up, despite that he cannot hear me, a deaf, fifteen-year-old canine lip-reader, slowly begins to lick the beach salt from his testicles.

***

Good lawyers aren’t easy to find, even if you’re willing to pay. There are no guarantees and one size does not fit all. Your trial nearly two years ago, (actually a back-room, plead-out deal that cost over $20,000 and got you sent to Framingham as a consolation prize) was a textbook, what-not-to-do exercise in jurisprudence, a bungled punch line of a dumb lawyer joke. Hilarious if it weren’t so sad. A month ago, I called your original attorney to try and track down a document crucial to your upcoming ‘reclassification’, a piece of paper called the O.V. or official version, basically the history of your crime and punishment, (think of college transcripts), that the prison needs to process your request to move across the street to the lower security housing unit. This is a good sign of better things to come. Going across the street is freedom swung halfway open. The doors are still locked, but not quite as locked; they still count heads, but not quite as ruthlessly, (where you are now, they lock down everybody in their cells at count time). Much of the fear and loathing is ratcheted down. The next stop is parole, where you will even be allowed to have a job out in the world. An entry level position would be okay, probably one requiring a hairnet and the ability to cipher rudimentary figures, and you’d make much less money than your eighteen year old son scooping double dips at Dairy Queen, but a job! Even for someone as overqualified as you, an ex-NPR journalist, travel writer, a radio pro who once had minion over an entire station. But, hey, real people, real coffee, some trust, some mobility. A Utopian mirage on the far horizon. But getting closer. Some inmates can’t handle this degree of independence, and subconsciously sabotage their ‘out’ time. They seem to thrive, you tell me, on the enforced parameters of prison life, like it’s the mother love they never had. Or maybe it’s simpler. They are incapable of making informed decisions, or too lazy to do what people do on the outside, which is rise in the morning, find the strength to go hand-to-hand with a competitive, fast-moving world. Prison can be, for more than a few inmates, a safe, comfortable escape from reality.

***

I am still searching for a good lawyer. Your previous one, J. K., the man who got you two to four in Framingham, when I call about the O.V. is hostile and immediately exasperated. He goes postal, tells me there is no such thing as an O.V., just another of your paranoid delusions, and accuses you, us, of plotting to deconstruct our own version of your crime and punishment in order to con the system that is genuinely trying to help you get your life back together. I am dumbfounded, and try and steer back to the missing O.V. Finally he growls, “Listen…just don’t call me anymore. Tell Pippin not to call me. I’m not her fucking lawyer.” By the time I’ve thought of something useful to respond to this unexpected torrent of hateful bile, (a simple no, I’m sorry, thanks for the twenty grand, but I really can’t help you, would have worked), he’s gone.

***

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