Degrees of Separation

After watching a video of "Even In the Darkest Place," a reading by former prisoners, a man new to the group had a question.

What's the purpose of telling your crime? he asked. I had written it into the script, five men announcing what they did and how much time they did for it. It happens at the end of the play, after you've heard their stories and come to like them.

Some of the men answered him, claiming it's better to get the truth out of the way and let people think what they will. I explained a little of the history, an essay's worth of a story I'll someday write. It all made sense to him, he said, but he wouldn't do it.

My crime is worse than all of yours, he said.

We all think that, Tony, someone said.

But it's true for me, he said.

I have to admit that when I wrote this part into the script, I didn't know how to fill in the blanks. "My name is ______ ," I typed. "I did ___ years for _________ ."

At the first read-through, as the men filled in the sentences, I scribbled in what they said. But look now at that first draft, where I got down only this: "murder." "Twenty-one years." Apparently I didn't take in much after "murder."

Second-degree, though--the man probably caused a car crash while intoxicated, something like that. Very bad, but not intentional. Second degree.

Then came "CSC." I googled it at home: criminal sexual conduct. I started noticing write-ups in the newspapers--men who went after young girls and boys were charged with CSC. I hated them.

And now this: men I've come to respect did something sexual, criminal. Men whose lives have clearly turned all the way around. Men who are repentant. Who did their time.

But what did they do?

And what will I do when I know?

It's precisely why I wrote that part into the play: The audience must face their feelings toward these men now that they know the truth. And here I am, not knowing the full truth, nor what I'd do if I found out.

To rank the worthiness of men according to what they've done: Maybe my crime is worse than theirs.


  1. Amy,

    Thank you so much for this column. It is inspiring, heartbreaking and ultimately, in the parlance of the sixties, completely "right on."

    It is also a brave piece and a humbling one.

    - Maliss

  2. Thanks, girl. Actually, to tie in to a recent post of yours, I had almost used this space to go into the ways I have tried in the past to exact revenge on people doing bad things, like your experience with the woman beating a child in public. But it didn't fit in here, so another post, maybe.


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