Because there’s a cool breeze blowing today, I slid open the glass door to my balcony. The screen door I kept closed to thwart Goblin’s dream of becoming Outdoor Jungle Kitty.
The screen kept Goblin in, but it did not keep the voices out. I had the ill fortune of overhearing one of my neighbors in conversation. This is the woman who, until three weeks ago, had a huge crush on my ex-boyfriend Bobby. He and I shared a mutual dislike for her, because she is prone to planting herself in the parking lot and waylaying passersby with her loud, extended, extremely tedious observations.
“People like Bobby can’t be rehabilitated,” I overheard her saying this afternoon. “They’re hardened criminals. Cheapest and easiest thing to do is put him to death.”
Deep breath. Okay. Everyone will be relieved, and maybe privately disappointed, to learn that I did not storm down the stairs to punch her in the nose. I did not even throw open the screen door for the purpose of haranguing her from my lofty balcony, which would have provided a nice sense of symbolism, with me preaching the moral high ground and her cowering below. Acts of either a symbolic or blood-letting nature were not really practical as I was not wearing pants. If you’re going to indulge in spontaneous violence or wrathful sermons, you lose a little something if you’re sporting stripey undies and the tye-dye shirt you’ve been wearing around the house lately that hasn’t been washed in five weeks.
Besides, I couldn’t move. Rage and horror suffused me—just like that, one second I’m fine, the next I’m staggered—but it didn’t drive me to action. It paralyzed me. I stared dumbly at the screen door and let the remainder of the conversation drift in. (It did not improve in quality.)
I know there are small-minded, hard-hearted, poisonous people in the world, but my neighbor’s words shocked me. Mindless cruelty, casuslly uttered, not even directed at me… I repeat: it staggered me.
I am opposed to the death penalty. Every once in a while innocent people are executed, and far too often completely guilty people waltz off with their freedom because they were privileged enough to hide behind very good lawyers. As it is practiced in this country, the death penalty is applied inconsistently and unfairly, with people of color and low economic standing disproportionately sentenced to death.
But even if it could be practiced fairly, I would be still opposed to the death penalty. I hold to the sanctity of human life, no matter how wretched and depicable the life. And as for people who argue that the death penalty is cheaper than keeping a prison alive, I have no adequate words to express my contempt. This is life we’re talking about. Some things are too sacred to be considered in economic terms.
If I am opposed to the death penalty in general, I am most especially opposed to the death penalty with regards to my ex-boyfriend. He did not—let’s be clear on this—he did not commit any capital crimes. More to the point, he is a troubled and damaged man. What he needs more than anything is help. He may well deserve punishment (though he has not even been charged, much less found guilty) but he does not deserve to be stamped out of existence like a pesky fly.
Since I passed my opportunity to play Smithing Wrathful Old Testament Jessica, the only course of action I can take is to intensify my job search efforts. There’s still, ah, basically nothing at all out there, but I haven’t looked in a week. That’s this afternoon’s project.
Not much else going on. I did find where Bobby is being held, and I wrote him a letter that I dropped in the mail just yesterday; I kept it brief, as I am not certain that it will find its way to Bobby, or whether he will write back. I found out that a chopped-up banana can do really wonderful things for a batch of chai.
I also found that I had way too much yogurt in my fridge, so I moved some of it to the freezer. I really hope it turns out to be tasty. That is how you get frozen yogurt, right? By… y’know… freezing yogurt?