Half Asleep

I dreamt of a world where eating was a crime

There was only one hour in each day when food was allowed.

So if the inspectors came by

and smelled your stove fire on after hours

or saw you with a dusting of chocolate cookie crumbs on your upper lip at the shopping mall

or caught you crunching on a bag of salt-and-vinegar chips down by the school gate,

They would smile sinisterly, take out their shiny handcuffs, and start reading you those Miranda Rights.

 

Then the worst part happened.

You were denied trial by jury,

since your only peers were other law breakers

The sentence was life

in a giant cage, all by yourself,

on public display.

 

People came to watch you.

They put on stoic faces at your grim conditions;

and they walked away laughing and thanking their gods that they didn’t face the same fate.

A number on your prison door told viewers just how

egregious

your crime had been.

Men came and whistled, awestruck, at the digits

Women laughed nervously and couldn’t look for too long.

 

You didn’t have clothes to wear

Except donations from the charitable few –

sacks with holes cut in them –

or hand-me-downs from those who’d perished in their giant cells.

Shapeless clothes with popped stitches and stretched waistbands

And everyone always wore black.

 

Mothers brought their children to see you

and whispered loudly,

“That’s what happens when you break the law!”

Pointing out the number, and the girth of the cage, and the sag of the fabric on your body.

“But Mommy,” the kids would say, their eyes wide with confusion,

They don’t look like bad people!”

Then the mothers’ eyes would harden; they would grab their children tighter, scowling,

“They are.”

 

The lie among the prisoners was that you got used to it.

Eventually, the cage seemed homey

the clothes seemed comfy

the loneliness seemed okay.

Sometimes, it was true. Late at night,

or early in the morning.

It seemed alright, to be stuck in a cell. You were still

you, after all.

 

But come midday, when the beating sun

drew visitors and passerby, pretending

poorly

not to stare;

and all they could see was the giant cage

the telltale numbers

the squalid patches on your stitched-up ponchos

It didn’t seem alright then.

That’s when you regretted

the second serving

the quiet pop of a bag of chips opening

the touching of your tongue to a tempting chunk of chocolate.

And you felt every bit the criminal

they made you out to be.

 

I dreamt of a world where eating was a crime

And I woke up to one

that wasn’t really any different.

 

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