GLOSS
EXCERPT: PROLOGUE
I digress.

When I was little, the adults laughed and said I had a vivid imagination. It was a good thing. But by the end of my elementary years it was a source of heated conversations in parent-teacher meetings, and then, by high school, it became a source of parent-psychologist conversations, leading to parent-neurologist conversations, leading to a career as a television news producer, and ultimately, to where I am now. Which is to say, my tendency to take off on flights of fancy, and my general inability to focus ironically brought me to a place of fancy-less focus: the Federal Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia. My lawyer grins Cheshirelike and insists we will win. No fear, he says, this will end soon, you will write a book, a movie deal will be in place and, years from now, you will look out over the veranda of your Hollywood Hills home, sipping chardonnay and laughing at this little adventure. Wake me up after the second coming, I tell him, when I'm in a good mood. Most days I tell him to shut up and give me whatever paper it is that I need to sign.

I wasn't always this surly. In fact, I'm not always this surly. I like to think of myself as personable. My fellow inmates seem to like me. They say things like "you ain't so bad (dramatic pause) for a white girl." And, when we are dancing around the cell block to entertain ourselves (my friend Galina in the neighboring cell can scat like she is channeling a Slavic version of Betty Carter), they tell me I move like a sista' and that I could easily have a starring role in a hip-hop video. I'm not sure if I'm flattered or not, but I think many ofmy outside peers would savor that as a compliment. The whiter you are, the more privileged your background, the more being "ghetto" is supposed to be a coveted commodity. I never understood this trend, the rich boarding school boys with droopy pants, walking with the lilt of a drug lord thug. Wispy wheat-haired lasses showing their palm and saying in a staccato cadence, "Talk to the hand." I appreciate the grit and flavor such mannerisms represent, but wouldn't it make more sense for people to want to mimic the rich and powerful? Of course, I'm not sure which would be more absurd, a prep-schooled, Ivy-educated, wavy-haired, nose-sculpted young woman like myself trying to talk jive (if jive is still spoken) or a middle-class, third generation mixed Eastern European young woman, also like myself, trying to act like a Vanderbilt.

Like I said, I digress. But that is actually not so off point. Because really, what got me here, into cell block six, had a lot to do with people (yours truly included) trying to appear like something they are not: morning television.