Parlor Games in Prison

In my prison class last week, as has been happening a lot lately, the inmates led us all astray into a spin-off conversation from my usual writing workshop exercises. Truth be told, I love when this happens because I end up learning more about them in a more candid way than I do from their writing. Besides that, we all end up laughing. A lot.

One young woman suggested we play “Two Truths and a Lie,” where you have to state two things about yourself that are true and one thing that isn’t while the rest of us have to guess which one is the lie. Most of the women gave themselves away by quickly rattling off two things and then hemming and hawing over the third. They would laugh at themselves and their bad poker faces. Some did well, and then a cellmate would know the answer and give it away, or they truly would stump us.

When that ran its course, the same young woman suggested that we do the ubiquitous desert island game starting with who would you bring with you if you could.

“You mean like Martin Luther King?” one woman asked.

“Yeah, like that,” she answered.

I watched them as they thought about it, some with their heads down, some looking up to the sky for a breakthrough.

“I’d bring my son,” a young woman said. “He IS my Martin Luther King.”

Silence. Awe.

“How old is he?” I asked.

“He’s three.” Tears. Gaping mouths.

“I’d bring my grandmother,” said a woman who had been quiet up until that point.

“Me too,” yelled another.

“Okay, besides family members,” I said, “who would you bring?”

“I’d bring that guy on tv who gets glasses of water from cactus leaves,” one said.

This inspired me to bring up Walter White from “Breaking Bad,” a man who can seemingly do ANYTHING. I got a rousing positive response for my brilliant suggestion.

“Actually,” I said, “I would bring Chris Rock. He would keep me laughing.”

“And he’s smart,” a woman added.

“What one THING would you bring with you?” the same young woman who had been guiding us asked everyone.

“I’d bring my ipad,” a woman said who had previously shared that she had been very spoiled her whole life and that her favorite thing in the world was her brand new BMW.

“You wouldn’t get wi-fi on a desert island,” someone pointed out.

“I’d bring my weed,” a woman of at LEAST 55 said grinning while the rest just laughed.

“I’d bring my pillow,” I said.

“I miss pillows. We don’t even GET pillows here,” a young woman said.

“Yeah, I roll up my sheet and use that as a pillow.”

“Really? Why don’t you fill your laundry bag and use that?” someone suggested.

The things I learn in The Big House every week.

That night I went home and posed the same questions to my family, starting with the one person.

“I’d bring Justin Bieber,” my 10-yr old daughter said.

“Ewwww,” my 16-yr old stepson responded. “Why?”

“Well, he likes purple, and I like purple.” I suppose this was as good a reason as any.

“I’d bring Roberto Clemente,” my husband said. (I’m not sure if he was an athlete or some band leader, but I’m pretty sure he’s dead.)

My 20-yr old stepson mentioned someone (a musician from a death metal band, I think) who I had never heard of. His brother thought that was a great choice but he chose Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.

I again went with Chris Rock.

Do these choices say anything about us? Clearly, they are snapshots in time. My daughter won’t even remember who Justin Bieber is in 5 years and certainly my stepsons will have moved on to other idols. I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t quickly come up with some literary idol or historical figure but I won’t change my answer now to seem erudite and impressive (the use of “erudite” in a sentence is impressive enough, I guess).

If you’re so inclined leave a comment about who YOU would choose to spend an infinite amount of time.



  1. I can honestly say, my husband. I feel safest when I'm with him and he would just know all we need to know in order to survive wherever we are!!!

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