Rules Are to be Broken (Dream Journal 2/97)


Last week, she presented the class with all of the rules and guidelines for the coming quarter. It was a long list. After the class, I approached her and, trying to explain myself, stammered, "I am not very good at following rules." She raised one eyebrow and laughed. I knew she didn't understand, or that she didn't believe me, or thought that she could bring me into line. I wanted to tell her that it's not that I don't want to comply with the class requirements, but this voice goes off in my head, "Rules are to be broken!" And, I begin dreaming up ways to avoid observing the formalities of civility (rules) with the lest amount of detection.
For example, last week, another note was unceremoniously shoved through the slot in my door by one of the city workers. It's seven a.m., Wednesday morning--the weekly pick-up day. And I hear the rumble of their truck ambling down the street. Have I place the garbage cans curbside? I haven't.
The rules say that the cans must be within 10 feet of the curb. It's not that I want to provoke them, but I have been experimenting with the requirement, not from any kind of maliciousness on my part you understand, but out of curiosity. Will they pick it up at 11 or 12 feet? I discover that for the city workers 10 feet means on the curb, and they won't pick up unless the cans are there. They don't even follow their rules. The note informs me that I must comply with the rules or they will no longer pick up our garbage.
Gus, my next door neighbor shouts, "Good try, but, you'll never win out against them! I know."
If I tell her this story, will she understand my predicament. The straightness of her back, the flowing skirt, the cowboy boots tell me she won't. I remember the first time I consciously broke the rules at school. Kindergarten. I was five. The class was instructed to draw flowers for wallpaper. I drew everything but. Finally, the teacher accepted my tall boats. On parent's night, she told my mother that I had painted this imaginative array of cactus. She was happy; I was happy. I don't think I can fool this new one with tall boats for cactus.
For a while, whenever I could, I quoted Emerson on civil disobedience. Sometimes, I told the authorities that there was a higher order that I must answer to. And the judges agreed. Sometimes, I really meant it. There was a time in the late fifties and early sixties that my life finally smoothed out. Everything fell into place. Rules really were to be broken. I was happy to comply.
But, the times have changed for me. This is the nineties, and most of the fight has left me. Contrariness requires rules of its own. One must always be on the alert. One must always be aware of the rule, written or not. One must always be ready to challenge or circumvent it. Perhaps, this time, I will allow some slack or look the other way. Perhaps, I will answer, "No!" to that voice in my head. Besides, her back tells me that when she says, "Jump!" I will learn to answer, "How high, Miss?"

he pulls a revolver from his jacket pocket and shoots twice.....