Friday, August 10, 2012

Ship of Ghosts

     The morning didn't start well. After waiting so long to be heard, to be believed. We were running late. Nerves were raw and tension was high. Mostly we were all quiet. Each in our own world of pain and fear. Trying to think of the right words. The magic ones. The ones that would make the jury understand they needed to lock this rather plain looking, overweight man up for the monster he was. I struggled with my emotions. I tried to think what questions would be asked of me and how to respond.
it sent me chasing shadows down the path of my childhood. Going over events and traumas and trying to somehow turn them into facts.  The ADA talk to us all in turn.  We were in a small room, at least in my memory it was. Small and cloyingly still. It was as if time had stopped in that space. I didn't want to be there. He was abrupt.  I had put on my very best "strength mask" the one made of stone. I let no emotion show on my face. I tried to float above my inner turmoil.  He said that my Father had a great lawyer, that he was going to be hard on me. I was dismissive. He banged his hand on the table and hissed that my Father's lawyer would tear me a new asshole. Whatever response he wanted, he did not get. His outburst made me calmer. I would not be drawn into his anger. I knew he was trying to shake me, to bait me somehow.  I got up and walked out. I was done listening to him. He was a small man with a big job and I worried that he was not up to it.

  One by one we took our turn. A deputy would come for us. He would lead us like lamb to the slaughter. Into an unknown future where we were the ones to be judged. My Sister went first. It took forever. What was happening? I don't know what she said to gain her freedom, but they let her go. She came back to us. She was clearly shaken. There was no time to investigate the damage done. I could give her no aid. The deputy was at the door waiting for me. I was next up to face the executioner of our hope. I prayed I was good enough. It was a prayer from my childhood. If I was good enough, my Mother would love me. If I was good enough, my Father would not touch me. Why was I never good enough? I prayed my useless prayer, it was worn out and tattered and I clung to it. This time I had to be good enough. The room was big. We had taken a tour of the Courthouse. It had been built by, traveling freed slaves, or I don't know nomads. They must have been craftsmen. It was beautiful. Cool marble and polished wood. It set the tone. Whatever brought you here was important. It had gravity and you had best mind your p's and q's. For such a large space it was very quiet. I did not look left or right, only straight ahead. I tried to evoke a sense of confidence . I took the stand and raised my hand. I gave my oath and my name. They asked for my address. I remember a small fear running through me. I didn't want my Father to know where I lived. I worried his Wife was no less a monster than he. But, I had no choice and I turned over what they demanded and waited for the worse. The ADA went first. He asked me things, the what, when and were of the death of my innocence. It was very clinical. I faced the jury. I looked at each one. Trying to make a connection. To impart with my gaze, my words, the urgency that I felt. I needed their help. We had come so far and in the end these twelve people were all we had.  He asked who I had told. He wanted me to tell them about that letter, written so long ago. A flare sent up into the dark. I never got the chance. My Father's lawyer stood and objected. I don't know what basis he used. It didn't matter. The judge sided with him and I said nothing. But, something occurred to me. Sitting in the witness box. Something I had forgotten, or buried. I don't know which. It came back to me and with it came anger. An outrage that I found hard to contain. Someone else knew. Someone who could have prevented all of this. The only one who had promised it would stop. The Army knew. They knew it all. They had said it would stop, that it was over. And they had lied. Sitting in that courtroom I knew it had not stopped and it was far from over. The ADA had asked his questions and I had answered. He passed the witness. I held my breath and let it out slowly. I had leaned that in counseling. How to calm myself when I felt the panic set in. He stood and looked at me and he had nothing to say. He let me go. Somehow I felt I had won something. I had stared this thing head on and come out unscathed.

  I went back to the room, back to my sisters and waited. As each of us returned, we went over what had been asked. What were the answers. We did our best and then we waited some more. Somehow it had changed. This ceremony of justice. It was no longer about locking up our monster, but us gaining our freedom. We were trapped in a snare of the past, looking for a way out. It is a difficult thing to master your own ship. To take the wheel and steer through the storms that come in life. To trust yourself with your own fate. It was terrifying to realize that someone else had taken over. We were at their mercy with nothing. No compass or sexton, no life raft to be had. It was all coming rushing at us and we had lost control.

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