I sometimes catch myself staring into the eyes of the those appearing before the court. After hearing about some of the things people have done I’ll lift my head just high enough to see into the windows of their souls to perhaps catch a glimpse of vacancy.
The sex offender who raped an eleven year old girl, a man who literally looked death in the eye and took another’s life, the high school classmate I traded jokes with between classes now heading to state prison.
I’m young and new to the sad exposures of societal decay; some days I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry. Judge Howard Sullivan has told me that he doesn’t take it home with him, and it’s advice I’ve tried to abide. I’ve always looked up to the Judge in that regard. I see only glimpses and glimmers of the grand scheme of things, while he is immersed in every gory and tragic detail. If anyone believes they have an understanding of life and its beautiful tragedies, I would entice them to sit through a few afternoons of family court. All I can bear to imagine is what I don’t know.
I can’t resist the urge to throw myself into people’s shoes – both victims and defendants – imagining the last moments of a desperate victim’s fading life or the still pause just after committing such a monstrosity. I think about the defendants, the ones who know they are guilty, the ones that know they are doomed to spend the better parts of their lives disgraced and caged.
I find myself getting angry at the repeat offenders and their smug looks as they are regurgitated by the system for a third or fourth time. Why can’t people change, why don’t they get it?
Yesterday a child rapist stepped past me and as he did, the air of his passing sent a casual breeze across my arm, straight to my spine; all I could think about was his touch upon his victim, and how close to such a terrible thing I really was, not just to the man but the crime he committed. I glanced up to see him smiling.
I often have wandering thoughts as I stroll out of the courthouse. People I pass on the street, the roots of the community, the skeletons hidden in our closets. I think about what might lurk below the surface of the strangers I see. I feel a strong appreciation for people who seek to live in our community and pity those who don’t understand the advantage of such a concept. Although, on occasion my pity is replaced by bitter resentment.