Lady Justice, Saint Louis University. Photo ©AnnAlthouse
It is May. A month that always feels like it holds the beginning and the end. The Alpha and the Omega. I wonder how Leonard is doing.
And she comes to you light as the breeze…
But I don’t.
In March, the Black Dog began howling across the Tundra that is my mind. Waking up at four in the morning in a panic gripped sweat. Watching the cygnets practising their diving techniques doesn’t make me smile spontaneously, and I am forced to concede, to surrender the territory made of grey silk.
Denial. Anger. Numbness. Grief.
The transition from denial to anger is the most difficult, ravaging. Anger to numbness to grief feels like jumping into forever—but only when you know it as intimately as I do. I am profoundly grateful that the sense of physical paralysis only lasted three weeks.
After the occurrence, last May (2017) I was emotionally and physically exhausted for about three days afterward. Reporting the incident was not about me being a justice warrior as some say, almost disdainfully. It was about creating an audit trail for anyone coming up behind me.
Driven by knowledge not by virtue. Definitely not virtue—I’m too fucking tired for rectitude.
I had a copy of my statement. That was enough. If the man in question were to ever re-offend, eventually the other woman (en) would know she/they were not alone.
When the Garda arrived at my front door advising that the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) was pursuing the case—it felt like an external validation.
I was not, in anyway, pinned to an outcome—on my sliding scale of violences, my collection of experiences, it rated somewhere at the bottom.
A couple of weeks later, the Garda stood at my front door again, holding a piece of paper.
“I typed up your statement and made some additions, I need you to read and agree that’s how it happened”.
The addition was to highlight that the incident occurred opposite a school for young children.
I handed my statement back and said it was fine.
“His family are very respectable people” he said. “and I think his fairly harmless, just troubled”.
Then. I wasn’t fine.
“If a woman did to him what he did to me, you’d be down in the pub with your fucking mates talking about the whore, the crazy bitch—and I’m fairly confident it would be around the fucking village the next day. Harmless, my arse. You mark my words he will do it again and again and again until there is an impactful consequence”.
He stepped back, visibly unsure as to how to tend to my outburst.
“I didn’t mean to upset you” he said, then disappeared.
And I'm sick of pretending—I'm broken from bending—I've lived too long on my knees…
In April (2018) I was advised that I would herald in May in court.
The pneumatic pounding of my heart deafened me and the Black Dog as I drove to the court. And as I slipped past the big vans, parked in front of the building, with Prison Service printed discreetly on the sides, I tried to control the tears attempting to push through.
The halls, a sea of Gardaí blue and the black of long gowns and those waiting to be heard.
When I stepped up to the solid wooden box the woman picked up the Holy Book and asked me to repeat after her,
“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God”
I spoke. My voice sounded alien, inarticulate, words that I could not find, my hands and arms moved of their own volition.
Under cross-examination, I raised my voice—an outburst of anger—then cradled my head in frustration.
During summation, the defendant’s barrister said “in the current climate, men are…” , but the judge would not let him finish his sentence.
He said “this court is better than that level of subjectivity”.
I did not look up from staring at the floor, but was quietly grateful.
When the judge said ‘guilty’ he asked if there was any mitigating circumstances and the barrister said there was. He spoke about the defendant when he was fifteen—and then I looked up.
I did not see a man, I saw a boy, I saw myself—hurting. He kept saying he didn’t want to be moved. Because of the conviction there was chance he would be moved from where he was, and placed in another section, with sexual offenders—and then the other inmates would know something had gone down and he would be treated differently.
For a moment I wanted to interrupt, to say allow him dignity, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of my nine year old self, this occurred to me—instead, I chose to wish it for us all. Dignity.
The judge thanked me for my fortitude and self-effacing honesty and hoped my mental health would improve.
And blessings come from heaven, and for something like a second, I'm cured and my heart is at ease…
Outside I became aware that pain was trying to explode my brain open—and for a millisecond I thought I might welcome it.
A man passed me. I noticed he was wearing a Green Ribbon. May, the month dedicated to the conversations about mental health. I nodded. He nodded back, acknowledging the one I was wearing.
May. The Alpha and the Omega. The month I will close in court—another case.
At home, I took two Panadol and cried and gave myself permission to take conscious time off the next day—stay in my pyjamas and finish my book. The Third Reich in History and Memory (Richard Evans).
But, in that space I needed to go away. A break.
I stepped willingly into the Tundra, the Occupied Territory and attired myself in a long black gown, a material soft against my skin whose train made whooshing sounds when I twirled—dancing to Leonard singing The Window to me.
Oh tangle of matter and ghost…
...leave no word of discomfort
And leave no observer to mourn
But climb on your tears and be silent
Like a rose on its ladder of thorns.
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