I should have looked in his face when the verdict was being read but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I just didn’t want to know if he was guilty or not. I only knew that we found him innocent of all charges. And now anything that he chose to do after his release would be my responsibility.
Would he continue in gang activity or had he changed his outlook on life? I don’t know but I will forever carry the burden of his future life choices to love or harm another, we are yoked from this day forward.
Since that day, I’ve searched to understand what it’s like to live without. Without food, without love, without money, without family, without education, without cable, without a cell phone, without a father, without a car, without a grocery store down the street, without a plan for the future, without hope.
The truth is many go without, too many. And what do you do when you are without food, shelter, clothing, love? You go get it, you take it. We’re human, we survive.
So here I am, in the room with this young black boy, with long dangly dreads, brownline glasses and a deep lilac colored shirt that his attorney brought for him to put on just minutes before he entered the courtroom. He was without. Without what I don’t know exactly but it doesn’t even matter. He was missing something basic in his life and he was going to survive because he is human.
He chose to take what wasn’t his; money, a cell phone, a life. Was it a dare, an initiation? Was he seeking power, status, security? Was he just hungry? And here we are five years after his arrest, having spent time away from anyone who gives a damn, away from the world but with others who have done the same or worse as him. Was he running from abuse only to find it again in prison? Lord knows.
We were eager to come to a decision. It had already been too long, an inconvenience to our lives, rescheduling work hours, child care pick up, yoga classes and dinner parties. Every second was an hour. Every meal of beans, chicken patties and glazed donuts a reminder of missed fresh vegetables and humus. Every $17 check received confirmation that the justice system is unjust and plain weird.
First vote, 10 not guilty, 2 not sure. We’re close. Let’s review transcripts, word for word. Debate. Questions. Second vote, 12 not guilty.
Let’s take another vote. Let’s make sure. Let’s not rush just to rush. Is this right? Is it real? Yes, it’s real and he’s going home to… well he gets out of jail.
One behind the other, we file into the courtroom to have the verdict read, in front of him and the prosecutor. There are no clear winners or losers, just an answer in time.
And again, one behind the other, we quickly left to get back to our Game of Thrones, our home cooked meals and our Facebook posts.
“I am an invisible man… I am a man of substance, of flesh, and bone, fiber and liquids… and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” – Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man)
Yup, so it goes…