Trial Tomorrow, Trial Tonight


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I am standing in the stillness of my house listening to the familiar silence that tics along with 9 o’clock. I am waiting. I am brewing. The computer screen glows and glares at me, tempting my fingers from the solemn lamplight that weeps over its face. I cannot do it. Shuffles from the next room startle me in the dark. Ms. April has retreated to her library after giving me the news–

“The trial is tomorrow, Lorna. Can you come? Christopher wants you to speak for him since he can’t make it.”

Her voice was soft and calculated, a fine quilt of sound stifling a scream. Dark coffee circles that once rested below Gus’ eyes, her late husband’s eyes, have taken residence under hers. My eyes were studying the carpet when I told her I couldn’t go. I couldn’t bear to spill my sadness onto her when she and her family, the family I had become a part of over the past two years, were suffering the purest of pain.

I cannot begin to understand the depth of their agony – Ms. April, her husband and best friend of 30 years was killed less than five miles from where I stand. Christopher, my fiancé, is haunted by memories of the wreckage he found in place of his father that night. Flashes of the machine his father loved so much forced into the grotesque form of frozen fire on the road haunt him from behind icy eyes. Tonight, he is tossing in his bunk thousands of miles away. But, here, in my room, Ms. April’s crying echoes through my head as I think of you and brew. You, the twenty-year-old child responsible for Gus’ death.

The screen is taunting me now and my fingers are storms of passion clashing and dashing across the keys. I don’t remember moving here but I am here. I am here, in spite of myself, doing what I cannot do. I am here writing to you. I barely notice my tears as they crash and splinter on my desk, reflecting the words now pouring from me:

I write to you now, I never want to know your face. I don’t want to hate you. I can only imagine the terror you felt when your tires squealed dozens of lives to a terrible halt. I know time stood still when the unmistakable scents of rubber and blood reached your nose, rushed to your brain, and then slithered to your heart. As a human being, you must have felt this. The doctors told us he didn’t feel any pain. The impact from your car released his soul while nature held fast to his body. That’s what they say. But I’m sure you must have felt his pain for him, as feeling is born from matter and matter is neither created nor destroyed. It must have channeled to you. You. The 20 year-old child I never want to know.  I don’t want your face to find the darkest places of my heart, doors that should remain closed. Yet, I cannot bear to forgive you. Behind clenched teeth I cry and I curse you but I can’t bear to know you or hate you, knowing you are just a child. You couldn’t have meant it. The motorcycle must’ve seemed a mirage in the distance. You seriously misjudged it. It was a mistake. I have to believe you didn’t mean it. For the sake of my humanity – you couldn’t have meant it.  At the trial tomorrow, I want you to plead guilty. Take responsibility for what your carelessness took away: a wonderful father, a dedicated husband, the good twin, and a friend who always found a way to make those around him laugh. You left us with little more than twisted metal, blood on the blacktop, and ashes. I feel no one can win, no matter what the judge may say. Justice is difficult to define but I do know if you lose years of your life for this tragedy, this downward spiral of pain will just continue. Whoever you are now will die when you walk through the cold hell of prison. A life for a life. Another senseless tragedy.

I stop and turn away from the harsh computer, myself, and life for a moment. Abandoning the lamplight, I watch the moonlight pool upon the new darkness on the floor, and notice the night outside is as immobile and immense as the stillness in this house. Ms. April is taking slow, painful steps to her room and her footsteps fall like whispers in the procession towards her empty bed. I climb into mine, hiding beneath a mountain of covers that protect me from myself. The night is expanding and I am shrinking. I am quiet. I am alone.

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