invisible bruises

It is twenty-five minutes past three in the afternoon as I sit here, impatiently, in Criminal Court room 2202. The parking meter vultures were circling the main drag, in search of the objects of their bloodlust, parked cars with “0:00” on the dial. I’ve been out there once to pump more quarters into the meter, as the damn thing won’t take more than two hours at a time. This time I think, if the present case wraps up soon, we’ll be up next, I can testify and get on out before they ticket me.

I’m listening to a well-dressed, middle-aged man’s lawyer draw distinction between bruises that could occur on a woman’s back from dragging her off the bed, versus punching her. “Your honor, if my client, a very fit, 200-something pound man wanted to leave a mark on her, he could have.” “Don’t you find it odd that you said he punched you all over the back, side and head and yet the officer found no visible evidence of that?

His line of question was making the probation officers, district attorneys and cops (who all sat on benches to the far left) recoil with what I perceived to be a combination of low-level contempt and “come on, wrap it up.” At one point, there was some snickering from two male cops and the clerk cut eyes at them, as if to say, “quit, ya’ll!” A moment later, she looked back at the two of them and rolled her eyes in their directions, seeking to now be a part of the restless gang.

My thoughts rose up from the thick air of qualified violence and I thought of Sarah. It was her birthday just three days ago. Like the undetectable whir of hummingbird wings, I shook my head to cast off the image of me pushing her out of my way that Thanksgiving day some four years ago. I lowered my head, as if in some silent confessional and drew in as much oxygen as that stale courtroom air held. My hands now folded in front of me between my knees, wrung the sinewy meat and calloused skin of each other and brought me back to the here and now.

“So, now you’re saying he hit you in the BACK of the head, not the face? Is that right, Miss Jackson?”

I sigh, as if I could vaporize off this arrogant son of a bitch by exhalations alone. No such luck. After other ten or so minutes of terse banter from this guy, the district attorney and calm protestations from the judge come to pass. I begin to lose track of how much time I have left on the meter. I suck in my belly a bit and remind myself to resume sit-ups this evening. Another sigh.

The man’s found guilty of assault and is led off in handcuffs as he glares back venomously at his wife, two rows behind me.

As expected, the reason I’m here in court comes to pass quickly. Verna accepts the deal and will be forced to complete the 28-day drug program in jail. Her attorney, whispering to her from time to time, is a young, nervous guy who couldn’t be much older than 25. There they are his arm around her shoulder. His soft, well fed frame tossed casually into a charcoal suit. She is a number two pencil, gnarled by a life riddled with addiction and prostitution. They were probably born not much more than a year apart, and couldn’t be an odder couple.

The deputy motions for her to slide her shackled feet back from where she came, the side door where inmates enter and leave. She glares at me with the same eyes of that wife-beater and disappears from view. “Another day in crack-paradise,” I mutter to the probation officer sitting beside me as we shake hands. “Nice to finally meet you too.”

I slink out of the courtroom, down past the fountain on 4th Street and cross over to Trade, where my car is parked.

I bet you’re pissed, ain’t you?” a young black girl snaps as I pull the bright yellow ticket from the windshield. I drip a sarcastic smile and eat it with as much calm as the situation will allow. I turn the radio on, then quickly off, opting instead to think of Sarah as I merge onto Trade, make the turnaround at Davidson and head back to the clinic.

invisible bruises
may 16, 2005

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