We all have those triggers we wish we had never pulled. (Oneshot)
“All rise.” The security guard at the front is looking at you; at least, you think he is. He is a middle aged Caucasian man with the straightest posture you’ve ever seen and a frown that you have no doubt judges you. You have no doubt they all judge you; after all, that’s seemingly their job. You look around at the faces in this stuffy, over heated room. You study each face, each pore, each hairline, and each freckle. You take it all in, every detail, for you know this may be the last time you see fresh bodies.
The man sitting next to you is the most important player in all of this, the dealer in a card game. His name is Drake Anderson and he is your attorney: getting you off for a quarter of the average price. He’s clicking away now, the pen he flips over his fingers hits the edge of the table and the sound scratches your eardrums and you hate it. It sounds like a clock. Is he counting down the minutes until his own failure?
It’s almost nostalgic sitting in here, this courtroom. It reminds you of the divorce. You can’t remember much of it. The doctor’s told your parents it was PTSD. It took you three years to get someone to tell you what that meant and by that time it had become irrelevant. Nobody cared any longer. Why would they? People get divorced all the time, kids are strung out in the middle, ‘shit happens’ as your father would have said back then. You knew what he’d say now; he’d say that you’ve always been crazy.
Minutes have gone by whilst you day dream and you’ve long been sitting down, fiddling with the court appearance warrant in front of you. You run your fingers down the side of the letter. You’re not one for writing stories or sketching, so you never had an appreciation for paper. At least, not until now when you’re trying to saviour the little, pointless privileges that are about to be ripped away from you entirely. You’ve done a bad thing and you deserve to be punished.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I would like to present to you evidence item number three in the case of the State of California vs.-” You block everything out as they say your name. What was this, a freaking circus performance? Here stood the plaintiff introducing their next shiny act. You think about what the female lawyer is about to show everyone: video footage of your shining hour; your fifteen minutes of fame; video footage of the worst day of your life. The lawyer presses play and sits back on the table next to the jury, she looks so calm. She swings her legs back and forth as she turns the volume up and smiles at you smugly. God, you’re going to throw up. There is this ache in your stomach as if you’d been punched a hundred times. You can feel your heart start to race; it tapping this rapid bass beat inside your chest. Many people had questioned if you had a heart. You know you do; you feel it every second of everyday, heavy with guilt.
“Move out of the way, move out of the fucking way!” There is so much screaming and turmoil and you notice a woman in the jury flinch while she watches. It’s so vivid. You can remember standing on the table, feeling like a god. You can remember the look on the freshmen’s faces as you chipped away at their distorted innocence. The sound of the gunshot had echoed around the cold canteen and things had smashed and people had ran and cried. The camera doesn’t move and now you’re out of shot. The whole room can still hear though. They can all hear you confront Jamie.
“This, this is your fault! You made me do this, all of this. You’re the reason they’re dead.” The sound of a table being kicked comes next followed by sobbing, so much sobbing.
“It wasn’t me. I am sorry. It wasn’t, it wasn’t, and I didn’t.” He was never one for words. Jamie was your typical all action bully, a shove up against a locker, a punch in the gut, a football in the face in gym class.
“You don’t get to apologise. You’re supposed to suffer. This, this is supposed to make it go away. It’s your turn, your turn to feel bad. I hate you, I am so, it’s your turn.” You’re screaming so loud and it makes the speakers on the TV stutter.
“I’ll do anything. I am sorry. I am so. Oh please. Please, no, please I swear I’ll do anythi-” You can barely make out what he’s saying, the camera is shoddy and he is crying so hard his words are barely audible. His voice is hoarse and the sound of desperate movement can be heard. Staring at the television, you place your hands on your head and pull at your hair. They need to make it stop. They need to stop it right now. Bang, there goes the first shot and a piercing scream comes after. It mirrors that of a baby, something distressed and longing for help. No, they have to make it stop. That wasn’t you. Bang, another shot; however, now there is no screaming, no cries for help just silence, something far more horrifying. Another shot and another and another and you stand up and you scream: “Stop, please just stop.”
“Sit down, sir!” The judge orders you. You don’t care about her; she’s just some shaggy, grey faced woman hiding behind a box and a robe.
“No, this, this isn’t fair. That’s not me. That’s someone else. I’m not a monster. You don’t know, you have no, you don’t know what it was like. You weren’t there. Everyday they did it, they were there, all the time, can’t do this to me, please, you can’t-” The tears are sore on your cheeks, they burn your skin, like holy water on a blasphemous creature. You’ve paused and every eye in the room is on you. Speechlessness lingers in the air and people become intoxicated by it.
“I am so sorry. I was just so, so, sad.” You are pulled forcibly into your seat by Drake and your head hits the table as you cry. The wood feels just as icy as the gymnasium floor did when the police bundled you that day. The female plaintiff lets out a cruel but quick laugh that contrasts with your solemn sobs. You feel yourself begin to convulse and you count slowly back from ten in your head. Another avoided anxiety attack. 10 – 9 – 8 – 7...
You’re not sure how long they leave you laying there but you’re sure you fall asleep for the briefest of moments. This is so different than television. There is no good cop, bad cop scenarios and your mother isn’t weeping for your innocence. The only mothers are those of the deceased and they’re too angry to weep, too heartbroken and rotting inside. Maybe the judge leaves you because she thought you were awake, secretly listening to what she says. No, she left you because you didn’t matter. You were the pawn in your own game. The outcome was inevitable and everyone here knew it, especially Drake, so why bother?
You sit up and cross your hands in front of you to prevent them from shaking any further. The room has increased in heat and you pull at your collar, rubbing the back of your neck with you dry fingertips and pulling at your tie. You start staring at Drake to distract yourself from the reality of the courtroom; the plaintiff is showing the jury case files from the seven psychiatrists they made you see. You wish you could look up and see a familiar face, your disappointed father or your guilt ridden mother, anyone. You needed that, the comfort of a face that could rip you out of yourself and back to that humble reality that existed before this.
“And now, I’d like to call the defendent to the witness box.” It’s the eyes again, they are looking at you. You can’t go up there. You can’t talk in front of all these people. Why didn’t Drake tell you about this? You look at him, searching for some sort of redemption in his eyes. He simply nods and stands.
“Your honour, are you sure that’s appropriate, giving the circumstances of today’s events, the ones that happened here, in this courtroom, today.” You can’t understand why Drake was always so nervous. He’s been doing this job for years. The judge looks at you; she raises her eyebrow subtly as a flickering of thoughts cross her mind, her right hand caressing her hammer.
“If the defendent wishes to have a chance to speak, he should take it. If not, I am sorry Barbara, but we will have to move on.” Glances are passed quickly, like a child’s party game and you shake your head.
“Well, there it is then. Would the petitioner present their next item please?”
You were sentenced to San Quentin, you were eighteen now and after a year of trials they decided to put you in with the men. You wouldn’t go down well there; no one liked a child killer, even if you were a kid yourself. You knew this and you knew you wouldn’t be there long. You knew exactly what happened at San Quentin. So did Drake, who had apologised insincerely on many occasions and still came to see you every now and then. You just wished there was a way to say you were sorry, a way to make them believe it. More than anything, you craved forgiveness, from their mother’s; your mother; the teacher’s who said you were talented; and yourself.
You can still remember the cries of that day, you can remember the look of terror in people’s eyes and how hard your heart pumped in its protective cage and how the smell of sweat was rife. Nothing will ever erase it, not time, not money, not death. You were truly infamous, forever.