the impulse to curl

by bam

i am home now. home and wanting only to curl. to curl into a chair, under a blanket. let the dappled light bathe me, perhaps, sprinkle me.
as if seeds, maybe, of sunlight. as if seeds of something that might lick the wounds, soften the places that hurt, sprout something that heals.
i’ve been before to places that hurt. i’ve been opened and cut. i’ve come home without what i wanted–a father, a baby, whole parts of me, really–when i walked out the door.
but i’ve not before been to a place like a courthouse. not where, when you say, “i’m the victim,” a vernacular they insist that you use, to identify why you are standing there at their window, they ask, “domestic violence?” to which you shudder, and think, no, no, thank God, no. that’s not why i’m here.
i am here because i don’t want to be here. i am here because there i was minding my business. not even my business really. someone else’s. i was cooking for people i’ve come to think of as friends. friends i want to do right for.
and that’s when, out of the blue, the man came and took what wasn’t his. what was mine. and now, here i am in this courthouse.
it is a beautiful morning. a golden one. with light not seen in the courtroom marked 106. not in the room where the machine churned. one after the other, justice on hold. continued. rescheduled. delayed. no lawyer. no defendant. no witness. always, it seemed, someone or something was missing. the machine could not move. instead it started and stopped, in fits and starts. in sputters and coughs.
they bark out your name. mispronounce it. make you feel like you are the one who’s done something wrong. something unseemly. like really you must be a lowlife to be here at all.
“domestic violence?”
no no, i said, no not that at all.
what, i’m a well-dressed white woman, that’s the obvious choice?
how very sad.
i can’t say, really, because maybe i shouldn’t, what happened. but they did finally call me by name. and someone else too. someone outfitted in khaki pajamas. or so it seemed. a face i just barely glimpsed. a face i don’t want to remember.
they asked me in bits and pieces to tell my whole story. or at least the part of the story that mattered to matters at hand.
i was told to stick to the bones.
but i did manage, because i went with my heart, to say, “bless him,” referring to the man in the khaki pajamas. did manage to say it out loud to the judge and the lawyers and most of all to the man himself, in telling them all how, after much hemming and hawing, he went, bless him, and retraced his steps to my backpack, where he had dropped it, off in some bushes. i’ll not forget that he did what he needn’t have done.
and i got to say what i needn’t have said.
but i did very much want to infuse or inject just a word from a whole other plane. a plane i believe in. a plane i desperately wish i could bring to that man. that man who, i think, already knows it, at least some of the time.
all my life i have searched for and found the divine in each soul i encountered. it’s no different here. only i don’t think it looks that way. i think it looks like i am a white woman seeking revenge. like i am trying to send away the lost soul who did a dumb thing. a stupid thing. a wrong thing.
if nothing else, it’s those two words–“bless him”–that i hold onto. that’s where i distinguish myself from the system. where i lift higher than the bar they set rather low.
it is a system that strips men of their clothes, and all of us of our dignity, whatever scrap of it we manage to bring in, in through the metal detector and the river of life that is messy and mostly in trouble.
so i’m home now. back in my house where the light comes in sprinkles that spill on the oak on the floor, and the cushions on chairs.
i am next to my chair with the checks and the blanket. i think i’ll climb in in a minute. pull the wool tight around. let the tears spill. i feel a need for a cleansing. the cleansing of tears. and the lifting of prayer. i have no other way for the man in the khaki pajamas to know i wish him no harm. quite the opposite.
bless him, i said, and i meant it.
bless him, dear God, for he knows not what he’s doing. those are words, once spoken from up on a cross, now recited, now prayed, year after year.
they take on new meaning, on a day in a week when your actions and those of a man in khaki pajamas mix in a terrible stew. and he is in jail and you are wrapped in a blanket by a window where the light comes in golden-strewn seeds.

all i ask is you whisper a prayer. for him, or the whole sorry system. it might be the best that there is, but, whoever you are, it’s hard to walk in and come out feeling whole.