I stopped crying months ago.…about the same time I stopped healing. I don’t know what is real anymore. The deafening sound made by our neighbor, Luke’s tired lawn mower which he uses every weekend, seems to be more authentic than my reality. They all think I’m crazy, Mum, Dad, Nelly and even Doctor Karim, my therapist who diagnosed my case as Type II trauma. I see it in his eyes each time I’m wheeled in for my session, he tries to mask the pity in his heart with a bogus display of hope in my recovery. I know it’s just the cheques in dad’s signature that keeps him working.
It wasn’t always this way, though I’ve never been able to walk, I was once normal. My first nightmares were my last memories of him. He told me he was going to get a drink with his friends that night, though I had a bad feeling about it, I let him. We had just made up after a fight that lasted nearly five days and frankly, I wasn’t ready for another one. Plus, I needed some space to think clearly and cut down the number of invitees to our wedding since the last estimate exceeded our budget.
Kay never returned that night.
I tried fiercely to be strong. All my life, my disability has attracted a lot of pity party, and I wasn’t about to let his death attract more. I knew my mum was worried when I refused to leave his apartment or let anyone console me, I stopped eating, quit my editing job and answering my calls became a punishment. She said I shut everyone out. She suggested I visit a therapist, but I refused…I was fine, I was dealing with it in my own way. She tried avoiding topics that could lead to him but it only made the vacuum more vivid. He was accidentally gunned down by the police during a gunfire exchange between them and a set of criminals.
His burial was the most solemn and painful I’ve ever attended. He had so many people that loved him and they were all seated in the church pews, most with dark shades to hide their red swollen eyes. I watched some leave consecutively to the rest room during the service, only to return later to their seats shakier and redder. I was still in a daze, when I was called up to speak about Kay. I didn’t let anyone wheel me up the podium that day. When I took the mic, I began my well-rehearsed speech about my deceased fiancé. I choked on the second sentence, and when I tried to start over again, I cracked and heard myself laughing sardonically. The people and more, present for his funeral were the same ones we were making invitation cards for to our wedding which would have happened the following week. I stared down at him in the immaculately white casket and felt hot tears roll down my cheeks. He looked alive. His hair was well trimmed as always, his beards carefully carved the way I liked it...for God’s sake he was smiling. My laughter died as soon as it began and I was wailing within seconds, begging him to wake up, promising not to pick fights anymore, threatening to join him if he didn’t come back to me. It took his brother and a friend of his sometime to cajole me out of the podium and into a vehicle. They didn’t let me stay for the rest of the funeral in fear of my mental stability. Months after his burial, I saw him.
I was in the kitchen, clearing up days old stacked dirty dishes as had become my habit, when I heard the sound of the shower in our bathroom go on. Three days before that, I smelt his cologne on the sheets of our bed. I dismissed the thought as quickly as it came. His funeral was barely nine weeks old then, I was still grieving so it was not strange to have nostalgia. I wheeled myself to the bathroom and turned it off after making a mental note to get the plumbers to fix the pipes. When I returned to finish cleaning up, the dishes were done. The following day, I saw his sweatpants in the laundry basket. My sister Nelly and my mum had helped me put all his stuff in boxes days after his burial, and I had stacked the boxes under our bed, hoping to give them all away when the pain was less raw. I was terrified when I got to the room and saw the boxes all pulled out from beneath the bed, his clothes, game pads and sneakers scattered on the floor. The moment I knew my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me was when in my very before, the bed made an indention, like someone just lay on it. I called my mum in alarm and told her what had just happened. She arrived at our apartment minutes later not because she had believed me, but because she saw as a perfect opportunity to get me out of the place. I told her the other strange things that had been happening…she looked at me in pity and cried. She said I was broken. I let her hold me as she cried, I too wanted to be in her arms. I was scared…maybe she was right, I was broken and my mind was conjuring things up. I glanced over her shoulder in time to catch a glimpse of his shadow going up the stairs.
I moved in with my parents that day. I agreed to have therapy sessions because I wanted to move on. The psychoanalysts I met with advised that a step I needed to take for the progress of my healing included total acceptance that he’s gone and gone for good. I was optimistic about getting better, I was tired of sulking. I loved Kay, but life wasn’t waiting for me and I wasn’t ready to be a liability to my family. I took my sessions and treatments very seriously, read motivational books, watched my diet, helped around the house when I could, took my medications and even did some volunteering around the neighborhood. I honestly was getting better, I was thinking of him less, and even when I did, my heart didn’t feel like gently disintegrating into a thousand pieces…it just hurt enough for me to know that things won’t be the same anymore. Few months later, I had a job interview for a position in an art gallery. It was a really big step for me, I had few days to be done with rehab, I wasn’t dependent on my meds again to sleep and the doctors were in support of my decision to get a job. I took a taxi to the gallery on the day of the interview. I wasn’t the only one being interviewed for the job, and from the downcast looks of those coming out of the meeting room, I wasn’t certain the interview was going to be a walk over for me. When it was my turn to go in, I did. I had barely started my introduction when an interruption came in form of a knock on the interview door. I heard the arrival’s steps behind me. The evaluators didn’t seem disturbed by the presence of the new comer and so I continued my presentation. Half way through it I heard a voice very close to my ear say,
“It’s been a while Leslie”
I froze. It was his voice.
I don’t know how long I sat there staring at them, but the next thing I remember was me seeing the mouths of the three interviewers moving as if trying to tell me something...but all I heard was silence. In confusion as to what was going on, I tried speaking, my lips were moving, but no words were coming out. Panic exploded in me when the only voice I heard again was his own,
“I’ve missed you”
I couldn’t believe it was happening again. I begged him to leave me, to get out of my head. He told me he wasn’t in my head and asked me to turn around. I dared not and kept telling myself it wasn’t real. Gripping the handle of my wheel chair, he spun me. That’s when I saw him.
Hello, it’s Earth
Hey everyone. I thought I'd take a moment to talk to you all. We don't get together nearly often enough and I was thinking it's about time we sit down and have a nice family discussion. No, no, come back. Don't try to get out of this. Especially you, Americans. We really need to talk.
Alright, now that we're settled, I need to bring up a few things. First of all, I'm happy to see that you're all enjoying the gifts I've given you, and most of you are doing some great things with them. You've built some nice homes for yourselves and you're coming up with some really cool tools. I thought the airplane was especially clever. Some of you are really branching out and a small number of you are even starting to leave me. I knew the day would come—every mother does. I'm really proud of you, though. You've come a long way. Now, most of you are really good at cooperating and trading with each other, but please remember to share. I gave you enough to go around, but I still see that some of you are keeping more than you need all to yourselves. I taught you better than that.
Second, I've been seeing a lot of fighting going on lately. This is unacceptable. It's never okay for you to hurt any of your brothers or sisters. I honestly can't believe what I'm seeing. What made you think that that's okay? You all have always disagreed a lot, and that's totally fine—that's what families do. It's normal to disagree because we are all wonderfully different, but it's not okay to expect everyone to see things the way you do. You know, it's possible to get along—and even be friends—with someone who doesn't believe in the same things you do. You can be entirely different people and follow completely opposite ideologies, and still find ways to be amicable.
Remember, we are all one family and we need each other. We need each other's differences, especially. That's what makes our family so strong. Without our differences, we perish. So, what I want you to do is think of one of your brothers or sisters with whom you don't get along, maybe one who lives a very different lifestyle than you, and I want you to think of one nice thing you can say to them or about them. Shake hands, say sorry, and for heaven's sake stop fighting.
And just remember what Father always says. Sometimes when things get heated, all you need to do is just give things a little Time.
Also, stop smoking. It's bad for you and I'm dying over here.
My intimate peerage of some four hundred and fifty students has reached its terminus. It has technically been two months, yet the sun has made one-third of its elliptical orbit since our last day together. For thirteen years we were, and now all that is left to say is that we once were. As we sat in dark rooms behind chipped plastic desks, before we knew anything of the volatile horizon on the other side of our cinder-block nursery, my classmates voted that I, out of the many, was the most likely to take over the world.
I do not see myself a conqueror, as they are so often on the wrong side of history. Nor do I see myself shoulder-to-shoulder with the men who inhale privilege and exhale oppression... all the while playing blind, dumb, and deaf. This world we are in has planted these thoughts as my interpretation of what it means to take over.
I saw no use in watching my own virtual graduation. I sat down at my desk and found the link to a video of some commencement speeches. I chose not to click the little blue line. What could be there that isn’t already in my mind? Life is full of unexpected problems, and we shall persevere; we are coming into the adult world now, and it is not what we expected; it is time for our generation to yield its power onto the world, and it is up to us to determine how that will happen. No high school commencement is complete without a redundant trip to the dictionary, therefore, instead of watching my own graduation, I went to Merriam-Webster.
My superlative, with its domineering connotation, implied to me that my peers had a perception of me which I found uncomfortable. To take over, as an infinitive, has three general interpretations. My inherent idea of the meaning aligns with the third: “to take or make use of under a guise of authority but without actual right.” That is not the way I want to take over the world.
The second meaning, I found more comfortable: “to take to or upon oneself.” The exemplar use of the words put it into terms of assuming responsibility, which I can accept. If anything, as an educated adult, I do feel responsible for the world–at least my corner of it.
I relate the most to the first meaning of taking over, which was the last definition I would have thought of if not for looking at a list of definitions. This meaning is “to serve as a replacement usually for a time only.” In this case, I accept my title. In fact, it is the only title I feel worthy to accept. I do not want to be president...as that position decreases in value alongside the national debt, nor do I want to be remembered for possessing the best seventeen-year-old body, or any other thing in the back section of the yearbook for the class of 2020.
In this life, in this world, I am here to serve as a replacement for a time only. The truth is that we are all of us just temporal replacements, here for a brief minute, waiting for those who will replace us. If this is it, and it is my turn to take over the world, as many have tried and many more will attempt, I would like to let the world know that I only intend to serve you all for a time, and God willing, this blue marble will be made better by it.
"Hello? Can I get everyone's attention, please? I would like to say a quick thought. I would like to say something to everyone out there who is hurting. To be more specific, If anyone out there is thinking about not living, then well you were made for a reason. Only one in four hundred trillion people are born. So if you are thinking of committing suicide, then just know that the people of earth are here to help. God is here to help. And I know that a lot of you don't believe in God. But he is there and he has never stopped believing in you. So why should you give up on him? And I know a lot of bad things have probably happened to you, but no matter what you should never ever give up hope, faith, love, wisdom, humility, or friendship. Just know whatever race you are, whatever gender you are, God and I love you for who you are not who you try to be. Thank you."
Living Will & Trust
Flaxen drapes her cedar chest
Rainbows dye wreath braids
Pinned with twig tiaras,
Nests, where doves of peace lay wait
Silver Maples cradle
Ivy, canopied in shade
Veins of Blue Spruce Pine weep
Like the Willow trees cascade
Creeks whisper sweet nothings
Cherry lips speak, sunset’s mouth
Seas drunk on streams’ kisses
Eye of storms translate soul’s spout
Rivers cut through virgin skin
Tattoos inked, tanzanite
Platinum, gold and silver leached
Clay bones of marrow, mined
Hollow heart beats, swells and quakes
Waves crash beneath bare feet
Scales tilt, tare, tsunami
Salt of sorrow crests each knee
Pillars set in tungsten, stand
Flesh peeled in thunder’s truth
Foundry fashioned lightning
Fire’s kiln where all is proofed
Kissed by death, her nemesis
Time steals Life’s laurel crown
Revealed as weak in nakedness
When winter strips her gown
Until through Beauty’s Gate arrives
Her Prince of Spring is found
Sowing seeds of Eden
Florid jewels stud fallow ground
As tines of wind brush golden wheat
Sun drips from honey combs
Illuminating children’s wings
The heirs unto Earth’s throne
photo credit: I. Pettus
Love with purpose, now. Don’t wait until you get permission, or feel the timing is right, those are simply excuses, reasons not to act. When you love someone, let them know. If you think someone’s outfit is cute, tell them. Exchange secrets with a friend – giggling all the while – or give them a hug to show you’re proud of them. Don’t let your fear of vulnerability overcome the urge to connect with other people. Do not wallow. Do not succumb to self-pity. Rather, pay attention to the world around you. Take time to listen to the bird’s morning song, and as a gift, leave birdseed on your porch. Buy yourself a pretzel just because you were craving one, and smile at the cashier who hands it to you. Write a letter that contains nothing but good intent, and place it in your neighbor’s mailbox.
So often, we restrain ourselves from small acts of joy, not wanting to offend or frighten away, but the time we have on this earth is limited. You never know how long people have. That is not a bad thing though, it just makes every small kindness that much more special, that much more vital. So be quick to say a kind word, give a kiss on the cheek. And, conversely, be slow to bid farewell, making plans for next time even as you step out the door. Love recklessly, and with abandon, don’t hesitate—use your time to spread joy.
It was another Thursday evening in NYC, and One United Nation Plaza sparkled with shimmering lights. All the delegates entered the building for the summer-climate summit and sat on their assigned seats.
Everyone seemed on edges.
I was the guest speaker of the year.
Though the air conditioning blasted off, the room felt hot as if the sun had fallen from the sky.
I modestly walked to the podium. The stage was scarily huge to stand on as I had never been there before. But I mustered to hold to my grip and stood tall and tapped on the microphone.
Before I gazed at my talking notes, I paused and cleared my throat, heart pulsating like a drum.
It was one of my latest speeches I was giving in front of the most powerful forces assembled from every country in the world; poor or rich.
Ladies and gentlemen, I signed and began to speak to the cold audience, searching for a sign of life in the room.
All eyes focused on me, silence choked the room.
My name is David Weiss, and I am a scientist in the Climatic Industry. I had been to this same location a few times before, talking about the same topic.
I saw how with the opening line I grasped the attention of everyone in the room. Before I’d lose a chance boring them, I quickly continued.
For the past twenty-five years, I have dealt with the most challenging weather changes in my life. And looking at the current pace and trends, I can certainly tell you, we’re lucky if we’d survive another decade. Our concrete studies have shown us that the level of Carbon dioxide is getting higher at a fast pace due to the fuels we burn to the car emissions and deforestation of clearing trees.
I sensed dismay and confusion from their eyes as if they were invited to a wrong crowd, or they’d never heard of another lunatic scientist preaching the same theory before.
The next slide on the presentation made sure they paid attention to what I had to say. It entailed the worst natural disasters ever recorded in history about the correlation of global warming and the melting icebergs in the Arctic, which killed many lives.
I wished I could’ve been as gentle as them politicians, telling the urgent yet unexpected news softly and assured them that everything was fine, lying through my white teeth, of course. Unfortunately, I’m a scientist and I base everything about life on mathematics and data, therefore, there wasn’t any other way of dicing and slicing the truth and breaking the ice to them.
It was my way of making sure that they were a bit shaken so that they were listening attentively.
As you may be aware, it’s obvious that our Mother Earth is dying quicker than we’ve anticipated; and we must get consensus and be on the same page in finding solutions to solve the imminent threats facing the survival of humanity. Global warming is real and the fate of humanity lies in the minds and shoulders of individuals gathered here today.
I wasn’t sure they fully grasped what I’d said but the room went wild with cheers and applause.
My fellow scientists had warned me this would happen though; the leaders of the world would pretend to get behind our suggestions but later rather discard our findings in the trash-bins.
On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel bad for their negligence or pure numbness to reality. But amid the crowds, there were a few good men and women who truly wanted to change the world. However, the toxic political waters they were swimming in left them with repercussions and obstacles. Complacency and silence yet are still their only way out.
I keep the pace going over the PowerPoint and snippets of videos to justice my points.
I returned my eyes to the audience. I hoped to find a few selfless souls.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as you’ve witnessed in the previous videos and presentations, Global warming is dangerously affecting all of us in different parts of the world. The glaciers are melting at a high rate. Deforestation is causing CO2 to linger in the air and, in a few years, it’ll make this beautiful planet uninhabitable.
I paused before concluding my speech, and then I continued.
The science community, including myself, is urging you to pass a resolution. We must act now decisively to save future generations.
In the grand scheme of things, we shouldn’t become extinct like dinosaurs had because we’ve refused to acknowledge the fact that we have a problem on our hands that is an imminent threat to our survival.
I’d been talking far too long when the last PowerPoint slide popped on the screen. It was time for questions and answers.
I saw many hands raised, very good news because it was my first time seeing such a reaction to my speech.
I was tired, and it was getting late and darker, but I tried my best to explain and respond to every question that came across. I wanted to seize the opportunity. If it meant saving the world, it was worth sacrificing a night of sleep.
Life: A Tragedy
Life at its core is a tragedy. Characters fighting their flaws. The resolution always death. The ending spoiled from the beginning. And yet, we characters, we like to imagine otherwise. But what is so wrong with a tragedy?
A comedy may seem like a better option. Shakespearean comedies mirror modern day romance films: the ending cultivating in marriage. But what happens next we often wonder? For after the “I dos”, the conflict persists. It is continuous and eternal. A comedy can only track the character for a certain portion of her life. It ends feeling complete. But what happens after the honeymoon is over?
Inevitably, the escalator moves us forward.
My grandparents experienced over 50 years of marriage. The key word we generally add to this description is “wonderful” and their marriage was full of more positives than negatives. But make no mistake, there was tension. There are differences of opinions, and styles, and music and dinner choices. And after this duration of differences for over 50 years, my grandfather passed away. Unwillingly but expectedly. I can still remember his body lying on the floor and my grandmother gently touching his still face. By all rights, we could label this a tragedy. A great love terminated. My grandmother alone. And I wonder how many times in her heart she tells herself, “If only Louie were here...” But he is not.
Yet she is still living. And even though we know how her story will turn out, which is to say in death, she is still laughing at jokes and enjoying ice cream. She is still supporting political candidates that I cannot stand the sight of. You see, it is the perspective in which we tune in to the events that makes the difference. A comedy starts with trouble and ends on high note and a tragedy the reverse. She has continued where an ending had existed. So, the question remains: Where do we decide to begin or end the story?
When experiencing labor contractions, a woman may believe herself to be dying. Unaided by medicine, the pain ranks generally as the worst pain she may ever experience while living. Yet, the birth of a child can be exceedingly joyous. Because it ends in the birth of a being. A creature full of potential, promise and pride. Again, not all mothers feel as I did. Because their stories are different than mine. Even still, the child will grow and cause problems. The terrible twos may feel like the reign of a dictator. Again, we jump in and out of a life. How are you telling your story?
We know the ending for each of us. At some point our mortality will overthrow our perspective. But such a dichotomy creates the poignancy of each moment. For isn’t there also beauty and joy in a tragedy? Doesn’t the director zoom into a scene that takes your breath away? When all seems lost in the heartbreak, there is always that one thing: someone holding the dying character’s hand, a gentle kiss on the forehead or a sunset that deserves to be painted. In the midst of loss, what to cherish clarifies.
This is your tragedy. You are the protagonist. Make the audience mourn your exit. Be the hero that we can’t imagine living without. For then perhaps, we will carry your story and it will stir the beginning of something else which in turn will not classify it as a tragedy after all.
What’s Next Now?
Where do I begin? Firstly, I would like to take a moment of silence for all the lives we lost during the global crisis. It really took so long for us to move forward & carry on into the same, but also different, daily routines. With this new change and shift in how we attend to our tasks, let’s not forget to truly appreciate and thank all the first responsders who stood in the frontlines fighting this viral pandemic.
Secondly, I must say it’s been such a great joy to see how many folks have gone above and beyond to volunteer in helping their neighbors in the community. Whether if it was checking on them with a phone call, or even just going to get them groceries when they were not able to afford to buy more because of their tight budget while they were in search of a new job. It’s so amazing to see people getting to brighten each other’s day.
On one hand, the crisis has brought a lot of panic, anxiety, and lots of grief, then on the other (hand) it has taught us all to value the simple tasks and work of any job (much more) which seemed to be small such as: the mail workers (who bring packages and see to it that it arrives on time), the caregivers (making sure those being cared for are taken care of well) and to the ones who always work tirelessly to provide the best healthcare~the doctors, nurses, all medical professionals— putting their lives at risk 24/7 in order to save as many lives as possible!
Thirdly, let’s give a round of applause to the artists. The writers, painters, poets and creative minds- sharing their talents to the world with works bringing a smile on people’s faces. Putting a work of art that reminds us all to keep carrying on and not to lose hope even when things look dark/gloomy.
Lastly, let us keep on working together to build a better world for the next generation to come. They will come a time for them to learn about how the world came together to battle the corona virus. As long as we wake up and rise with the fire of our dreams burning in our hearts- we can keep on going to work & share our gifts for the world to enjoy. After all, we only one life and we can move forward by continuing to live with hearts full of love to share with the rest of the world.
Note: At this point for this submission/entry~ scientists have worked on developing treatments for those who test positive for covid-19. They also end up providing a treatment which they advise any one who has the signs/symptoms of the corona virus to take as soon as possible. This way the number of cases can be controlled & the curve can be flattened.
Leading to a whole different highly effective tactic to help lower the spread of the virus. Those with a chance of higher infection & at risk of infecting others are advised to still self quarantine (or isolate) at least for 14 days— before they can gather, hang or meet with their kith/kin.
[Monday, 27 July, 2020] ©
When a journalist becomes the story
All the journalists I know say they would never want to be the story. We might be storytellers, but we are not the stories.
However, sometimes we are. This is about when I became the story; it’s about what it’s like to be stalked and how that changes your life.
Gone is the person who was confident enough to walk at night on her own — even in a foreign country, much to my father’s dismay. That independence — albeit enjoyed from inside a safe, mentally risk-assessed bubble — is now scuffed and tarnished, worn under a layer of fear.
It started with a series of phone calls — voicemails and hang ups — from a number I did not recognise around 10pm one night in May 2017. Confused, I ended up turning off the phone so I didn’t have to see the number flashing up on my screen over and over again.
Once I turned it back on again and listened to the messages I was unnerved. I didn’t know who this person calling me was, or how she got my phone number or why she was saying she was sleeping with my husband. Needless to say, I had many questions.
She had been reading my agricultural articles in the local newspaper and, as a dairy worker, she thought I did not know enough to be writing about the industry. Journalists are often confronted by angry readers or viewers who insist they know more about a subject so that in itself was not an issue for me after more than 20 years on the job. But, it seems, besides knowing more than I did about milk, she also had designs on my husband.
After that first night, when she called me 10 times, and the upheaval that followed, everything died down for a time. I was edgy and shaken but determined to get on with my life and not let this incident affect me.
But it wasn’t just one incident. Dissatisfied with the outcome and determined to do more damage, she started calling again. She left messages threatening not only me but also my children. She spent hours driving her little yellow car around the suburb in which I lived looking for my house and parked outside the building where I worked.
After the second run of incidents, I was advised to apply for a restraint order and block her number. I did both, squirming in discomfort as I explained my reasons for the application to the magistrate in a public court. Colleagues from my newspaper and competitor outlets were there. An interim order was granted, covering my workplace and the entire suburb I lived in so she didn’t find out my address, but it would be more than a year before that order was formalised.
Using a withheld number she continued to call me when she was high on drugs or during an alcoholic bender. I spent hours at the police station each time reporting her breaches. One night she called 22 times, most of those while I was at the police station to report her. In the end, I just handed the phone to the police officer, who told her who he was and that he was recording the conversation. Without missing a beat, she asked him to hand the phone to me because “I just want to talk to her”.
I changed my number, took all reference of my phone off the internet, including my freelance writing website and blog, White Pages and university contact page, and became a silent voter so she couldn’t find me via the electoral roll. Security requested I be dropped off and picked up at the door to my office. If I had an interview outside the office I had to be accompanied by a photographer or a colleague. My life ceased to be mine.
One morning I had a call from a detective requesting a meeting. I assumed it was about making the interim restraint order permanent. I smile wryly now at my naivety then. I had no idea what she was capable of.
My stalker had decided to amp up her efforts. She set fire to donated items outside a nearby charity shop. Picked up afterwards, she told the police she thought I would turn up to cover the story for the newspaper. The detective wanted to know what my involvement was with her. Even at this point, I didn’t even know what she looked like, save for a grainy Facebook profile picture, let alone have any involvement with her.
After hearing my story, the detective told me it confirmed what she had already told him and that it appeared she was “obsessed” with me. He also said they were planning to charge her with stalking, on top of multiple breaches of the restraint order and arson, but warned it would be difficult to prove and that there had not been any successful stalking convictions in my state. I knew this had all the ingredients of a newsworthy story.
Not able to get to me via phone anymore, my stalker found other ways: sending me an email via my blog, ending with details about how she had bought materials to kill herself at the hardware store; messaging the newspaper’s Facebook page; contacting a colleague via a dating app to talk to him about me. The police extended the restraint order to cover my family.
I’ve reported on court cases as a journalist many times, but nothing prepares you for being the person listed on the sheet outside the door. I’ve endured court date after court date as her Legal Aid solicitor argued the poor state of her mental health meant she needed to be assessed for fitness (this argument was used every time she breached the order adding months to the process), or that he had not had access to her so could not prepare her defence, or that matters in Supreme Court had to be finalised before my case could be dealt with in the Magistrates Court (she started stalking a Child Protection Services worker who had placed her two children in foster care and committed multiple counts of arson during a total fire ban while on community service for breaching my order).
It was in court, on one of these many occasions, that I saw her for the first time. It was also in court that she spat vicious words in my direction, telling me to get off my “high horse”. And it was in that same court that I had to walk out behind her, close enough to see the hair that had escaped her ponytail, after she was released from prison on time served following one of the many restraint order breaches.
Even after she finally pleaded guilty and was convicted of stalking, as well as multiple restraint order breaches, arson, drug offences and breaching bail conditions, it didn’t stop.
In October 2019, a police officer called to let me know she was being released early. I was about to board a plane to join a group of girlfriends for a long weekend at the beach and this rattled me as I wondered if she would do anything to my children while I was away. By the end of the weekend, she was back in custody after driving through my suburb and setting a bin alight. And the whole process starts again.
It’s exhausting and demoralising and traumatic. It never ends.
More than 1000 days have passed since this ordeal began. That seems a long time, and I often wonder if it has been enough time to move on, but the fingers of fear and doubt and stress still find ways to creep in and wrap themselves around my neck. It doesn’t matter how comfortable I get, I still find myself checking a noise I heard when drifting off to sleep, thinking about when the next court date might be and whether I would need to attend, or watching a car I am unfamiliar with but seems to appear frequently. The protective mind does not rest.
However, this goes beyond my trauma. This story is also about mental health, a mother’s need to protect her children, the broken court system that favours the defendant with a hard-luck story, relationships, modern policing, support networks and so much more.
#stalking #trauma #resilience #court #policing #mentalhealth