Monday, February 8, 2010

Too Big A Choice (11/90)

She showed up to my school at lunchtime, my godmother by her side, for support, I suppose. I was called to the office, told there was an emergency.  I sat across from the two of them in a room far too small for this conversation.

I can’t recall any of her words. It’s possible that she didn’t have any. I only remember there were tears and the sniffles and sighs that accompanied them. I don’t remember our eyes meeting, which means they probably didn’t.

We didn’t want this, but you’ll have to go to court, my godmother told me. The judge will ask you some questions. You have a choice, she said.


I went back to lunch, and assured my friends that I was fine. There was no emergency.

But this was a choice too big for a 14-year-old.  For a human being.  For weeks I imagined entering a courtroom full of people, and promising to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth before being questioned on the stand as I sat beside a judge in a full robe, like I’d seen on TV.

When the day came, my dad drove us to the courtroom. We saw the judge in his office, one by one. He did not wear a robe.

It was much easier than it should have been.

I spent five minutes in his office, if that. His afternoon was full of these meetings, I’m sure. I was not abused, I was not in danger. I was not an emergency. I was name a to be crossed off his to-do list.

There was only one question that I remember. I answered succinctly as my Dad waited outside.

We did not discuss it, any of us.

I’ve always felt protective of her. Even as a little girl. She was vulnerable in a way that didn’t require intellectual understanding. I would wait up for her when she was away, lying awake with wide eyes in my bed. Waiting, worrying.

She was much less resilient than he. That I could feel. She would not have the strength to forgive me. She could not understand that what justified her leaving did not justify mine.  She needed reasons to keep going, living, breathing reasons. 

She wanted to beat him getting to me that day. The visit to the school was, for her, an emergency. She fought for me that day. A girl needs her mother, they say. And it’s true. I needed her to want me.

 And when she did, the choice was easy.   


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