It wasn’t that I wasn’t feeling bad about it – I was devastated and helpless and hopeless in my attempts to change the situation – but it wasn’t about me this time. I was slowly starting to realize that it didn’t matter what I thought or how I felt or what I did to make a change because there was nobody there to care or to appreciate it. It was them on one side and me on the other, which meant, naturally, that I was the bad guy, the one who’d screwed up, and I was the one who had to fix things now.
I didn’t know if I wanted to believe what they were saying. And I didn’t know if they were right. I only knew that it didn’t matter. Majority wins: that’s how democracy works. And I hated it.
I couldn’t allow myself to be angry about it because evidently I was the one who was wrong and when you’re on the suspects’ bench, it never matters what you say anyway. It’s what they say that matters – they, the victim and the witness. They were always right. I could come across as angry and swearing and nasty and be sent right to prison for it without a care for the truth, or I could be quiet and careful with my words and hoping that I would look innocent, misunderstood or, at the very least, crazy. You can’t blame a monkey if you give it a gun and it kills somebody with it after all, can you?
I was thinking of myself as monkey. What a fall!
As they told us to stand up to meet the judge, I was thinking if I would have done it if I had known I’d be caught. Or if I had known that so many people would find out about it. What was the more striking of the two? What bothered me most?
I was also wondering if I’d try it again if they let me go. If I’d get a chance.
And at that moment I looked at her face, at her innocent face and without a shade of doubt I knew one thing for sure – I only regretted not succeeding. I could see my life and bright future go down the drain because of her and because of what I’d done to her, but somehow that innocent fear in her eyes made it all worth it. For it they could see what I saw, I wouldn’t be sitting in a court room; they would be my allies. And then she wouldn’t look so sweet and innocent because no one would be able to see how she looks six feet under with only grass above her and nothing else.
I’d try it again, I thought and sat down and waited patiently to be proclaimed temporarily insane and let go. I smiled. Nobody noticed. Nobody would notice.
I rolled my eyes , as she started talking. The poor victim tortured by this monster sitting in front of them. “Don’t believe her,” she told them, “you can rarely see one’s true nature when you listen to what they have to say. Don’t listen to her – it’s not what really happened. She tried to kill me, and she did it with pleasure: that’s the one and only truth. It would be a mistake to let her walk free.”
I smiled. How did she know what really had happened to tell them it wasn’t true. It was true for me! It was true! It was true! It was true! It was her fault although I tried to kill her! But it was her fault!
No smile. Tears pressing from behind my eyes. Calm. No tears.
I didn’t have time to look at the jury, as I was too fixed on her. I treasured every word that came out of her mouth like you would treasure a free weapon at time of war. It was a war. I recorded everything she said on a single cassette and saved it in my head. I was going to use it because she was wrong and I was right and I was determined to prove it even if that meant going straight to jail with a sentence for a lifetime. She was wrong. She wasn’t the victim. She was the villain. I was the victim.
I didn’t like thinking of myself as a victim.
I was strong.
Then the other one came forward. The witness. Her friend. I had no chance to win this battle.
I just sat there and listened. I imagined myself looking dazed. I was only focused.
It was hard to hold myself from laughing. The irony of the world, the irony of life was revealing itself to me in that stuffy courtroom of reality. Six months ago the witness was my friend. She was an ally who understood and supported me. She saw it, she saw her. And now she was taking her side.
I was disappointed.
And it was still funny. How she was using my words, said in the confidentiality of our conversations, against me, and how she was passing her faults as mine, and her words and her thoughts and her deeds. It was all so funny. But nobody would believe me anyway. She was smart, and I admired that. She was smart and she was taking advantage of the situation in the best way I could think of – getting rid of your faults, putting them all out without risking to get under enemy fire. My friend! Fascinating!
You see the irony?
But I just sat and listened with no need to record her words. I’d heard them from her so many times before. Had things gone in just a slightly different direction, she would be sitting in my place instead of or beside me. I just enjoyed the hypocrisy with no bad feelings. I wasn’t going for a revenge against the witness; I rather admired her. Had I played my cards better and kept my temper, I wouldn’t be here.
Then it was my turn to talk, and only now did I start to grasp how screwed I was. Being the last one to go, I was already talking to people with their minds made up about me. They weren’t going to listen. But I had to talk.
It wasn’t so simple, I told them. It never was so simple, as to bring things down to a single cause with a single effect. Things went a long way back. So far back that even our first acquaintance wasn’t the beginning. And ever since that long past beginning we had set off on the wrong foot. I think it was only a matter of time who would burst out first, I told them. It felt like we were both, consciously or unconsciously, torturing each other falling into a vicious circle of hate and anger. And we were bringing each other down, as each was trying to climb back up. And it was awful. We were pinching and punching and kicking and falling and rising. And it was exhausting. We weren’t becoming better people learning from our flaws; we were becoming better fighters learning from that war.
I was falling.
It was a war of characters. And I was losing. I told them how I was going to die if I hadn’t done something about it. Because yes, I had tried to kill her, but she had been killing me ever since we’d met. I tried explaining to them what it was like living with the knowledge that every day of my life from there on was connected to that person, a person whom I hated, and there was no going out of it. I tried to tell them about the depression and the desperation and the tears that would occasionally betray me when I’d had enough and felt I could go on like that no longer. I tried to tell them about her attacks on me with invisible weapons that left no physical trail. I tried to tell them.
But I was falling nevertheless.
My reasons broke, as the tears set themselves free, and I felt stupid and insignificant again. I hated to cry because my brain got blocked and nothing that I said made sense. I started repeating myself, giving the same examples over and over even though I knew what that was doing to my defense. But I couldn’t stop. I had to continue. I had to explain. I had to try to defend myself.
Then I told my theory of what a bad combination we’d been and that we would have been way better off if we hadn’t met even once. I tried to explain to them the psychological realm of the decision of setting us up together. I tried to show them the flaws of the decision without putting the blame on anyone. I was just naming facts, the way I saw them, and I could see that they believed I was wrong.
“But it was a bad decision!” I shouted and I could feel the metal taste of defeat in my mouth. We should have never met.
My hands were shaking, as I started telling them about my past and my perfect future. I told them about my awards and the salaries I was making before I met her. I was telling them about my vision of the perfect world and the perfect society that was achievable and that one day I would have contributed to its creation. I told them about my outlook on life and my theory of happy colors. And I told them about the last string of sanity that I kept in a watermelon box in my upper drawer. I told them all of that, as in no other case could I have explained the conclusion of a murder.
It was the only escape, and they had to see it. Since I’d met her, my life had turned upside down becoming a dead end street and I was the stray dog cornered in its farthest end. There was no light, no hope, no love and no happy colors. I was drowning. She had dug her weed roots inside me and every day she squeezed harder around my heart. I was dying. She was killing me.
And just like you’d decide to get rid of the opossum eating your flower bed, I’d decided to get rid of her.
My hands were moving uncontrollably.
“I knocked her down when she came back to the apartment that night. It was dark so she hadn’t seen me coming. I knocked her out and tied her; I gave myself final few minutes to think that through. To stop myself from doing. To convince myself it wasn’t right.
“But it was. I had to do it. It was the law of the jungle. So I brought the pills forward and stuffed them in her mouth. She thinks I did it with pleasure because I forced them in one by one, but I was actually giving her more time; that was a few more seconds’ time when I could have stopped myself. I couldn’t have known she was expecting guests.
“Then she came in – without knocking, as usual.” I said and looked at the witness. “I didn’t fight her; I knew it was all over. The few extra seconds I’d given her by stuffing the pills in one by one had saved her life. I’d saved her life.
“You know the rest of the story.”
Everyone in the court room was staring at me quietly. Nobody said a thing. Nobody made a sound. It was only me, swaying slowly, and my frantic hands and dropping tears that were moving.
I didn’t care about the sentence anymore. I’d got what I wanted – to be away from her, one way or the other. And for someone to listen to me, to what I had to say, to my side of the story. It was okay now. Everything was okay.