The Jury says We find you fatherless. The Jury says We find you fatherless, motherless, without genealogy.
The sun in this room is bleached thin. The wood in this room is blond. The wood in this room gleams. The wood in this room is well cared for.
I ask to call a witness and am granted. I call Sister, who never says anything bad about me. She comes forward and sits in the chair that is indicated and she is a bad witness because she knows nothing about me. When asked to name my errors she has no answer and is derided. There is snorting from the bench. She shows a hot brow and a red face and she asks for my release and is denied on grounds and she is dismissed.
The Jury says We find you as sympathetic as an unweaned kitten in a ditch. They fold their hands, one on top of the other on top of the other. They shift and billow. The Jury says There is no reward for weakness, and we are hungry, too. They ask for the next witness and their eyes gleam. There is nothing worse, they say, than an incurious mind. There is nothing deader than a suicide.
The wood in this room is gently touched. It is rubbed and rubbed. The windows in this room are high and small and they let in the bleached-out light that gleams on the wood, but just barely, and only. The air in this room is tight.
I call Sister’s brother. Everything he knows about me he knows through her. He will be an unreliable witness. He will be a worthless witness entirely. He approaches and is seated and does not meet my eyes. When asked to name my errors he does not mention the worst thing I ever did, because he has no way of knowing it. His complete and total ignorance is met with scorn. But we also envy you, they say. Sometimes a slate is better left blank. When asked to name my errors he doesn’t answer and doesn’t ask for my release and they leer and he is dismissed and the Jury turns to me.
The Jury says We find you desperate. The Jury says In fact we can smell the desire on you. In fact your scent is revolting. The Jury says In fact it turns our stomachs.
The wood in this room is heavy as stone. The sun in this room is wan but it draws out the grain of the wood. My hair is not yet white. The Jury can go on forever.
I don’t ask to be forgiven. I call my former lover, who can give them what they want. When asked to name my errors, my former lover looks up. The air in this room is thick and thin. The light in this room is a glare. My former lover is bound to the truth but he lies for me. He is blameless but he will be punished.
The Jury says Mercy is not a gift when it asks us to be less than we even are. They ask for his hands. He goes quietly. They tell me they will call the next witness.
The Jury calls my future lover. It is not his first trial and anyway he usually knows what to do and anyway he is a tall and capable man with large strong hands. He has been warned and he has accepted. They lean toward him, one leaning over the other leaning over the other, but he doesn’t look at them. He looks at me. Still, the hair in my white hands is brown when I pull it from my head. Still, the nails on my fingers are white when I fold my hands on the wood. Still, the skin on my wrists pulls across the bone. Tell us about the blood, they say. Tell us how you trust a woman who loses even her own blood.
Andi Mudd lives in San Francisco.