My heart is heavy with the events of the day and the trauma of the people with whom I work. Like a gutter clogged with leaves, the sadness has no place to run off. The weight threatens to break me in half. It’s a bit much for a Friday.
A woman came into the office wearing knee-high pleather boots with heels that clacked as she walked across the wooden floor. She plunked herself down into a chair, her body exhausted from the ugly side of life. She had just spent the last forty days and nights in jail.
“When you cage people, they become animals.”
She witnessed her bunkmates leap from their beds onto a woman for allegedly taking a pack of unattended donuts, “Nobody hits the panic button or they get it,” the leader declared.
As she sobbed from her bed, another bunkie glared up as her and threatened to wrap her head in a towel later that night to give her something to really cry about.
Her toilet paper, toothbrush, and backup pair of underwear were stolen on the first night. Only the toilet paper was restored to her by a guard.
She got tired of saying, “I didn’t do anything,” when the other inmates asked, “What’d you do?”
“Sure,” they laughed. “Me neither, but really, what did you do?”
Insisting on her innocence did not help her to win any friends, so she started saying, “Murder, I killed a guy,” which turned out to be a much more effective strategy in the jailhouse relationship department.
After she got to know her neighbors, she learned their stories, their pain and regrets.
“They’re just left alone with their rage and frustration and half of them are still coming down from drugs. One woman was shooting up heroin and left her kids in the car. They died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Can you imagine how she’ll feel when she sobers up and realizes what she did? Her kids are dead because of her and she has to spend the rest of her live knowing it in jail with nothing to do.”
This is real life and now we have a leader who may or may not make things worse for these people without voices, forgotten and locked away. Truly, it’s a bit much for more than just a Friday.
At a time of feeling lost, I take comfort from books and reflect on the words of Kurt Vonnegut. I offer it as my consolation for readers who may be equally as emotional and unsettled, angry and sad. Its my one guiding principle that continues to make sense in a world that seems otherwise made.
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”