Five Minutes

January 16th, 2018

It only took five minutes. Our loved one had been nervously awaiting this arraignment hearing for months, and the whole process was absurdly brief. The whole point of it was for the public defender to enter the young woman’s “not guilty” plea, and then set up the date for the next hearing. Beyond that, nothing was decided. The girl goes back to jail for two more months with her future still undetermined.

Our loved one wanted Karin and I to be there with her for the arraignment. I am not entirely sure why she needed us, unless it was to have us physically there with her. Karin and I were not involved at all in the hearing. We just sat on a wooden bench across the room from the girl. We weren’t allowed to communicate with the woman, although we did that anyway in subtle ways. Karin smiled at the girl and made movements as if she were hugging her. I nodded at the young woman. In return, our loved one gave us a quick finger wave. She didn’t smile back. She was completely silent and stone-faced.

The young woman sat stiffly in a chair, wearing her dark blue jail uniform with bright orange slippers on her feet. I remember that the jail in Las Vegas had those slippers too. They must be standard issue for most jails. The girl was handcuffed, and she wore leg shackles.

I cannot get rid of the image of this young woman in chains. If I close my eyes right now, I see her as clearly as I did a few hours ago in that courtroom. That picture is seared into my memory. I can’t forget it because it felt (and still feels) so wrong. I know that I was there and I know that I saw her like that, but my mind rebels at this memory. Part of me screams, “No, it wasn’t like that. It couldn’t be like that!”

A while ago, I had a good friend ask me, in all seriousness, if this troubled young woman was just using me. That question puzzled and angered me. If she is playing me, she is doing a terrible job of it. I suspect that she is not trying to take advantage of me. But, even if she is, who cares? If it eases her suffering to have me help her, even if she doesn’t deserve that help, then it’s okay by me. Karin and I drove for hour through a snowstorm this morning to spend a whole five minutes in the same room as this girl, and we would gladly do it again.

Sometimes we do a thing without considering the results or the costs. Sometimes we do something simply because it the right thing to do and it needs to be done. Sometimes we do a thing out of love.



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