White rooms are for crazy people.
I will forever associate white rooms with trauma. I have seen too many of them lately. But I keep telling myself that I’m not crazy. I’m not sure that I even believe it anymore.
I fold my hands in my lap, my mouth closed. Carrie places a hand over mine, and I fight the urge in my head to snatch my hand away. She is trying to help the best way she knows how, but she can’t. No one can. I am on my own.
He sits across from me with his lawyer. Says hello. I freeze, like a small animal in the crosshairs of a hunting rifle. I feel caught. Touched, even though the distance between us numbers at least ten feet. He says something else, but I can’t make out the words. My brain is white noise. I rock back and forth, and if I could curl into a ball I would. But I can’t give him the satisfaction. I’m aware of that much, at least. Carrie’s hand leaves mine and she is standing in front of him. She’s angry. I can’t watch. I focus on my shoes. Black boots with a tiny silver wrap-around buckle that loops twice and fastens near the top. They are fake metal; they didn’t set off the metal detectors of the court house. They are my favorite boots. I wear them every time I “dress up.” I picked this outfit out days beforehand, held it aside on its very own hanger and refused to touch it before this day. The skirt feels silly now. I wish I had pants; they would be so much more comfortable. And safe.
I hide inside myself, refusing to look up. I remember a song that used to play when I was a kid, a song by Lisa Loeb. I wish for a place where the earth doesn’t shake, and if the earth won’t be still then I will. Where my friends can be my family, and they can be my company, and I’ll take them to a party where we’ll have fun. Can you tell me if I’m near to anywhere but here?” I sing the last line in my head, over and over and over. Carrie’s hand is again draped over mine and I don’t remember when she came back.
“I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that happened,” she tells me quietly. I say nothing in return.
When I look up from my shoes, he and his lawyer are gone and we are alone.
The clock on the wall ticks and my heart beats in my ears and I calculate in my head all the ways in which I can escape should I need to escape. I am scared I will need to use them. I am scared he will come for me. I remind myself to breathe. I tell myself that it will be over soon. I tell myself that it will be okay. I lie.
Carrie is pulling me to my feet and leading me into the courtroom. A white room, dull, lacking in furnishings or artwork. There are rows of pew-like seating surrounded by a large wooden fence of sorts. We go through the gate and are standing behind a podium with two chairs and a microphone. He and his lawyer are seated at a podium just like it on the other side of the room. I can’t look at him. I stare at the chair, but I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to make myself move.
Pulling out the chair, Carrie puts a light pressure on my shoulders to guide me into it. I run through my statement in my head, or at least I try. I have it memorized but I can’t recall the words. I can’t put anything in order. I can’t speak, not with him right there. He feels exceedingly close, even though he sits across the room. I look up; his eyes stare into mine, challenging.
The judge is speaking, but his eyes still bore into me and I am lost inside myself. His lawyer turns him away, whispers something to him. They are too far away for me to hear. The judge reads a list of charges, too many things to count. He asks if I have anything to say. I open my mouth, and I am speaking. I am saying the words that I practiced without even thinking. It’s good that I don’t have to think; my brain is screaming and I just want to crawl under the podium. Or run.
I don’t recall taking a breath the entire time I am speaking. And then I am done. I remind myself that breathing is good for me, that I am good, that I am okay. There is a flurry of activity at the second podium. He is screaming, calling me a liar, calling me a number of things, none of which are true. His lawyer holds him by the arms but he is still half over the table. Pleading. Begging the judge to listen.
I want to scream, but I can’t. The world is white and loud and that’s a running theme for me now. Everything is moving too fast. Everyone is talking—Carrie, the judge, him, his lawyer. Everything, everyone, all at once. Do they believe me? Do they not? He is removed from the room. I have won, for now. But it doesn’t feel that way. It doesn’t feel like winning at all. It feels like disappearing, like I could blink just once and fade into the walls. I want the world to swallow me whole. I have never in my life felt so alone.
I am crying. Not because I’m scared, though I am. Because I’m lost. Because there is him and me and there always will be, and I don’t know what’s happening or how to get away. I am losing my mind, my self.
Focus. I am here. Present. The walls are white. The walls are white. The walls are white.
I can’t get up. I can’t move.
This is why they put people in straightjackets.