So Reasonable or The Incredible Shrinking Woman

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As we sit in the freezing courtroom, I whisper to the woman huddled next to me,

“What shall we pray for?”

She sits quietly shredding the balled up tissue clenched in her small hands. She is waiting her turn to stand naked and alone before the judge. She is hoping for a restraining order to keep the devil at bay. There have already been many women ahead of us. Mornings in this court are set aside expressly for these kind of petitions.

….because there are so many.

I can tell the woman who is currently pleading her case is going to lose. Even from where I sit, I can see her shaking with emotion while her battering ex stands to her right, calm and collected. The judge’s body is angled towards the ex, talking mostly with him, the calm reasonable one.

They are almost chummy.

I can tell that this judge is a woman who is accustomed to being a voice of authority. Accustomed to wielding the power represented by the gavel lying before her. Accustomed to being shielded by the robes she wears, sheltered by the huge towering desk, like a fortress, that protects her from all danger.

The judge seems to have no patience for this powerless woman who is clearly mustering up every ounce of strength and courage she has to raise her voice on her own behalf. The voice of authority has no understanding of those who have spent most of their lives without a voice.

“It’s been 10 years,” says the judge, reinforcing the myth that time heals all wounds. “Mr. X, has been skyping with your son at school, which you agreed to in a hearing a year ago. Now that the school will no longer allow this activity, it seems perfectly reasonable that Mr. X be allowed to skype with your son when he is at home.”

“Not in my home.” says the shaking woman. “I won’t allow it. I can’t have it. Not in my home.”

Visibly bristling, the judge says, “I decide what will and what won’t be allowed. It seems perfectly reasonable that Mr. X be allowed to skype with his son when he is at home.”

“Perfectly reasonable?” REALLY??

Maybe if their lives together had been filled with playing catch in the backyard, help with homework, encouraging words, hugs, smiles, and everything we are brought up to believe families should be.

Perfectly reasonable?

To allow Mr. X access? This man who can still make her nauseous with fear and helpless anger, that can still make her tremble so hard we can all hear her teeth chattering when she tries to speak up and explain what cannot be explained?

Perfectly reasonable?

To let him continue to molest and violate her with petty prosecutions and court dates month after month, year after year, just to show her who is still in control of her life?

Perfectly reasonable that she should have to hear his voice once again mumbling in the other room…to know that his eyes are avidly peering over her son’s shoulder into the room she painted with bright colorful murals to help chase the monsters away…

…The room filled with smiling, happy pictures of their precious and so precarious life together…

PERFECTLY REASONABLE?

TO LET HIM INTO HER HOME?

INTO HER SANCTUARY?

THE ONE PLACE LEFT ON EARTH WHERE SHE COULD FEEL SAFE?

Can’t the judge see that she is letting that malignant presence inside…back inside this shattered woman holding herself together with every ounce of strength left in her world weary soul…letting him back inside her head? her home? inside her? and her son??

Dear God, don’t allow him to be present IN HER HOME IN ANY WAY!!!!!

Mr. X clinches the deal.

“Your honor, I am a reasonable man, even just once a week is enough. I just want to stay in touch with my boy.”

Perfectly reasonable.

“I concur.” responds the judge. “Mr. X has permission to skype with his son on a weekly basis when he is at home.” The judge and Mr. X go about setting up a reasonable schedule. The two of them slowly erase the woman shaking with fear and disbelief. She shrinks before my eyes until I almost can’t see her, she has gotten so invisible.

I am startled when they call the name of the woman next to me.

I whisper to her,

“What shall we pray for?”

She stands up.

Straight and tall.

Maybe for the first time in her life.

For the first time in the years I have known her, she looks me straight in the eye…

…and smiles.

A Madonna smile.

Calm.

Somehow,

Holy.

“What shall we pray for?” she replys.

“Freedom.

Let’s pray,

for Freedom.”