The long breaking

When the judge gave his ruling and stood, black robes swishing with his sudden movement, we all shifted, gathered purses and bags and briefcase, stunned and foggy after hours of testimony with no lunch break.

I wasn’t expecting an answer so soon. Best case scenario, I figured he’d call a recess, go through his notes in a back office, reconvene or simply file his decision this afternoon.

But when witnesses had retaken their seats in the hard church pews and attorneys finished wrapping up their arguments, he spoke slowly through his thoughts, leading closer and closer to his answer. I realized I was holding my breath.

And he issued the injunction and people exhaled and she stood, gathered up her purse , and was face to face with her antagonist.

It’s a small courtroom and I wished we had the big one, where they wouldn’t have to sit so very close.

“I hope you’re happy,” she said – or that’s what I think she said. She hissed it, more than speaking it, anger and frustration boiling out with every syllable.

“Karma’s a bitch.”

She took a couple of steps, then turned back.

“You don’t care about kids.”

The other woman was left blinking, trying to find an answer, but she was already gone.

It’s been a long year, an angry year, and this is the fourth time since I started covering them that a lawsuit brought me here, to this courthouse overlooking the river-valley, next to the old stone fort growing out of the hillside.

I’m starting to know my way around it; I know where to park, in that lot half-way up the hill. I know to drop my purse on the conveyor belt, walk through the scanner, but they’re not really paying any attention.

I’m growing used to the long days; Tuesday I spent five-and-a-half hours in that hearing, drove 40 minutes home, took a nap and grabbed a late lunch, then headed south for a council meeting.

By 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night, walking up to my front door, my right arm ached from all the notes I took.

But it’s taken a real toll on those involved, in the communities and friendships and the lives of the students living in the middle of it all.

The one who snapped after the hearing, she’s just one of the many snapping with every new story, every new argument over the same old questions. They insult the other’s intelligence, fault the other’s motives, accuse the other of not backing up opinions with facts.

Monday night, a high school boy in a “save the arts” T-shirt apologized to me, that I’m forced to deal with the craziness of his district.

I smiled but inside I cringed.

The elections were last month, and were resounding. There’s no question who emerged victorious; but there are months still before the general election, a formality at this point, makes it official. And tempers are hotter than ever.

She snapped Tuesday, though it’s been a long breaking. I left it out of the story. It was immature and wrong and I almost put it in because it shows just how bad things are there.

But it was the cry of losing, of rejection, and I let it go. It just wasn’t that important.

The first day of summer slipped away while I struggled to condense hours of testimony into words. I expect the rest of the summer will slip past in much the same way.


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Filed under Notebook sketches, People

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