-1- The Verdict
When they read out the verdict, I wasn’t listening. Can you believe it? My entire future hung on one word by that jury and when they uttered it, I simply didn’t hear.
I stood up mechanically at “will the defendant please rise”, like a robot, long unused, creaking to attention. I had been sitting for days and it hurt to stand up. In a starched cotton dress suit and unaccustomed to civilian clothing, I was longing for the familiarity of my uniform. It was that kind of mundane thought that was running through my head at that moment. That and how thin strands of the judge’s grey hair poked out from under his wig, straight out as if electrocuted, making him look vaguely foolish. So preoccupied was I with this caricature before me that when the rest of the courtroom searched by face at the word “guilty”, I only wore a smug smirk.
I only realized what had happened when my lawyer turned to me and held out his hand. I took it reluctantly – a weak, clammy handshake which told me my fate. “I’m sorry” he said stiffly. I could tell he wasn’t very sorry at all. He was nervous of me. Of what this case could do for his reputation had he won it. I suspected this was one instance he would rejoice in losing. He didn’t meet my eyes as our handshake broke and took his leave without further pretence. I think we were both glad to be rid of each other. He was frightened of me – of this strange, silent woman killer – and I was bored by his mindless questioning and utter lack of comprehension.
Still, I cannot say the verdict didn’t affect me. Of course it did. I live for freedom so how can it not upset me when my freedom is ripped away?
That first night in my cell, I didn’t sleep, but listened to what I would later call the nightly prison chorus: the sobs of the newly convicted, the angry raging of the innocents, the snores of the guilty who had accepted their lot and the mad mutterings of those who realized that they would die in a cell. My own silence, and that of a few others – that was the most dangerous accompaniment to this prisoner’s orchestra – all the more deadly because nobody heard it.
For the silent ones are the thinking ones. The ones who are invisible but awake – watching and listening. The ones who are making the plans. The ones who don’t dream of escape but make it happen in their heads, waiting, planning, waiting.
So there I would sit in solitary silence night after night – my angry, restless, scheming thoughts for company. Never asleep. Never alone.