His grey eyes darted around the conference room full of representatives as he walked to the table at the head of the room. “I’m glad you’re finally having me,” he muttered to his shoes.
I watched him place his dusty brief case and belongings on the table and fix his strange mustache. It drooped to the base of his mouth in a way that would have been comical had I any reason to believe it was intentional. He was slim and breakable and seemed to be held together by a fine line of glue or maybe a final string that he prayed would never be cut. He introduced himself as Representative Brown* and hurdled into his concerns with the divorce system and the various horrors he had been through, regarding feeling ignored and deprived of information. His story continued for ten minutes before the Chair gently reminded him that he was there to introduce a bill and she didn’t see how his experience connected to its description. He sighed and assured her he just needed to continue a bit and he’d get there. He never did get there.
Thirty minutes after his entrance, several committee members had attempted to channel his focus, only to receive frustrated replies that “no, no, no it’s okay with the system we have” confirming he had no interest in the context of his bill. When he was eventually thanked for his time and asked to allow others to speak, he walked off with dejected murmurs that “I’m sorry I couldn’t say everything I wanted to…thanks for what?”
The encounter was poignant and terrible and oddly sacred in its rawness. The gentleman had an incredible story. I haven’t discovered it all yet (I hope to have more for you eventually), but there is no doubt in my mind that he has had astounding, heart wrenching experiences that deserve and need to be acknowledged. As frustrating as it was, I loved the way he insisted there was a point he had to get to. It was a story that needed to not only be told, but to be truly listened to. Isn’t that the most beautiful idea? I’m obsessed with stories and the feeling that they need to be heard. My fingers itch not only in libraries but on busy streets and outside broken store fronts. On internship days, I soak in the delight of having the sole job of listening and understanding and occasionally discussing what I believe to be true. My representatives allow me to watch in silence and observe from hundreds of perspectives.
The committee was incredible in their attempts to find its relevancy and did their jobs beautifully, but it was their conversations in the hallways and their kindness that impressed me the most. I discovered truly brilliant people never assume to know anything but constantly check their priorities. They gently ask each other if maybe sometimes we need to stop looking at the bigger picture to appreciate the finer details? Maybe there’s some relevancy there. They dedicate their lives to spending more time listening than speaking and to appreciating each individual for the compilation of experiences that make them unique.
I’m still working on grasping some of the cases I’ve heard over the past week – dealing with framings, horrendous accusations and abuse – and I really don’t feel qualified to offer my input on them at this point. The details are fuzzy and painful, but they’ll become sharper and more approachable. There’s so much I’d like to say, but I’m going to do some more research before I make judgments. In the meantime, I’d like to share a quote from a testimony. I can’t confirm the veracity of a lot of what he said, but I think there’s something true and very scary here.
“I walked in thinking if I tell the truth justice goes with that.”
“An attorney said to me, ‘welcome to my world where the best liar wins.'”
*name changed for privacy
(PS This was a classic, unedited quick write. I apologize for any errors.)