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Outside the linen closet, high up on the wall, was a plaque. It read:
“Hear one side and you’ll be in the dark; hear both sides and all will be clear.”
This had been a guiding principle for my life up until a certain point. The “breaking point”, or the straw that broke the camel’s back I suppose. When a friend would confront me with a situation in their life, and ask for advice I would give it straight up. For example, a friend came to me for advice with his wife. Now, I’d already known he was a complete asshole to her every chance he got. Putting her down, not wanting her to advance her life, not let her work even though they lived in abject poverty. He drank a lot, smoked a lot, etc etc. She was considering leaving him, and he’d found out via snooping around in her email account. He was pissed about it, and had hit her. She called the cops, and according to the laws, they both went to jail! She got out immediately as she was the one with the bruises. I had actually intended on visiting them both, as they were both friends, but he was more so. Where she was I don’t know, but he was languishing in his cell when I arrived at the brightly lit County jailhouse.
The lights were about the only thing that was up to date in the entire place. It was built in the late 1800’s in rural Alabama. Escapes were a regular occurrence, and the guards didn’t seem to mind. They were especially unwatchful during football season. Though it didn’t matter all that much, as the TV was in the main hallway so everyone, even those in the hole, could watch either Auburn or Alabama play. No one would move during the games, so escape wasn’t a problem during those times. There was no ac during the summers, and no heat during the winters. The Deputies allowed the prisoners to wash their cars if they were good, or were allowed to clean up the yard. This meant that they’d have first dibs on the packs of cigarettes that would be thrown over the fence overnight. A treat indeed!
I entered the main hall, and walked the length to the end where the meeting room was. I’d told them I was his pastor, which wasn’t all that big of a lie as I did often give him spiritual advice.
“Down the eend take a raht” The deputy spoke with a thick Southern accent. He gestured lazily, and made his way to the office where there was a window ac.
As I strode down the hall in my button up shirt, neatly pressed of course, and sharp creases on the pants, the prisoners looked at me through the bars. Some with sad eyes. The look of death, as though they were simply awaiting the inevitable. Others with a fire of hatred, as though I were the one that had caused their lives so much suffering. Perhaps I had…
I took a raht at the end, and took in the room before I moved to it. At the center was a large round table with chairs attached to the frame of the table. On each side were two smaller square tables of the same make. Jarid sat at the center table with his back to me. A guard stood to his left, hands crossed in front, and waiting for him to move so he could jump him. Jarid turned very slowly, perhaps knowing he was going to get his head smashed if he moved too quickly, saw me and smiled.
“well, it’s a hard life ye know?”
“Yes it is brother.”
The deputy looked me up and down,
“Yessir?” I held my hand out to shake it, and dropped the most charming smile I could muster, and he promptly declined by turning away.
“You got fahv minutes…”
“Fucking hate these cops here man, they always fuckin with me!”
I laughed softly,
“Jarid, you bring a lot of this shit on yourself man.”
His face contorted and betrayed the instant anger that had really been the reason he’d always gotten into trouble.
“The fuck you mean?”
Now, I understand the effect inflection and tone of speech has on people. Even if they themselves aren’t aware of it. So in the calmest most bass voice I could muster I said,
“You tend to allow yourself to get overly angry over stupid shit.”
It seemed like this disarmed him somewhat, and so we continued with some small talk, until he made mention of his wife.
‘Fuckin’ worthless bitch thinks she’s hot shit or something’ man. I mean, I work hard, bring home the money, buy her shit she likes, all that shit man! I don’t fuck around on her (even though I myself could recall at least three instances of him “fucking around on her”)… I mean … shit! What the hell more can a do man?”
Now I completely understood both sides of this argument without having to hear her side. I’d seen it with my own eyes. The shit he’d buy her was actually intended for him to use, or was the cheapest stuff at the country store that he bought his beer at. A gas station rose, he didn’t even take the damn price tag off or unwrap it from the cellophane. Just tossed it to her and said “Here baby ah love yew”. Her face took on the overly pleased aspects of bullshit love. He ignored that, and went about trying to figure out how to score a dime sack of grass.
So, yes, I’d gotten firsthand looks into my friend’s life. I didn’t like the way he acted, but couldn’t tell him what to or not do.
“Dude, you got an issue with anger, you know that.” Trying very hard to keep my cool so he could replicate it. And as I spoke he continually nodded which meant to me he just wanted the company of a familiar face that wouldn’t want to stab him… little did he know.
“You get pissed at the drop of the hat, and you take it out on everyone around you man. That’s shit you just can’t do! And you can Ya me to death, but it won’t help fix the fucking shit you’d gotten yourself into man.”
“You’re right man you’re right…” Was his response, no discovery of unknown facts, no… progress of the soul. So, I left him with words of comfort and compassion. I told him that if he needed me I’d be there as I’ve always been. In the back of my mind I knew damn full well his fate would be disastrous, but completely of his own doing.
So whenever I’d hear stories of foreign revolutionary leaders, some would call them hero others call them murderers; I’d always want to ask the latter:
“George Washington was a murderer too, so what’s the difference?”
Of course, depending on the present company, they’d either think about it, or want to fight you for daring to speak of Che Guevera and George Washington in the same breath. I suppose the sense of justice was well formed by the time my balls dropped and I stopped wanting to be a priest. Well, a Roman Catholic priest anyway. I always felt there was something here. Something we couldn’t understand quite yet. Yet being the operative word in the theory. But someday… maybe when the Age of Aquarius rolls around we will have a great awakening.
Even later on in life when it’d been presented to me that I was allowed to be judge, jury, and executioner, the same sense of justice always prevailed. I suppose some of it had to do with Solomon and the two “mothers”. That lesson really did make a lasting impression on me. At the same time so did Plato and his recording of the trial of Socrates. I learned how to argue my points from reading that, and since the first time I’d read it, I kept reading it over and over. Hoping, maybe, that some of that modesty he showed under such pressure would rub off. It did.
Many other lessons made me much more harder of heart and body than had the trial of Socrates. Actions of my own volition that didn’t seem like it was much ado at the time, in retrospect was brutal and heartless. Stomping a man’s nose until it exploded for example because he’d dared to whistle at my wife. It freaked her out something fierce, yet I saw the carnal love in her eyes afterwards. She’d wanted me to whip his ass, to show him she deserved respect. She did not, however, fully anticipate how I’d go about it. He learned quickly, then went to sleep. For how long, I don’t know. We had to go rather quickly afterwards. The pigs were en route and she was pregnant.
Sticking a .44 magnum up her ex boyfriends’ nose in front of his parents was a favorite episode of mine. She was again pregnant at the time, and he’d put metal shavings into her gas tank. I was protecting not only the woman I was madly in love with, but my son. My firstborn son at that!
It’d occurred to me that everywhere I went the biblical lessons of my youth fostered my soul, and fed my actions. Forgiveness has its’ place, no doubt, but when the wrath of Elohim is called for… I never hesitated to become the Hammer of Divine Justice.