In court, behind the sign that forbade prisoners from speaking to anyone, John Smith tried to convey as much as possible with his eyes. He made eye contact with his grandma, with his sister, with me, and each look seemed slightly different–reassurance, disbelief, worry, mixtures of each, I think. This is not the meeting we’d all been anticipating.
About an hour before, Deirdre learned and conveyed to John that the judge assigned to his case was ill and could not make it to court. At the scheduled court time, a stand-in judge allowed John through the doors to hear that there was nothing to do but wait until Monday.
So John got cold metal around his wrists instead of his grandmother’s warm hands in his. He got a lonely meal for his empty, agitated stomach instead of the boisterous pizza dinner we planned. He got two more days incarcerated for a crime we all acknowledge he did not commit.
John’s family walked out of the courthouse with the clothes and shoes they packed for him and with heavy, downcast heads. We all parted, “Until Monday….”
As a student who worked on this case, as a law graduate about to embark on my legal career, as a human with an upset stomach and tense shoulders, I have competing and complicated feelings today–the day after John was supposed to be freed. I’m devastated that John has to wait even one more second incarcerated, that he has any reason to doubt Monday, and that he’s probably not sleeping well. I’m also shoving my own doubt about Monday going off without a hitch into a small corner of my gut to make way for the bright exhilaration I feel shining out of my middle when I envision John hugging his family, making his statements, and chewing his pizza.
I’ll visit John tomorrow in jail and I’ll be excited, happy, and jokey. But today, I’m mad that I’ll have to fake those emotions. Until Monday….