catelin: (Default)
( Aug. 9th, 2006 10:44 pm)
My brother is in jail again and very likely going to prison in the next month or so. The details don't matter; suffice it to say that his own appetites and clouded judgment over so many years finally caught up with him. It's true, Mr. Young. Every junkie's like a setting sun. It's been a slow and painful descent to watch, surreal to see this quick-witted golden child become so maimed by his poor choices year after year. I rarely even catch a glimpse of the little brother that I knew and loved when we were kids. I have always readied myself for his death as much as I could, played it out in my head...the phone calls, the autopsy, the reassurances to my parents that they are not to blame. It's sounds horrible, but I'm not so sure I'm as ready for this.
catelin: (glasses)
( Jul. 30th, 2006 08:33 am)
This day is always odd. I never can figure out if it is the beginning or end of my week, as it shifts and shapes itself according to what has come before it and what is on the horizon. The deer have already come and gone this morning, adjusting their routine to the heat, moving into the shadows when they can find them.

She sleeps while I drink my coffee and dabble with another painting. I came home early last night to play with the dogs and have a bit of quiet time. It bothered her that I took my own car, but I hate being at the mercy of a ride and feeling stuck. Small detail, but it says much about the state of our existence. I am not your satellite, I say. Not yours, not anyone's.

It is hot and clear today, without even a single brave cloud. The sky makes me wonder about the inside of a robin's egg, whether it would be this blue from the other side if it were halved across its length and placed over a much smaller me. This silky quiet life of mine is a luxury of summer. Even as I enjoy it for what it is, I look forward to next week when the boys will be home and the house will be full of their movement and chatter.
catelin: (Default)
( Apr. 26th, 2006 05:26 pm)
In a criminal case, the victim has a right to make a statement after the defendant is sentenced. This is called the victim's allocution. It is the single time that the victim is able to address the defendant directly, to speak her mind, to spill out everything that she's been choking down for months and months. I was witness to many of these allocutions when I was a prosecutor. Sometimes they were quiet, almost whispers. Other times, they were raging storms--screaming, crying, shaking of fists, pointing of fingers. There were some who wished the defendants peace; others wished them dead. No matter what, they were always heartbreaking. It was hard to watch and not feel like an intruder. Hard to see a person bearing the unbearable.

Today, I was on the other side of the courtroom for my first victim's allocution as a defense attorney. I'd been dreading it for weeks, knowing that this time I was going to be sitting next to the person toward whom whatever was coming would be addressed. I wouldn't be able to get up, I wouldn't be able to leave if I couldn't bear hearing it. I would have to sit there, on the side of the person who had caused so much pain to others, because that is my job. That is part of what I have to do and I knew that I would simply have to get through it somehow. My greatest fear was that I would not be able to do it. What if they hated me too? What if they thought that I was somehow now a part of what caused them so much grief? How would I face them? I couldn't even think about it without crying.

I prepared my client for what was going to happen the best that I could, explaining the process and letting him know what to expect. I told him that part of making things right was letting the family express their sorrow, their anger, their loss, anything that they needed to say. So I sat there today, next to my client, and listened to a mother tell how the last words from her son were that he had just proposed to his girlfriend--how he was going to spend the rest of his life with her. And he did. Three hours later, they were both dead. I looked at her as she spoke, thinking that it would be wrong of me to look away; that it would be disrespectful not to soak every bit of it in. I could feel tears coming and I knew the harder I tried not to cry the more they would come. So I sat and listened to her story, with tears rolling down my face. I felt ashamed, like I had no right to cry for her son, but I couldn't help it. I thought of my own boys and how no mother should ever have to bury a child.

It was in this moment that life showed how it is full of unexpected grace. She addressed me from the witness stand. For a second I froze. I steadied myself for her anger at my tears, for the presumptuousness I would have to cry for her son when I represented the man who had caused his death. She looked at me and said, "I know this is hard for you. I want you to know I don't blame you. It's okay."

Then she moved from the witness stand and came to my table and put her hand on my arm, nodding to me before she went back to her seat in the audience. It was one of the most heartwrenching experiences I've ever had, but I am glad that I went through it because it left me with the certainty of the good in people. I found out later that she had been told about me before the allocution by some of the people in the courtroom--about my past with other cases, about the sort of person I am. I have always been humbled by the way the people I work with care about me, by the way they consider me family and look out for me; but this was so unexpected and such a kindness to me that I am still a little shaken by it.

So my day in court is done. My client thanked me before he was taken back to the holding cell. The families said their goodbyes to each other and returned to the lives they are trying to piece together. The fact that I managed to get through it pales in comparison with the other people who had to get through it as well. Still, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else today other than where I was.
catelin: (Default)
( Jan. 11th, 2006 10:52 am)
I’ve been making my peace lately with something so profoundly difficult and painful that it’s taken over a year to even be able to talk about it. I finally have had to let go of the idea that I will be going back to my old job. When I left Texas, I left behind a career as a senior felony prosecutor at an office that I loved. One of my best friends took over my position, and I was happy to know that my cases were being looked after by someone I trusted to do a good job. Even after I left, I still had people calling me for advice on cases. I still worked on appeals when they needed me. I still talked to everyone and knew what was going on from day to day. I still was connected, even from over a thousand miles away.

I came back and went into private practice out of necessity. I had a house payment to make, children to provide for, and no other real choice for a way to make a living and still have something that looked like my former life. I have done well enough. Still, I have spent the last year or so with one foot in my old world. I suppose that was to be expected. Most of my best friends still work at the D.A.’s office and my own cases take me there at least a few times a week. I walk by my old office and see my things still there—my old Persian rug, my silly Saturday Night Fever light switch on the wall, all the various odds and ends that I left to mark my place in some way. I still go out to lunch with everyone just like when I worked there, I still banter with my old boss, I go to the conferences with all of my old friends. It’s like I never left. Except I am not there.

So I’ve lived and worked every day with this awful yearning to be part of my past. I’ve watched people move up and around, knowing that if I’d stayed I would have likely been at the top of the small county ladder. I have felt stupid for leaving and too proud to ever admit to anyone how much I missed it, how much I missed the work and the rhythm of it all. There are only a couple of people who know how much I’ve wished things could go back to the way they were. There hasn’t been a day when I didn’t think about it. I really was making myself sick about it—resenting each new hire, trying their cases in my head like a sad little armchair quarterback.

But the truth is, you can’t go back…not to any place that you’ve already been. Even if I got a call tomorrow offering me my old job, it wouldn’t be my old job. It would be something entirely different from what it was, something entirely different from what I remember. The reality of it would probably be a bitter disappointment compared to the version of the job that I’ve held in my head all these months.

I realize now that it’s time to let go of my past and move ahead. What I’ve been doing to myself isn’t healthy or fair…it’s been very much like sleeping with an ex-lover just often enough to keep old wounds from healing. It’s time to put my whole heart into what I’m doing now. It’s hard to let go of something that I loved so much, but it’s time. I’m more than a little disappointed with myself that it’s taken me so long to move on from all this. I have been so blind to the benefits of what I have now that I’m ashamed to have not appreciated it more. I don’t have to stop loving what I did, but I have to put it where it belongs—in the past—so I can get on with the present. I’m lucky to have so many beloved old lives to look back on. I’m blessed to have the opportunity for new lives ahead of me that I can’t even yet imagine. I don't have to let go of the people, but I have to let go of that place in my memory where we were all together in a certain way. I have to let all of us find our new ways to be with one another. Spring will be here soon as a physical reminder that things begin again and again. And so will I, begin again, with who I was in better perspective with who it is I am becoming.
catelin: (glasses)
( Dec. 14th, 2005 05:07 pm)
The worst part was the waiting. Waiting for the night to be over, waiting to get home, waiting for the vet to show up. Watching the clock until the phone rang with the receptionist calling to tell me they were running late. A reprieve of sorts. Another half hour for him to lay across my chest, purring and nuzzling my chin. I didn't know what else to do but lay there with him and be quiet. When I heard the car door outside I wanted to run and tell them I'd changed my mind, but I knew I couldn't. I could, of course; but it would only get worse and he would only get sicker. The end would still come and it would still hurt just as much.

It's an odd thing to know that a life is going to end. I can't get used to it. No matter how much I wrap my head around it, my heart takes so much longer to follow suit. I didn't cry until I told them that I wanted to be where he could see my face. I want my face to be the last thing that he sees. I don't want him to be afraid. And the beautiful thing? The thing that makes me certain that there were angels or whatever you want to call them there with us? He wasn't afraid. He looked at me and purred, he nuzzled the clippers while they shaved his little leg, he didn't make a sound when they put the needle in the vein. Then he was gone. In an instant. It was so fast that it took me a while to realize it and I just kept petting him and talking to him, even though I knew in my head...but it was my heart that still had things to say to him.

I buried him in the back yard next to the apricot tree. I felt relieved that it was all over. It was the right thing to do; but as is often the case, the right thing is sometimes the hardest of all things. Today I just feel the spaces where he used to be, along with all the other spaces of loved ones that I still miss. I get the impression that all the goodbyes over our lifetimes slowly turn us into honeycombs.
catelin: (glorious birds)
( Dec. 12th, 2005 06:03 pm)
I dug my oldest cat's grave this afternoon. The vet's coming over tomorrow afternoon to put him down but I figured that the last thing I would want to do once it's done is dig a hole. I'm paying extra for the house call, but the almost 20 years of companionship is worth the cost. He deserves for the last thing he's knows on this earth to be home and love. I've been sad about it but peaceful. It's time. I can tell he doesn't feel good. He stopped eating a couple of days ago and I knew. I'm not sure if it's that I'm getting older and learning to accept loss and death more gracefully, but the feel of the cool earth in my hands was oddly comforting. Odd indeed when I consider how terrified I used to be of being buried. I still shudder at the thought of being embalmed or any such nonsense, but as the years pass I find the thought of just being placed in a hole in the ground like my cats more reassuring than frightening. Burying him tomorrow will be hard, but we're all part of the earth. I'll take comfort in the thought that he is going to the only home that is more home than the one he shared with me.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who's overcome with this horrible feeling that nothing I write means anything anymore. I catch myself thinking, "Ok, who do I want to propose to today?" and then I think, "Why bother?" Not that I've really been thinking that, but it illustrates my point. My day-to-day life seems so ridiculous now. It seems so completely boring and small compared to the headlined news that I finally shut off but still the traces linger in my head. The goofy anecdotes, the stories, the poetry...I think, does anyone even give a rat's ass anymore? Why is it that I feel that everything I write here should now be something profound? Something so much more full of meaning than anything I wrote before? I suppose it is natural to search for words to fix things. After all, that is my business. People get hurt. I write words that fix things. I speak to jurors and judges and tell them, "This needs fixing." I wait for verdicts with white knuckles, nervous...but still always certain that things will be fixed. I've always been certain of that. Proud that I help people. Proud that I stand up for the weak and voiceless. That I roar with their stories, feeling like Clarence Darrow or Atticus Finch in a pair of heels. Knowing that my friends on other side of the room were just as committed to doing right by the Constitution...even when their clients were despicable, we all had a sense that we were doing just what we should be doing. That we were fighting the good fight...even from different perspectives. All of what's happened has made me maudlin. It's made me feel stupid and small, and worse...trivial. It's made me want to push my breath into the hollow of your neck, to lie down with you and forget anything else but flesh, to look at your eyes and know that there's still someone who really sees that I'm still here. I want to tell you about my day, and laugh about almost being thrown in jail for contempt of court by the crazy judge...you know, the one we always giggle about. To have you brush my hair back from my face and tell me yet again that my Irish temper will be the end of me. I want to tell you about the boys. How they found a clear green marble yesterday in the dirt and told me that they were sure it must be a treasure that someone had buried a long time ago. How Max told me that he was sure the treasure had some sort of magical powers, but he just had to figure out the right words to make it work. I just want to find the right words. But how do you find magical words when you feel that your voice has left you?
catelin: (Default)
( Mar. 18th, 2001 02:35 pm)
I write this for Reive, not because our situations are so much alike, but because I want her to know that there is almost always a reward in moving forward even when you feel the urge to go back for something you left behind.

Walking Backwards In a Snowstorm


Surprisingly, I was the one who left. Fooled around on him even. Just a quick fuck with someone he didn't know--out of anger, out of sorrow, out of wanting to feel like I wasn't invisible. Betrayal was an ugliness in me that I didn't know I was capable of until then. But of course it was more complicated than that--autopsies always are. We'd been together so long that our edges had become blurred. We had become an our. Our house, our friends, our furniture, our life. I wondered for a moment how much of our life would still be mine once I left him.

I came home and changed into a pair of jeans and sneakers, fed the cats, watered the plants. He was there--hair pulled back in a ponytail, sitting in front of the computer, high. He got high a lot more these days. It was the only sign from him of possible unhappiness that I could detect. I told him I was going. He looked at me for a moment and I thought he might say something, anything to keep me from leaving. I probably wouldn't have stayed, but that he didn't even try left an old wound that still bothers me once in a while on rainy days.

We'd tried the conversation on for size about a week before. I told him that I was moving out. He was still so beautiful to look at that I almost forgot what I was trying to say. I had been so in love with him once. That I wasn't now didn't make the memory of how I felt any less acute. We made an odd couple, yet everyone who knew us said we seemed perfect for each other. He had dark hair, as long as mine, and towered more than a foot over me. I was fair and slight, the light to his dark. He was a sturdy person--a very still person. I was constantly in motion and I floated busily about him. A friend of mine jokingly referred to us as the redwood and the nymph. I told her later that I'd picked the wrong tree.

When I told him I was leaving, he had no reaction but to quietly and evenly ask why. I replied that I was surprised he even had to ask. It's just not working. That's what I'd said. I was so angry with him. I'd tried to make my home in him for so long. I'd nested earnestly in his arms, but could never get warm enough. I wanted to tell him everything, every detail of his failure. The way he never saw me, not even a glimpse of me. That he was so goddamn lazy in bed--like his erect prick was prize enough just by its mere existence. I hated that he couldn't change a tire. I hated that he thought he was smarter than me. I hated that he'd left me to cry alone all night when my grandmother died. I hated that I'd spent the last five years of my life with a man who didn't like to dance, who never once told me I was pretty, who couldn't pick his fucking underwear up off the bathroom floor to save his life. I wanted to beat the apathy out of him, to shove his face into the carpet and shriek like a madwoman until his ears began to bleed. I didn't. It's just not working. It was the sort of vague non-emotional answer he could appreciate.

We'd never said a harsh word to one another until a couple of weeks after I'd finally moved out. He called me up and asked how I was doing. It made me hopeful. Maybe things could change. Maybe...then he told me the reason he'd called was to let me know he didn't appreciate the mess I'd left for him to clean up in the apartment. "Now you know how I've felt for the last five fucking years," I told him before I clicked off the receiver. It was the first and last time I'd ever raised my voice to him.

Winter in Los Angeles can be bitter. Perhaps it's the juxtaposition of Christmas lights and palm trees, but the cold of it cuts to the quick. My dark days began with our friends' uncomfortable excuses for not seeing me, with the embarrassed silences when I happened to run into the old crowd. After a while, I gave up trying to hang on to any part of my old existence, apart from a couple of wonderful people who'd decided to cross the lines over into enemy territory. Within three months' time, my life changed so much that it was unrecognizable to me.

The initial bravado of making the decision to leave him behind had quickly dissolved into uncertainty, fear, and aching loneliness. I lived alone up in the hills, near the Hollywood sign. I drove home almost everyday thinking of Peg Entwistle. She'd jumped off that sign in 1932. It was the only time in my life that I'd ever been beaten enough to understand how death could appeal to someone who'd lost her hold on the tether to any meaningful connections with others. It wasn't a contemplation of suicide--I'm a survivor by nature, but it was a feeling of kinship with all of the other desperately lonely people I'd always known lived in this city. I was one of them now and it frightened me. There was a man I'd coupled with during this time. He was one of them too. We groped and clung to each other in his dark apartment. We tried without success to pretend that it meant something. I couldn't even make myself stay with him until the morning. He sat there in bed watching me dress. His eyes were dead. I knew mine were too. We nodded a dismal three a.m. goodbye, promising to call, knowing we never would.

I floated, as I always had before, but now without purpose or direction. There was no comfort in the rhythm of my days. My nights were full of ghosts summoned by regret and despair. So when he called after his return from Montreaux, I told him I wanted to see him. It was horrible. He was smug. I was ashamed. I was drunk by the time he came over…the couple of glasses of wine to steady my nerves had somehow turned into the bottle. I was maudlin. I asked him if he thought we'd made a mistake. I told him that I missed being a part of something. I cried. When I tried to find my place in his arms, he gently pushed me away and told me he'd found someone else. Another woman...in Europe...beautiful...she was beautiful...and she made him feel...so alive...she was unbelievable. I smiled sickly and told him I was happy for him. I was humiliated and angry with myself for letting him see me like this, for allowing him the comfort of my misery. He had to go. I barely managed to close the door behind him before I ran to the bathroom to vomit up the cheap wine along with the last few bits of my self-respect. I slept on the couch that night because my bed, the one we'd slept in together for so long, was too much to bear after seeing him so changed by someone else.

We saw each other a few times after that. He said he'd always remained friends with his ex-girlfriends. I never had done that. To me, over always meant over; but I tried, feeling like perhaps I'd made a mistake in leaving him...not wanting to lose any more of him than I already had. There was too much pain in it for me, though, and I soon realized that his pleasure in seeing me was only derived from letting me know how happy he was without me. The wheel turned slowly and Spring came in spite of all this. The newness of it made me brave again. I let go once more, this time with nothing to lose. This time there was the freedom in my floating that I'd had before I knew him, before I'd let his stolid nature ice my wings. I was reborn. The next time he called to see if I was interested in catching a show, I politely declined. He eventually moved to the East Coast and married the fabulous woman who'd given him so much more than I ever had. I eventually moved to a different set of hills, where oaks grow in place of redwoods, and gave myself so much more than I ever had.
catelin: (Default)
( Mar. 15th, 2001 01:16 pm)


The Street
A long silent street.
I walk in blackness and I stumble and fall
and rise, and I walk blind, my feet
stepping on silent stones and dry leaves.
Someone behind me also stepping on stones, leaves:
if I slow down, he slows;
if I run, he runs. I turn: nobody.
Everything dark and doorless.
Turning and turning these corners
which lead forever to the street
where nobody waits for, nobody follows me,
where I pursue a man who stumbles
and rises and says when he sees me: nobody.
---Octavio Paz
catelin: (Default)
( Jan. 28th, 2001 02:09 pm)
Last night at dinner a man said this about his wife
(who wasn't there) to his friends:

"You know, we've been married over thirty years and sometimes
at night I wake up wanting to turn her over so I can check
for wings, because I think that she must be an angel."

It made me want to cry in my soup.
catelin: (Default)
( Dec. 5th, 2000 10:19 pm)
For RGF.

We got a gig to go to tonight. Be ready at seven. She'd never even heard anyone use the word "gig" to refer to anything other than catching frogs before she met him. It still cracked her up. But tonight it just pissed her off. They went out all the time. He was in "the industry" as they called it. Another word that made her grin. Such an incongruous word to describe the profession of men with smooth hands that reminded her of veal. Most of them didn't even know how to check their own oil. It all made her chuckle. The business, the hangers-on, the need to see and be seen. But tonight she'd just had enough of it. She wanted to stay in, watch a movie, eat ice cream until she felt sick. Anything else. Anything but having to spend another night of forced intimacy with the total strangers he called "friends." He'd grown up in this city, and was masterfully trained in the endless linguistic shadings of the word. A "friend" could be anyone--the lover you wanted to be rid of, the lover who wanted to be rid of you, the pizza guy, your best friend's wife that you fucked on the side, your dealer. It was a complicated secret language she still struggled to decipher.

Everyone thought they were so cool, so fucking hip. A striking couple. He'd told her he liked watching her talk to people. It interested him, he said, to see how others were slowly drawn to her after initially passing her by. How men and women came back to her because she wasn't perfectly beautiful, but imperfectly so. It was the imperfection that demanded a second look, he said. There is graciousness about you that people aren't accustomed to. He said it was that whole southern thing. People don't expect southern women to be smart. It amused him. She was never quite sure how to take that sort of commentary. It made her feel a little like a lab rat.

She didn't tell him she wanted to stay in. She never told him anything, never asked where they were going. It didn't matter. She just went along. Always went along. They had dinner at Dan Tana's and arrived at The Whiskey around midnight. After the usual round of polite chatter with the usual A&R crowd, he led her to a small table up front. They sat down and the lights dimmed. "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome a very special guest." She looked up and saw her. The one she'd told him would make her want to cry if she ever met, whose every lyric she knew by heart. The one who made her feel stupid and sad and ecstatically happy. The idol of her adolescence, the one she'd loved fiercely for as long as she could remember. She wanted to giggle when she looked at him because he knew. She could tell from his eyes that he'd had a plan. And most importantly, she knew that he'd done it for her. Not for business, not to make the scene. He'd done it because he knew that it would mean something, everything, to her.

She wanted to sing along but knew that would be going too far in this crowd. So she sat there holding his hand under the table, looking through the smoke at the stubble of her diva's armpits, thinking how happy she was. Thinking how she loved him, how they would marry and have babies, and how anything else wouldn't matter anymore. They went home late. They laughed and screwed until they fell asleep. She woke up in love with him still. She got up, fed the cat, and started the coffee. He was in the bathroom, rubbing the steam off the mirror with one hand and shaving with the other. He didn't bother to look at her. "I've been thinking," he said. "It might be better if we were just friends."
.

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