A dastardly business, this is. We are businessmen of the worst kind; our currency is not money, but the lives and freedom of others. And with experience and time comes a certain desensitization. I’ve written about this before: 5 years, 10 years, 20…the numbers roll into one another, without much thought.
People become names and names become faces and faces become stories. Most of the time, I pack up at 5, turn off my computer, say goodbye to those I work with and embark on my journey home. “What will I eat for dinner?” I think to myself, or “I really hope there’s something good on TV tonight”. And soon – within minutes really – the day’s events become another closed chapter in a book that is overflowing with the lives of those we will never live.
And yet, every once in a while, a client takes hold of you like some persistent and nagging tune that refuses to let your brain be. Someone for whom you know you’ve done well – very well, even – and yet not even close to enough.
Someone for whom the impossible would be the only just outcome. Someone who, by all accounts, wasn’t entirely innocent, yet any punishment would cause far more damage than that which he may have caused to another. And as I sat with him the morning of his entry into this foreign, cruel and neglected world, I could not help but feel like I was witnessing the start of something terrible. I was watching – shepherding, really – a meek lamb into the mouths of cruel, vicious lions. I was complicit in the sacrifice of a simple man; a man who may have done wrong not out of any salacious desire or evil bent of mind, but rather because of that simplicity.
And the confused stare that greeted me when I set about discussing the morning’s act only served to deepen the anguish. His sentence is not long, really. 9 months instead of what could have been decades. “Appropriate in light of the circumstances”, we love to say. And appropriate it might well be. Yet it is 9 months too long.
Perhaps it is because I see shades of myself in him. Perhaps because I know the other clients I have that will populate the same jails as he will. Perhaps because I know, on some level, that he will come out a vastly different man. Perhaps it is because he believes I failed him. What is it about this particular client, I can only guess.
What I do know is that it has now been 3 days since this man lost his freedom. For me, these have been three long days. For him, they must have been longer still. I know that before he sees the sunlight as a free man again, the world will have gone through several seasons. Winter will pass, leaves and grass will grow, we will all suffer the rigors of maintaining our lawns and we will watch the start of the fall colors, perhaps even hear the first complaint about the impending cold weather again. Some will remark how quickly the summer has passed us.
And one, in particular, will note each interminable passing day, existing in slow motion, a life having changed forever.
There are 270 days to go and I intend to count each one.
Photo by boo_licious.