Rhythm of the Night (Court)

Rhythm of the Night (Court)

SCN_0001-page-001In God we trust that this woman has a normal itch, not the one of an addict. She can’t stop rubbing her nose on the court bench. Sitting between two cops with both her hands and feet shackled, she can’t reach her scalp. Oh help her God, if she rubs her head any harder she might start a fire. A red flame to a green mop in serious need of a touch up. (See: her roots).

 

Hear the boots of the court guard pace the room that’s supposed to be silent. It’s the sacred place for city arraignments. No cell phones in the pews. But the court is hardly quiet. A lawyer talks loudly on his iPhone, his back to the stand. He smiles at his colleague. “Shh! No talking,” the lawyer says.

 

It’s hard to laugh when the woman behind you is crying and you don’t know why. She can hardly breathe through her sniffles. You can feel her lingering despair. A cop taps her gently and offers her some air. “Are you alright? Would you like to step outside?” He escorts her out. Her hoodie shrouds her face.

Men file out the jail one by one like it’s a factory. They sit and await the judgement on misdemeanors or repeated felonies. One defendant stands before the judge as if his hands were in cuffs behind his back. The white man wears a beige coat and thick glasses. The assistant district attorney reads his statements like they were matter-of-fact or mundane: “This is bullshit. I can’t believe this. She had to move so I could get on the train.” He had harassed some lady, got arrested and called the police a bunch of “p*****s.” His lawyer pleads. He insists. You Honor, just listen to this: he got a new job at the ripe age of 56.

To no avail. The State posted bail at $2,000. They couldn’t deny a former felony. The man shakes his salt-and-pepper head and looks to the speckled marble floor. One guard grabs his arm and leads him towards the jail door.

Another lawyer sighs and barely tries to hide her frustrations. “I closed this case last week. I just do not want to do this.” Maybe her client was the guy who was caught with fake credit cards in his pockets. He had 12 in his jacket and 4 more in his shoes.

The next defendant stands confident knowing he’ll go home if he just listens. He’s 19 with a top bun and the sides of his head shaved. It sounds like in this case, he violated a restraining order. With his last girl he has a 2-year-old daughter. He threatened to beat the mother through the telephone.

His lawyer pleads release on recognizance. The judge nods but warns he is not free of consequence. He must return to family court and leave his ex alone. “No phone calls, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram. Understand?”

“Yes sir.” He grabs his papers and returns to another girlfriend. He puts his arms around her shoulder. She kisses his forehead.

A little boy, the age of five rubs his eyes of fatigue and boredom. He lays on his mother’s lap waiting for his dad to return to him. A couple walks in quietly. Perhaps they are tourists on a date. The stenographer looks at her watch because it’s getting kind of late.

A black man in an orange leather coat and orange jeans certainly couldn’t mean to be so conspicuous. The State claims he has an alias. The cops caught him selling cocaine near Washington Square Park, but perhaps the prosecution had somehow missed the mark.

“This isn’t cocaine. This is marijuana.” That’s the lawyer’s refrain. His client doesn’t deserve so much jail time. The judge replied, “Alright, I’ll consider 60 days.”  To avoid trial, the man pleads guilty.

Now it’s 9 and court is dismissed for dinner. Everyone disperses in a rumble of whispers. Visitors leave and try to make sense of it all because what they saw wasn’t Law and Order or even Judge Judy. Some leave for a nightcap, to drink a beer or some whiskey. They are glad they didn’t choose to go to law school.

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