by Anna Saini
First participate in her incarceration. Provide poorly timed help. Give advice before she is ready to hear it, give support that always comes too late. Experience relief when she reaches out to others, even if you know they are all the wrong people, at least it means you are temporarily unburdened. Overwhelm her with your problems and magnify her feelings of inadequacy by reporting to her your successes. Act like nothing is wrong. Even when she tells you she is chronically shoplifting and keying cars remain stubborn in your belief there is nothing wrong. Become frustrated with her state of crisis and take it out on her. Scream and humiliate as if you have no other options. Now, when she is ripe with mental anguish, miss her incoming phone call on purpose.
Think of her, isolated and mired in emotional discord, and find yourself incapacitated with grief. Flee to her without any discernible plan, out of lust to see her again and know she is alive. Trust lawyers. Sacrifice assertiveness to self-doubt. Fail to realize you are required to appear in court on her behalf. Fail to prepare or pack appropriate clothing for such an occasion. Use the witness stand at her bail hearing as you would a psychoanalyst couch. Tell the truth and tell lies when you should be telling lies of omission. Misappropriate your evasive nature. By the time the “justice of the peace” delivers his unfavorable ruling, succumb to exhaustion and a wrongheaded belief that finally the end has come. For her, for us.
Rest. Watch television dumbfounded. Kanye West toasting douchebags on the VH1 Music Awards will prove especially useful. Blame yourself unabashedly. Wallow in your hubris. Sort, file and itemize all the wrongs you have done her. Once that task is complete check it off your list and move on.
Fight. If people will call you a bitch you might as well adopt the breeding of a pitbull. Fight fate as a full-time occupation. Overstate your importance and agency in the situation. Transform the most dire circumstances into hope. Take note that the seriousness of her charges make the case attractive to some of the best attorneys in the country to take on legal aid. Call every single one of these attorneys. Call every community agency, case worker and discharge facilitator that could possibly help. Commit every piece of advice, offer of support and referral to resources to memory. Carry them with you and weigh their competing solvency while waiting in line at the grocery store or enduring awkward pauses in conversation. Spend a minimum of your time attempting to address your awkwardness in social situations. Trust your lawyers.
Restrain yourself. Stop verbally abusing the guards when you visit. They will use this as an excuse to limit your access to her and they may fuck around with her on the inside. Recognize dynamics of power are as materially relevant as they are gravely unjust. Temper your impulses. Break eggs against walls and friends who will let you, like she taught you. It’s fun, cathartic, harmless and it’s easy to clean up. When the phone cuts out prematurely during your visit yell loud enough to sustain the conversation through the filthy plexi-glass divider. Make a game of it. Laugh. Lament the absence of physical contact in private.
Listen, goddammit. As her wounds heal she will improve in communicating what she needs as long as you nurture much needed quiet. Scour for quotes, poems, song lyrics and readings. Make it a point to write her daily. Avoid feelings of guilt when it becomes impossible to keep this up as a daily practice.
Use Facebook for the powers of good, for once. Relay to friends and allies what has happened. Encourage all of them to also send letters, inundate her with best wishes. Organize. View all of your past experiences in community advocacy as preparation. Take advantage of the arbitrary and fickle nature of justice and lay your influence on it by bringing a slew of reputable people to court for her appeal. Mix in the non-reputable to pad your numbers. Remember appearances are paramount. Feign respect for the procedure and authority of the court.
And then, when she gets out, just hug. Hug for Guantanamo, for Attica, for Rikers, for Don Jail, for Vanier, for the Bastille. Hug for Assata, for Mumia, for the Hurricane, for Angela Davis and George Jackson. Feel free in the confines of her arms that are, for the first time in our lives, thinner and more fragile than your own. Hug and cry for the fucking win.