Who do you trust? Who tells you the truth? You trust your mechanic,
but you keep the receipts. You trust your mother, but you cut the cards.
Maybe you trust your dog: she sometimes annoys but has yet to betray
you. Poe said, “Believe nothing you hear and only one half that which
you see.” He was right. A bit optimistic. Do you even trust yourself? In
A man witnesses a killing he secretly films with his phone. Two days
after showing it to the killers’ superiors, he is arrested. During his trial,
at which he’s represented by a clubfooted, red-faced man in his sixties,
he listens carefully to the accusations against him. Neither the charges
nor the characterization of his motives reflect anything close to what
he understood himself to be doing. He massages his temples with his
thumbs. His eyes run up and down his black slacks, and he brushes off
a few crumbs of toast. He then attends eagerly to the defense offered by
his attorney. There, too, he fails to recognize himself or his actions. It is
as though they were speaking about someone else, someone he has never
met. Neither side appears to have understood what seemed so obvious
to him that it was beyond words, so far beyond words that it would be
useless to try to explain it. Either you got it, or you did not. Instead of
participating in his own defense, he falls silent.
He notices that the judge, a thin, youngish woman with skin tightly
wrapped around her skull, close-cropped hair graying at the edges, and
a forward-thrusting chin, keeps checking her watch and stifling yawns,
His own mind also wanders. He remembers how, on winter Saturdays, his father used to take him sledding down Galloping Hill. He
would plant him at the front, between his huge thighs, and they would
thunder down amid the hordes of other kids, and sometimes they would
spill over to the side. They would laugh, and his father would press his
big cold nose against his ruddy tiny one. It didn’t happen often, which
was what made those rare days so memorable.
He is not surprised when the judge finds him guilty as charged. He
sympathizes with her plight. She can only respond to the fables she has
heard in her courtroom. The extremity of the sentence strikes him as a
kind of revenge for the tedium of the trial.
Shortly after the verdict, he is transferred to a famous prison whose
name he recognizes from newspapers. The Harvard of prisons. He feels
almost proud, like he’s aced a test, racking up perfect SATs.