Living Out Loud: : Where Our Heart Is

Prisoner of fate

The courthouse in downtown Cincinnati is a beautiful building with large, impressive golden doors and marble floors. There's a mix of old wood doors and mail chutes, with new glass windows and computers.

Employees, lawyers and clerks smile at you as you sit in the hall waiting for the next phase of your life to begin. They talk to you, saying things like, "This has been a long day for you" or "You guys have been here for a long time." If they only knew.

I watched small children travel with their mothers headed to the Clerk of Courts. What was once the love of their lives now refuse to pay child support, beats them, leaves them or, worse yet, won't leave them alone.

And then there's my family.

That day saw tears that would fill oceans. It saw strong women break down and become weak.

Men collapsed in anguish and houses fell to the ground. There are not really many words that could describe what a truly very long day it was, but the lawyers, clerks and sheriff's deputies didn't know and likely didn't care. They've seen it all before; it's where their job is.

"I bet, if these walls could talk, they would have plenty of stories to tell," my mother said as we sat on hard wooden benches along with my father and aunt, awaiting the fate of my brother.

What a shame that a beautiful building holds such ugly stories. Really, what is the point of all the pretty? The walls' marble and ivory look like they could lead to heaven, but they became uglier with each passing hour. Built for torture, those hard wooden benches numb your back as well as your heart, as you wait to hear 12 strangers decide the fate of someone you love.

Lawyers: They object and "sidebar." There's a guy in a big black robe that can overrule, makes all the decisions and can clear the courtroom. The jury stares while those overly animated attorneys retell stories that were retold to them. They listen, paying deep attention to every word with bored looks on their faces, no doubt thinking about the work they are falling behind on, the vacation they might miss or the soap operas they now have to record to watch later. You just know that life as we know it would be over if juror number six didn't find out who Denise's baby's father is on the next episode of "As the Shit Hits the Fan."

Maybe God has a jury that sits in judgments of all of us. At some point in time, your life is weighed and your fate is decided, with no input from you. Maybe we all have advocates in heaven that argue for us and opponents that prosecute us and a jury that decides what road we will travel. And maybe, just maybe, we just have to let life happen. It will, whether we like it or not.

My brother wasn't the only prisoner of fate that I watched travel the hall of the majestic courthouse. He had the same look as all the rest. His face read, "How did I get here, and how do I get out?"

As he walked down the hall, thinner from not eating, his handsome face was held high. Was it rigid with fear? Determination? Anger? He smiled at me. You see, we were all wondering the same thing. How did we get here? The golden doors will not allow an exit for him. Maybe the jury in heaven will decide his fate, too, because, you see, we just don't know where to go from here.

As my family was waiting for the jury's verdict, a round-faced court clerk passed by for the forth time.

"You all still here?" he asked.

Yes, where else would we be? It's where our heart is.

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