Barre, VT, Courthouse

A retired Barre police officer sat beside me while I was waiting outside a courtroom in the Washington County Criminal Court, and he mentioned he thought he knew my former husband. He suggested that clearly I didn’t know my former husband all that well, and he told me some wrongdoings he knew my former spouse had committed. I protested that the man he referred to wasn’t my former husband.

The officer persisted. Listening, I began to wonder how much I knew about anyone, really, in the end. In my bag, I had a copy of Janet Malcolm’s biography of Sylvia Path, The Silent Woman, which I had read with enormous interest many years ago, right before I was married. In this book, Ted Hughes is quoted as writing, “I hope each of us owns the facts of her or his own life.”

I knew when I entered that courtroom, again, as I had before, that I would need to relinquish some of the darkest facts of my life. Just the facts, ma’am, and yet the facts seem so much. The reality is, of course, none of us own the facts of our lives. We’re hardly discrete entities, spreading into each others’ lives messily as we do.

Just the facts. Granite photos, the trio of a judicial panel, bailiff, what must be an endless of stream of adults coming and going through the security at the door. Outside, robins sang in the maples behind the courthouse. I’d been there so frequently, I knew the way out of the one-way streets.


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