Being shackled and paraded through the jail to the van, then to the courtroom has never been a great experience, but what I went through yesterday was one of the hardest instance I've ever been forced to endure. As the ICE agents called my name the feeling of nervousness had long passed. After, maybe two hours of nightmarish sleep, no food, being prodded into a packed van and an even more tightly packed holding cell, I was ready for anything, or so I thought. The agent shackled both hands and led me through the hallways and into the courtroom, two free men were having their cases heard first. I saw no one there for my support and got immediately worried. Had everyone bailed on me? I sat back, trying to relax. I recognized one of the free men as a former dorm neighbor. He was in a suit, his family on the benches with worried faces. Judge Abrams changed his venue to Federal Plaza and have him a court date in April, I could see the grief melting away from his wife's face as he stood from the table. The clerk stood and left the room as they called my case... even a day later, as I write this a lump rises from my chest and my heart sinks to my stomach.
The clerk returns followed by by ten of my closest friends, she told the judge there are at least 30 more people in the waiting area alone. I wanted to smile at them, I wanted to give them a bow, a thumbs up, any of my usual lighthearted gestures to show them that what they are doing to me can never change me, but the truth is, seeing them, seeing the pain in their eyes as I sat before them in jail garb and shackled, shrunk me to the size of a grain of sand. It took every ounce of strength and concentration I had left not to look at them and deal with the task at hand. My memory can barely even recall the conversation I had with the judge, my mind and my heart simply left, my body on autopilot.
Grief had ejected them violently from the room for their own good. It ended as I figured it would, the judge adjourned the date to 5 weeks from now. I arose a dead man as if my execution had just been sentenced, my legs could barely move, my eyes did not want to leave the floor. I owed them at least a valiant effort. My head lifted, our eyes met and I realized just how much pain they all were in as well. This was too much, I had to suck it up. As my eyes travelled the room I forced the ends of my lips to a curl, waved a tiny little shackled goodbye to my family as the guards ushered them out before me. I could feel my heartbeat in my lungs swearing any moment it was going to crack my sternum and spill out onto that courtroom floor. The guard ushered me to the hallway, I caught one last glimpse at my my friends through the door's tiny window and entered the holding area hallway. Breathing went out first, then the eyes, then the knees as the guard tried to hold me up. I felt like curling up right there and sleeping for the next few days. He tried to speak to me but all I heard was the sound of Charlie Brown's teacher made. The muffled trumpet sounds formed into words after a few minutes, reality rushed in again like the summer sun after a midday shower. I wipe my face, got to my feet, collected my thoughts, collected my heart from the floor and got on with what I had to do. Upon my return to the cell, I immediately passed out until our wonderful lunch of bologna on bread, then read for a bit from The Great Gatsby. When it was finally time to go one of the inmates was telling another that he lost it after seeing his mom, then another confessed to crying while holding his one month old for the first time, then I made my confession. One by one we all shared our belittling experience until all had confessed to shedding tears. We all laughed for a minute and then came a contemplative solemn quiet that lasted all the way until the shackles came off and we were back to what felt like home for the first time.