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Things I Learned Today . . .

Sheree Burlington6 Comments

1. People are idiots.

2. I'm a snob.

3. Our juvenile system is screwed.

This morning, he tucked in his shirt without my having to ask. Combed his hair to the side. Took out the trash without rolling his eyes.

We are the second to arrive. The first is a mom and her twin sons. I take a seat as far away as them as I can get. I can't stop staring at them, which horrifies my son. The boys are dressed in torn jeans, sweats and t-shirts. One has a green stud in his tongue and keeps rolling it in and out of his mouth. Mom is huge and in back leather. She has drawn dark black circles around her eyes.

I cross my legs and wipe dust off of my suede heels. I stare at her knee heigh boots, wrapped with straps and buckles. My son elbows me and mouths "stop staring." I can't help it. I'm wondering if she looked in the mirror before walking out the door and said "This will look good in court ." And before coming to that conclusion, did she stop one of her boys and say "Sure, wear the ones with the big hole in the crotch. They'll make a good impression."

1. People are idiots.

A half an hour passes. They're arriving in droves. Moms and their punk, gangster looking kids - kids in backward hats, ass dragging jeans, hooded sweat shirts, with the fricken hoods up. A dad with a daughter showing six inches of cleavage. I want to smack the shit out of all of them. My son surveys the room. Leans in and starts telling me their names. That one can't read or tell time. This one calls his mother a slut. The big one beat up Wilfredo. Just wonderful. I'm in a room full of losers and my son knows them by name. 2. I'm a snob. 

A probation officer comes by. Hands me forms to fill out. Explains how it goes. This is the arraignment, she says. The judge will read the charges. When he is finished, he will ask if they are true or false. Just say "not true." I cast her a skeptical look. "But, they are true," I say. "He did what they're accusing him of." My son nods his head and looks solemn. I did, he says. The rest is blah blah. A formality, due process, blah blah. Just say not true. We will appoint a lawyer to represent him. She takes the clip board and walks away. 3. Our juvenile legal system is screwed.

The judge is in black. The prosecutor has a shiny silver badge hanging from a chain around his neck. We stand together, mother and son, on one side of the room. Them on the other. He reads the charges. When prompted & as instructed, my son says "not true." I'm handed a piece of paper with our court date and told our court-appointed lawyer will contact us. We exit the room & down the stairs.

I start the car then turn to look at him. His eyes are still round. "That was stupid," he says. "I should have just said 'true,' taken my consequences and gotten this over with. " We talk about what is wrong with a system that counsels the guilty to deny it. The lesson that kids learn - argue your lie well enough and you won't have to be held accountable for your actions. He turns and asks me if I'll call someone and tell them he wants to change his answer to "true." I squeeze his arm. He settles back in his seat and looks out of the window. "I'm not gonna be a punk," he says.

I let out a deep breath. I know.