May 8: I am in bed. It is 10:30pm, the evening before the preliminary hearing. Tomorrow at 8:30am I have to be at the courthouse. They will put me in a waiting room, until the judge is ready to hear my testimony about the time frame of Steve’s and my last afternoon together. Our last embrace.
One of our regular practices was that we said goodbye to each other properly before one of us left to go anywhere – shopping, or to yoga, or wherever. Before he went to town on that fateful day, to get parts for the lawn irrigation and take the dog for a walk, I took a photo of him and Coco, and then I hugged him goodbye.
Tomorrow I must sit in the witness box and face the suspects. I have to call them “suspects” because they are not guilty as murderers until convicted. I will be able to see them directly. It is my wish that they will look at me, if only once. They will see a woman with a broken heart and a strong spirit. They will see pure pain. They will see Kali in all her glory, eyes blazing like the hottest fire, her voice cutting through the silence as a sharp sword, intensity radiating from her every pore. She, the slayer of demons and the one who triumphs over death. It is my wish that they will never forget the moment our eyes meet, for the rest of their lives.
As I am here in bed with Coco peacefully sleeping beside me, I am still completely bewildered at what my life has become. It is all just too bizarre to actually be true. Let me say it again – tomorrow I have to face those who are accused of killing my husband, of taking him away from me, from his children and brothers, and from our friends. Those who destroyed the peace and safety of the community.
I have to open my mouth and actually answer questions, speak into a microphone to the accused, to a roomful of lawyers, a judge, police officers, friends and family, press, and I am not allowed to lose it.
And I imagine that after my testimony, I will have to walk through a throng of reporters, outside the courtroom. I resolve now not to say anything. What is there to be said?
Right now I feel calm, yet it is the loneliest place to be in. Apart from that moment on Oct 6th, 2015 around 3.30am when the police came to the house to tell me about Steve. Hopefully I can sleep tonight.
May 9, evening: It is the end of the dreaded court day. Took a shower, changed my clothes, and am about to lie down on the sofa to do nothing; exhausted. Thank you to 24 friends and family members who came to court and sat in the audience, holding space for me, and for Steve. They all love him and are deeply connected in their hearts with Steve, and I know it must have been difficult for them, too, to be there. Looking out into the sea of beloved, intense and sad faces gave me the strength to proceed without a massive meltdown.
May 12: Revisiting the court experience from a distance… It was difficult to sit opposite the two suspects. To look at them as I spoke in a loud and clear voice, giving my testimony, describing when I last saw Steve. Watching the 18-year old female suspect cry in – what – regret? Shock? The realization of what she did? That was hard. Really hard.
The news media reported that, “Carter’s widow appeared to be glaring down at the suspects from the witness stand”. Every word I spoke into that microphone was like a swift blow, a vajra-like zen stick. I could see the impact, at least in her tear-stained, emotional face. (The male suspect showed no response whatsoever.)
Afterwards, and as I saw the media photos of her crying, to my surprise I felt deeply sorry for her. She is accused of co-committing two cold-blooded, premeditated murders, among other serious charges, yet I felt sorry for her. Shocking, even – or especially? – for me.
Steve (and Audrey) are gone, all our lives are forever altered. I sat across from the accused. This whole thing is unreal, yet it is real.
Before going to sleep, I meditated, consciously letting go of the emotions of that court session, the angst, intensity, and utter exhaustion. I woke up again (yes, again; one just never knows!) the next morning, glad that that day lies behind me now, behind all of us who love and miss Steve.
There will be more to come, but not now.