Thursday, May 8, 2008

Blue Eyes

His face looks slightly more weathered than 46 years would suggest but the pale blue of his eyes glitters and he has an easy way about him. To me he offers only kind words and respectful gratitude. I look him in the eye, I teach him how to use his new hearing aids, I stand 6 inches from him with my fingers on his ear. We joke a little. I like him.

We're not alone in my office. My client's personal escort sits in the corner--an armed guard from the state correctional facility.

The appointment is over and I tell the man I'm leaving and won't see him again. He tells me he got my letter and wanted to ask me about that, why I'm leaving. I share with him that I'm burnt out, that I need a change and he offers me believable empathy. I imagine my letter finding its way into his hands at the prison and wonder what other correspondence he gets, if any. He extends his hand and I meet it in a strong, sincere handshake as he thanks me for my help.

Sharing a sincere handshake and feeling a general affinity for a convicted felon creates a complicated emotional stew. In some people's eyes he must be a monster. I understand that. To me, he was a respectful, kind, quiet man with a hearing loss. No different than thousands of other people I've helped and more pleasant than some, honestly. To me he seemed no less human than anyone else.

I did some research and found an article describing his conviction. Multiple counts of child sexual assault. He lived with the child's mother. He's eligible for parole soon but even if he gets out he'll be under state supervision until he's 86 years old. I wish I had ignored my need to know his crime and just remembered him for those clear blue eyes.

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