Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Breaking Point

She was a completely broken woman at 35 years old.
She sat curled up on the sofa in the trailer with a blanket around her, vacillating between sniffles and sobs.
She was the girlfriend of the man I was coming to see.

The quarters were way too close for me.
It felt like the room was filled with people when in fact, there was just me and three others in the living room. The rain was pounding against the metal roof of the trailer. I noticed a trail of black mold climbing up the wall to the ceiling.  I could also hear muffled sounds behind closed doors in the back of the trailer.

She was nothing new.
She was the inevitable, anonymous audience in the living room when the Privater Investigator stops by a small community to meet or interview someone.
She was one of the multiple sets of ears who listen in.
They say they are looking out for their injured friend's best interests
I often think they are also looking for a diversion from their daily lives.

I have no problem with family and close friends as observers. I am not the police and when I investigate accidents... which are considered unintentional and not criminal acts... I have no agenda except to separate fact from fiction, to gather and uncover the truth... and what are often multiple versions of it.
So I usually don't need to separate people unless they are witnesses to the same event. 

Many of my clients are victims. Some can't speak, write or walk by themselves. Some have taken hits to the head and  have had brain injuries. For sure, someone with a brain injury may not fully understand the process of a legal action.

That's why I have always felt injured people are best served by an advocate in the room when an investigator is gathering info about their case. Little details buried deep in the brain resurface with reminders from loved ones.

But in this one case I write of now, I found myself irked and that's unusual.
I wasn't irked at the drunk Defendant  that crushed the bones in my client's body.
I was irked by the victim's girlfriend who wasn't with him at the time of the accident, but wouldn't let the victim tell his story.
She wanted me to know how much the accident affected her because she sobbed over and over, "he is my everything". As she interrupted him, he yelled at her. The volume of their fighting escalated.

Thankfully, there was a third party in the room. A man who was a deeply religious, intelligent and humanitarian type, who  appeared fully stable and calm. He and his wife befriended the couple. They knew both were on disability for physical and emotional issues. This third party had some legal experience so he told his friends he would sit in on our meeting.

So there we were.
The victim, broken bones here and there...
his whiny, weepy girlfriend...
and the friend to  help the two sort out what happened to the victim and what to do next with the unknown -- the legal process.

I asked my questions.
Sometimes, I got straight answers from the victim..
Other times I got her...  her tears, her anger, her wails, her dismay at how he can't work now and what is she going to do.... and this.... and that.
What might normally take me about an hour to an hour and half, took three because of her interruptions and their fights.

It became apparent to me unless this woman, the victim's girlfriend, chilled, she would give her boyfriend, the victim, more stress than he could handle.
So I had a talk with her.
Direct, succinct, to the point.
I think she absorbed just about as much as any narcissist could.
Which was nothing.

Regardless, I told her how sorry I was her life is so bad, yet her boyfriend's is now worse and it is time for strength.

Eventually she sucked it up enough to let me finish my job and exit their cramped trailer.I got in my vehicle thinking how lucky I am, how lucky most of us are that our lives have not come to this.
Then, just as I thought I'd made a safe getaway,  there was a knock at my car window.

It was her, the girlfriend.
She said she wanted to apologize for talking so much time, crying so much.
I tried the" forget-about-it" approach.
It didn't work.
She said she couldn't help herself.
She said her behavior was the result of being beaten by an alcoholic single mother as child, forced into prostitution and pimped out by her mother's boyfriend when she was 14.
She dropped out of high school, said she'd been married twice.
The first husband broke her nose and was later murdered during a drug deal.
Her second husband shot himself after he split her skill and she pretended she was dead.
She said she's never been the same since.

I wasn't sure how to respond to that. I again told her how sorry I was for all she had to go through growing up. I said evidently she is strong, she is a survivor and somehow she made it through. I said the past is history and  suggested she turn the negative around...  maybe help other battered or abused women or children.

She didn't hear a word I said.
It was all wasted breath on my part. Some people are impenetrable. She was one of them.
Instead of considering the positive, she chose the negative.
She started to cry again and moan about her lot in life.
I turned the engine on, closed my window, backed out of their dirt driveway and looked at her through the rear view mirror as she wept and grew tinier with the distance between us.

There are way too many broken spirits inside the living these days.
Just last week, a local police deputy I met in the course of my work shot his mother in law and father in law, then himself.
Go here: Local  Deputy Shoots In-Laws and Self

You never now, ever, who will be the next to snap.
The lady in trailer....
or the local deputy on the police force.
Will it be the soldier who returned from Iraq....
or the middle aged man laid off from his job.

Know that you never know which human is going to blow,
I think the best approach to hostility, or insanity.... is calm, reason and respect.
The minute anger enters the equation, there is no resolution until the anger dissipates.

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