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The Towers I’ve Built
“Ciara Robinson is accused of murdering her five year old daughter, Amy McLaughlin, on Halloween night. She abused Amy, slapping and physically abusing her before the incident. After Amy apparently misbehaved several times, Mrs.Robinson shoved her nine feet down a flight of stairs, where she died from a head injury.” The news called out the story, and I looked up from my phone. Halloween had been a week ago, and only now they were displaying the information? Weird.
Mom glanced up from her cup of coffee, letting out a small noise into the mug. “Haven’t had a murder around here for years, at least as I know,” she informed me. She shook her head, sighing as she looked at me from across the living room. “Still can’t believe it. What kind of monster would murder her own child?”
I shook my head as well, thinking. “Mom, why would you call her a monster?” I questioned.
Mom looked up, surprised at my question, as if the answer was obvious. “Haley. She murdered her own kid. A five year old, defenseless, trusting, innocent child.”
“But there’s a human in there Mom,” I retorted.
Mom locked eyes with me, her glare steely. “There is no human in her, in that thing. I know your teachers and friends say that they’re not, but we’re all thinking the same thing: That murderer, and any other killer, are animals. Call them what you wish, but there is nothing in there that is human Haley. You don’t just murder your own kids as punishment.”
I opened my mouth to say something, but quickly closed it as I realized I had nothing to reply. Mom raised her eyebrows in victory, sipping the coffee like nothing happened.
A few days later I walked up to Mom, striding confidently. She was drinking coffee, perched at the dining room table.
“Mom, do you believe that people have a conscience?” I asked.
She raised her eyebrows. “Is this about the murder a couple of days ago?” She defensively replied, placing her mug down harshly.
“Just answer the question,” I said, dismissing her previous comment with the wave of my hand. Mom sighed for a moment, her shoulders sagging.
“I think everyone has some sort of a conscience Haley. In some of us, it’s just not as loud. It’s like having a speaker in your mind but not being able to turn it up. Some people are able to suppress it I think,replace their conscience with ignorance because they think they’re right,” Mom paused, looking away and out the window. “And some people just ignore it,” she finished quietly.
We were quiet for a time. “Can I go see Mrs.Robinson?” I blurted. Mom looked up in surprise.
“Why would you want to go see her? You don’t even know her.”
“Just, I need to ok. Please,” I pleaded.
“Fine,” was all she replied, and I walked away, towards my bedroom, to think about what Mom had said. I suppose she was right in a sense. Some people, like criminals, choose to ignore their conscience because they continually commit crimes like theft. But those people get into crime because they think it’s the only way they can live and sustain themselves. Even if they know it’s wrong, they have to commit crimes, because in their minds it’s the only that they’ll survive, and they feel like there’s no way out of a life like that. So people keep committing crimes, keep digging the hole deeper and deeper, so that when they’re caught it’s even worse. Getting caught is the only way out to those people.
It’s the same situation for people like serial killers. They kill several people, but almost always have a mental disease or are psychotic, which replaces the conscience in a sense. They feel compelled to kill, like it's the only solution to their problems and urges. When Mrs.Robinson shoved Amy down a flight of stairs, she felt like she was doing the right thing. Her conscience lied to her. It was the thing that had caused her to do it, most likely resulting from a life of trauma and suffering from parents who felt the same things. It’s an endless cycle, that won’t be stopped if everyone keeps being above those people, I realized, laying back on my bed with a sigh.
But that’s because everyone wants to be above someone else, I thought. Even if you’re a beggar or live a life of poverty, at least you don't commit felonies like murder. The people who do commit crimes need the most help, but society looks down on them as animals, uncivilized savages who come from a darker age of humanity. So it ends up being yet another cycle of suffering, because nobody wants to help the worst people in society, since we’re all taught they’re less then human; and if we do help them, then what's to stop them from being equal to us?
About a week later Mom reluctantly took me to the federal prison where Mrs.Robinson was located. As we pulled in and parked, Mom turned to me. “Haley, why do you say this is where Mrs.Ciara is ‘staying’? Why not say, sentenced, or incarcerated even?” She asked curiously.
I averted her gaze and looked out the driver side window. “In a sense she is ‘sentenced’ here. She couldn’t just walk out and be free, right? Because it’s her fault she’s here,” I explained, locking eyes with Mom. She nodded and gestured for me to continue. “But, even if it is her own doing that she’s here, it’s in this place that she has come to be rehabilitated. It’s like a hotel almost, but with different amenities. Instead of a garden or park, there’s a prison yard. Instead of a posh lobby, there’s a recreational room with a tiny TV. But on the same token, Mrs.Robinson can always be kicked out of the hotel. If she gets into fights or has contraband, she can easily be kicked out or have her amenities taken away,” I finished. Mom nodded in understanding.
“I suppose that makes sense,” she relented with a sigh before opening the car door in a gesture of finality. We checked into the prison, and before I left to go inside the visiting room Mom hugged me tightly. “I’ll see you in a few hours. Stay safe, ok?” She concerenly stated. I nodded in response.
I walked through the metal detector and sat at one of the classic phone booths with glass between it. After a few minutes Mrs.Robinson appeared and sat down across from me. I picked up the phone and placed it to my left ear.
“How are you today ma’am?” I asked genuinely.
She looked surprised, and hurriedly answered. “I’m doin’ great honey. Now why are you visiting me? Ain’t like I got much to offer.”
“Well, I wanted to talk with you. Would that be alright?”
“Sure thing. Thanks for askin by the way. It’s been a long time since people have asked me that, or even how I am, and genuinely cared,” she stated. “It’s nice,” Mrs.Robinson finished quietly, a tinge of sadness in her voice.
“Ma’am,” I sternly replied, and looked into her deep blue eyes. They were full of sorrow and sadness, the look of someone who had seen the bloodshed and tears of a thousand wars in their lifetime. Those irises, they carried the weight of the world. “You deserve as much as anyone else to be cared about, and be loved.”
“Ain’t no reason for me to be loved darling,” Mrs.Robinson sighed. “I murdered my own kid. I don't think that really means that I should be cared about.”
“That doesn’t matter. You made a mistake ma’am, and that's just being human. But we should all be loved, whether or not we did something wrong. You could kill a thousand people, and you would still deserve to have someone to care about you. Even if the rest of the world says you’re a savage or an animal, I know that you’re not,” I finished confidently.
Mrs.Robinson blinked, and wiped at her eyes. “Kid, what about me makes you think I’m even remotely human?” She asked quietly.
I let out a deep breath then. “There’s a person behind every face Mrs.Robinson. Someone who makes us human. Your person is just scared, abused and battered,” I said, pausing for a moment. “Being human is like being a tower in a field. You have to take care of it; add bricks and mortar to it to make it have a sturdy foundation; repair the walls when they’ve been damaged; and other stuff or else it starts to fall apart.” I sighed and looked away. “The problem is, when people don’t know how to repair their towers, they hold it in and try to keep themselves together. The reason being is not because of pride, or arrogance, but because of society. Society tells everyone that if their tower falls into disrepair, it’s their fault, and nobody else’s. Then eventually, your tower just comes down in a pile of rubble,” I finished.
“So my tower just collapsed at the wrong time?” Mrs.Robinson echoed with a hushed whisper.
“Yes. And even though it did, that doesn’t make you any less human than anyone else,” I replied. “You only become an animal when you decide you don’t want to rebuild it,” I concluded quietly.
We didn’t talk for a few minutes. “Do you think I would be able to rebuild my tower?” Mrs.Robinson innocently asked, avoiding eye contact. “With all the stuff I’ve done, all the mistakes I’ve made, everything?”
“There is always a chance to rebuild it. You just have to take it. It won’t immediately repair itself, you have to work at it, little by little. But you also won’t build it all without something going wrong. People are going to throw stones at your tower, and you just have to keep on building up the walls,” I consoled, placing a hand on the glass between us. Mrs.Robinson placed hers where mine was, and even though we were worlds apart, I could feel a connection between us.
“Thank you,” she whispered, barely audible. I looked up in confusion. “Thank you,” she repeated again, slightly louder.
“For what?” I asked, confused.
“Listening, and helping me,” she replied simply. “I can’t remember the last time someone just sat beside me and talked, or even just listened. I guess it’s nice,” she finished, quiet again.
We were silent for about five minutes. “If you could change anything in the past, what would you change?” I questioned.
Mrs.Robinson sighed. “I would want to not murder my daughter, and let her know how much I loved her. What would you do?”
Without a moment's hesitation I replied. “I would want you to know how much you’re loved when you were younger. How no matter how many mistakes you made I would still be here.”
“I guess that’s a nice thought,” she responded. And with that, our talk was over.
I visited Mrs.Robinson several times after that. Mom finally relented and visited her once, which was nice. She still said that she didn’t trust her, which I understand. It’s the thought that counts I suppose, and at least she did talk to her.
Mrs.Robinson ended up going to a mental rehabilitation class, and is slowly rebuilding her tower. She’s going to get out in thirty years if she has good behavior, which should be plenty of time to rebuild and widen the foundation.