Without further ado, I give you "Beautiful Rage: The Break of Dawn"
I remember a saying that I once heard my grandmother say, “time heals all wounds,” and I have to admit that particular sentiment never sat well with me. Ideally, I suppose that it made perfect sense in the grand scheme of things, that time would heal all wounds, but even though the wounds heal the bearer of those wounds never forgets how the wound got there.
After my sister died, correction, after my sister was murdered at the hands of a deranged white man, I kept hearing my grandmother’s voice in my head assuring me that time was going to heal my wounds. I tried to listen to Grandma, but eventually the darkness that was continually growing in my heart drowned her voice out: for good. It was at that point that I decided to do what I needed to do to make my own wounds feel better.
It took me exactly three years, two weeks, and five days to pull it off, but I accomplished what I set out to do…I avenged the death of my sister. I methodically planned and executed the kidnapping, torture, and murder of my sister’s murderer. It was poetic justice to me, but the powers-that-be called it a crime. So, that’s why I’m here in this God forsaken hellhole that many affectionately refer to as prison, waiting for the chance to tell my story to “The Voice”- that’s what we call her in here.
The Voice is the reporter from the Women’s Lib Magazine that told the stories of those other two women and made their voices be heard on the outside where people are so quick to judge. And now it’s my turn to be heard. I killed a man and I have no regrets because he deserved it.
I want to be heard not because I feel the need to expunge my demons or clear my conscience, but because I just want the world to know that sometimes revenge is a sweet, sweet dish and it is always best when it’s served cold.
“You know that you are the one to blame for all of this,” I stated matter-of-factly to the headstone in front of me. It was a cool, balmy day and I wanted to do what I came to do and get out of there before the rain began.
It had been a little over two years since I began my work at the Wayne County Women’s Correctional Facility. My first assignment had been an interview with Marion Hayes, who was sentenced to life in prison for murdering her husband. She was the reason that I was here now. Her story was so compelling and heartbreaking that it moved me to do more to help the stories of incarcerated women be heard. Not that I was trying to justify anything, but after hearing Marion’s story I just felt that people are often too quick to judge the actions of others based what is on the surface.
Once a month, I made it my business to visit her gravesite to clean off the tombstone I had purchased and deliver fresh flowers. For someone that had experienced some much ugliness in her life, it made me feel good to make her resting place look as though somebody cared that she was gone. It wasn’t just for her, it was for me too because meeting her had changed my life. During our interview sessions I grew to respect her tremendously for her strength and resolve, so much so that I ended up considering her a friend.
It is because of her that I continued to push on with this assignment, or whatever you want to call it. My last interview was with a young girl name Timberlynn Crawford, who got herself emotionally involved with a married man and ended up killing his wife. That case on top of Marion’s death was so emotionally draining for me that I actually thought about giving this up and going back to my former humdrum life of writing about politics. But then, I began to receive stacks and stack of letter from inmates begging me to please tell their stories so that their minds could be put to rest, and then came the nickname. “The Voice” which is what they started calling me.
“I just don’t know what to do with all of this,” I admitted to the headstone, “I don’t know how much longer I can listen to all of these people’s stories and not go crazy. It’s like I’m reliving these events each time they’re told and it’s really starting to get to me.” I sat there staring blankly at the slab of stone as if I expected it to respond.
“This new case is a doozy,” I said, “The next woman I’m supposed to go see killed her sister’s accused murderer. If you could have seen the pictures of what she did to that guy… it would literally make you sick! I mean, what am I supposed to do with this? I don’t know if I can keep doing this…” I whispered.
“I just don’t know if I can keep doing this,” I reiterated to Yolanda, the editor and chief at the Women’s Lib Magazine, in my office the next morning. She just sat and stared blankly at me as I continued to go on my tirade as to why I couldn’t continue the Prison Chronicles series.
“This is really starting to take a toll on me emotionally,” I continued pacing back and forth, “Marion Hayes was already a difficult case for me to handle after what happened, Timberlynn Crawford’s case had me dealing with repercussions from the victims family on top of the emotional stress, and now this? Dawn Langston is obviously a nut-case.”
“How do you know that?” Yolanda inquired.
“How do I know? Did you see what she did to that guy?” I asked disbelievingly, “How could someone do that to another human being and have no remorse whatsoever? I watched the court video, that woman showed no emotion over what she did period. How do you expect me to go in there and try to make sense of this? At least with the other two stories, they showed regret and remorse for their crimes. That is how I was able to connect with them and tell their stories on a level where people might be able to identify with them, but this…I don’t know what to do with this.”
Yolanda said nothing as she gazed at me with a smirk on her face. After she was sure that I had finished my tantrum she stood up and handed me the dreaded Langston case file and said, “Look, I know that this is difficult for you, but do you remember why we started this series?”
“Yes, I do but…”
“But nothing, Jackson. We aren’t doing these stories to justify the crimes that these women commit, we are doing these stories to give the public insight as to what drives these women to commit the crimes they commit. That’s it. Do you know why I picked you?” she asked pointedly.
“No, actually, I don’t know why you picked me. Please enlighten me,” I replied sarcastically, as I sat down heavily and began to massage my temples.
“Because you have a heart and you wear it on your sleeve. That’s what makes you such a great writer! It’s your words that have given life to these women’s stories because you were able to identify with them and feel what they felt! You didn’t judge, you just told the stories and that’s the whole point of the project- to just tell the story. Now if you want me to take you off the project, I will. I don’t want to, but I will. Just remember this…you said yourself that ‘you never know what a man’s been through until you walk a mile in his shoes’. Now all I’m asking you to do is give this woman the same chance you gave the other two.
“I know that her case seems pretty extreme to you, but if you judge her before you hear her story, aren’t you doing the same thing that you condemned the public for doing when you started this project?” she asked in a way that clearly said that she really didn’t need a response.
After that I sat for a long while meditating on our conversation and decided that I would be a coward and a hypocrite if I didn’t follow through with what I promised I would do. No matter how disturbing the prospect of this assignment seemed, I had to see it through or I would never forgive myself.