You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!
-- A Song of Despair, Pablo Neruda
From the Memoir of Alaina Jane Treyhold
I grew up in a small town, suffocating. My parents put me in every activity imaginable. To say Greg and Julie (or Jules as she liked to be called), were involved would be to diminish their role as parents. I was an only child born ten years too late, the little egg mixed with a bit of sperm that could. I imagine myself in those first moments of life crawling up my mother's dark hole – I think I can I think I can I think I can – and, of course, I did. Once there I made myself at home for nine long months, kicking her every chance I got. I made her life miserable, as she loved to say, smiling that oh-so-pleasant smile that only people named Jules can pull off.
I had a rather extraordinary childhood, although this might surprise people. It would probably be easier if I told them I was born of the devil himself, as some would later say, my mother crying as they did. But to their eternal disappointment (and probable terror), I was not. I was born of Jules and Greg, but I called him Gregory; not father, not papa, not dad, nor daddy, just Gregory (give the man the respect he deserves, I say). But I digress. I'm not here to tell about him; I'm here to tell the why of me. What created me? What makes me tick?
“You understand the sentencing?” Gayle, my attorney, asked. We’d just, returned from the courthouse. My feet were shackled to the floor and my hands to the metal table. She sat across from me straight backed with her briefcase at her feet and her hands set firmly in front of her. She could have slouched a little, acted remorseful that she’d failed to do her job. Instead, she looked like a caged animal readying to run. “You know the process from here?” she continued. But the question came out more like a statement.
Of course I understood, I was going to die, a needle in my arm like some pimped out junkie. The process was quite easy. I’d go back to the jail. I’d wait until I was moved to a maximum facility location where I would sit on death row until my appeals ran out and I’d be back here again with a different attorney asking me the same question. Do you understand what’s going to happen?
“They’re offering a deal.”
A deal? My head pivoted.
“They want to understand you?” She’d said it like a question and shrugged one shoulder.
“They want you to write a memoir.”
“A personal accounting of your life.”
“I know what a fucking memoir is,” I snapped.
The room went quiet as I contemplated what that meant. A memoir. I squeezed my eyebrows which were already too close together. I was the opposite of one of those fetal alcohol syndrome babies, with their fat noses and eyes that sat on the side of their head like living sloths. My eyes were too close together straddling a skinny nose that broke down the center into a jagged line. I should have been beautiful, like Jules, but instead I was a mismatch of beautiful features that never quite equaled a beautiful girl. Stumped. Slouched. Sour looking (at least that’s what one reporter had said).
“They want me to tell them why I did it?”
“And I get?”
“You get a two year reprieve on your sentence.”
“I get out for two years?” My heart flopped heavy in my chest. I could be with my daughter.
Her head swung back and forth. “No, no, no…you get two years after the memoir is complete before you’ll be…you know…” she flicked her head toward my arm.
“Executed?” I completed for her.
Nodding, she looked around the room at anything but me.
God I hated her. Was it not enough she’d lost the case? I’d lost one case in my entire career as a prosecutor! One! And trust me that job was harder! I felt my jaw tighten and my fists clench together. It was all I could do to keep from wrapping my slender fingers around her third chin…well that and the cuffs that were digging into my wrists.
She sensed my anger and lowered her head, a submissive gesture. I felt my breathing slow.
A carrot was being dangled in front of me. I cupped my hands together on the table—my shackles bouncing into one another as I did—acting as if I were deep in thought, but I knew I’d take a nibble of that carrot long before I agreed.
“I want it published. I’m not doing this for them. Nobody can read it until it’s finished. And fuck their two years. I want five after my appeals run out. I’m a slow writer.” That last part wasn’t necessarily true, but if they wanted me to bite they needed to know I planned to savor each morsel…who knows it might just take more than five years. Who can put a time limit on art?
So to appease masses and prolong my inevitable demise I will write my story; I will pick open my scabs until the rawness bleeds through these pages. And then you will know what makes me tick and you will shake in horror, not because I’m a reflection of your fear, but because I’m the reflection of you.
From the Memoir of Alaina Jane Treyhold
When I was first arrested, I was taken to an interrogation room: four slabs of concrete, the cliché double-sided mirror, and three chairs. I’m not ashamed to admit my fear, it was palpable. There were no power plays in which I one-upped the detectives. They’d pillaged through my life, ripped it open until it was bare before them. I sat helplessly, watching it all unfold — not saying a word. After all, I was an attorney; if there’s one thing I knew it was when to keep my mouth shut. There was no question of my guilt. Kevin had delivered it to them on a silver platter.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been in a room like that; I’d been in one right after C died. I wasn’t a prosecutor or a defendant then. I wasn’t even a witness; I was the best friend of a dead girl drowned out at the lake.
When Cecelia was murdered, it was all kid gloves and hushed words. I was only 15, Jules sat by my side going on about how terribly unfortunate it was. Hypocrite!
“When was the last time you saw Cecelia White?” the detective asked.
“That afternoon at the lake. There was a group of us.”
“What were you doing?”
“We were hanging out,” I responded, looking sheepishly at my mother.
No, Kool-aid, dumb-ass. “Yes,” my head bowed, ashamed.
“What time was this?”
“We left around 6:00 p.m.”
“All of you left at the same time?” he prodded.
“C and I stayed –”
“Cecelia,” I wanted to scratch his eyeballs out. Instead, I tucked my hands under my ass. “I call her C. We stayed back; she wanted to talk to me about her dad. She was thinking of running away.”
“She was having problems with her father?”
“Yes,” I carried the word out as if I were speaking to a dense child. I saw the response. I reeled it in. Head down, sniffle, sniffle. “I’m sorry it’s just … I … she was my best friend,” I cried. I may have faked the tears, but the emotion was real. (Surprised? Do you think my blood runs cold? No feelings, no empathy, no remorse? I’m bigger than that box you’ve put me in).
“Had she talked to you before about any problems with her father?”
Oh yes, I’d seen the “problems” first hand. “No,” I replied. “She never said a word.”
“Did you see her again after that?”
Yes, she stared up at me with unblinking eyes. I still see them at night when I close my own. “No.”
I assumed the approach after my arrest would be a bit different given the 14 bodies. Guilt changes the atmosphere. electrifies it. It would have been invigorating if I hadn't had to concentrate so hard on not pissing myself
My life has hung between these two things: the moments leading to Cecelia’s death, and now the moments leading to mine. The two are intertwined, connected, like me and C. I’d made promise to her that night at the lake, a promise I was once too young to understand. But I wasn’t that little girl anymore. I’d grown up. I saw what I had to do.
I’m coming for you Jack and it’s not just my story I’m bringing, I’m bringing hers too.