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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

From the Dark I Call Out To You

I read until midnight last night and before I turned off the light to go to sleep I remembered that at 12:01 a.m. a man was scheduled to be executed at the San Quentin State Prison. I read the news this morning and found out that indeed he had been executed. (Dostoyevsky experienced a last minute exoneration; he stood in front of the firing squad, blindfolded, when he was pardoned. I suppose I hope for this every time I hear about a scheduled execution.) The man died at 12:35 a.m. There was trouble inserting the needle to administer the lethal injection, and the execution took longer than expected.

Now I have this picture in my mind, of the man lying on a gurney, his arms pinned to arm rests, the insides of his elbows exposed, the veins bulging out slightly. There are people milling around him; he can hear the clatter of vials, the muttering of instructions he doesn't want to understand. His eyes are closed; after the prick of the needle he will sink into sleep like a rock to the bottom of a lake. Instead he stays awake, and feet shuffle, and the needle doesn't want to go in. He opens his eyes. He's practiced patience, calm, resignation, serenity. But he curses. The men milling around him stare at the man. He stares back. If God exists, I want to see his face at this moment, I want to see his face watching these men in this execution room, fumbling about with life and death.

The man who's being executed has killed four people in order to steal a couple hundred dollars. He founded a gang. In prison he repented, wrote children's books, spoke against gang violence. Friends of his clamored to nominate him for a Nobel peace prize. He deserves capital punishment. He doesn't deserve capital punishment. These things all seem irrelevant, deep down. What haunts me is that scene in the execution room, the imperfection of each person in that room, the unsteady fingers, the confusion.

What needs to be done is done in the end. Roles are played out, items crossed off lists. The man is declared dead. People go home, go back to living their lives, doing the best they can. Still no one knows what the hell it all means. We grope about, doing good things, doing bad things. And God watches on, I imagine, as puzzled as everyone else.


Blogger madness rivera said...

I thought a lot about Tookie these last couple days too. Wasn't right to kill him, in my opinion.

And it does seem against nature to set a man down to die, purposefully and lawfully. Devoid of humanity.

December 13, 2005  
Blogger madness rivera said...

C - I'm gonna mention you on my site today. Are you cool with that?

December 13, 2005  
Blogger Rebel Girl said...

I stayed awake that night/day until the execution was pronounced, listening, when I could to the "live" coverage on the local Pacifica station - and when I couldn't, I turned it down low and continued baking - yes, baking, holiday cakes - for my lit class. My own kind of vigil, I suppose.

I found the whole spectacle - as always, chilling, frightene to see teh state (my state after all) muster (is that the right word?) its power this way.

I once heard a reporter describe his experience in the witness chamber of the death chamber - he talked about how he had seen death, of course, many times before in his career - but at those times, the people around were always trying to stop it - in this case, no one was, quite the opposite.

Okay - off to what I should be doing - my job.

See you gals later (yes, I am glad madness mentioned you!)

December 15, 2005  
Blogger Green Whale said...

Your vigil baking cakes was very moving. I'm fascinated by how life and death are entertwined so closely in the everyday, though we don't always notice it.

December 16, 2005  

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