Collecting Myself

One of my jobs is court reporting. It’s just something I do on the side, to afford—as Misha describes—“Spending too much money irresponsibly on questionable mermaid purchases, like literally I feel like you have entire closets of full of random heels and mermaid dresses and random shiny mirrors and galaxy jewelry and crescent moon regalia. And you are always wondering wtfluff happened to your mermaid card balance.” This is not my fault. How else would I stun her?

Red lipstick costs $$$, so your girl really hustles.

The task is essentially to document sometimes heartwrecking accounts. So there I sit besides the judge, typing away while dripping in water that no one can see, blinking it casually from my eyelashes as claimants struggling to obtain disability recount their suicidal thoughts in excruciating detail. We are supposed to guard our facial expressions of course.

I am very absorbent with people’s emotions. When I’m fully immersed/invested in something, I tend to run my hand through my hair and flip the dark length of it to the side. This is not a typical universal warning sign, but my large watery eyes are, and I could have sworn when I first started training that the judge was a filter away from turning around and asking in a very stern tone, “Ms. Nisa, are you alright?” in a remember-yourself-at-once sort of way.

“I am,” I would have responded in a translucent tone.

It is undeniable from this position—I mean, even physically, from this position, where I am literally sitting beside the judge in a courtroom—how much our society has failed so many people. There is a poignant sense of dysfunction in expecting people who have worked harder their entire lives than we have and suffered so much physical pain and emotional turmoil, to recount their experiences and justify that they are deserving to those who cannot begin to understand. The judges at least seem compassionate.

And it reminds me that you just can’t argue empathy at people. They feel it or they don’t. If you have to explain your humanity to a person, they will not understand it. I am so grateful for whom I’ve become, for recognizing when arguing empathy to a person is not a productive use of my time and is not reconciled with the deep love I have for myself. MashaAllah.

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