Comforting Words: 02/2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Performing Arts My Ass! Conclusion

Three years after Whacko 'attempted 'to murder The Witch, we were finally in Court.

When temper was flaring and hopelessness had fully set in, Whacko told me that doing the time for the murder of The Witch would be worth it. I disagreed because my 9 to 5 job takes me inside and based on what I see and have to process –I know prison is no walk in the park.

Maybe because the plan to murder failed or maybe when the pain of being betrayed eased Whacko was no longer in a hurry to do time. So the trial for the six or so charges that were hanging over Whacko's head was postponed and postponed and postponed.

My woman-friend, Anni, warned me that being on the witness stand would not be easy. I did not give her warning the due consideration that it required until I was on the witness stand and Whacko's lawyer began his cross examination.

But I am getting ahead of myself here.

Anni had picked me up at the Edmonton airport and we drove around a bit talking. She warned me again about being on the stand but also reminded me that it was the defense lawyer's job to discredit me. Anni had been on the stand before and so was speaking from experience.

By the time I checked into my hotel room, courtesy of the Crown, my nerves were on edge. I ordered hamburgers for myself and my daughter who had come over to keep me company but could only eat a quarter of mine.

Early the next morning, maybe realizing that I needed a finally wake up call, the Universe threw me to the ground. On my walk back from the Starbucks a few blocks up the road from my hotel; I slide sans the grace of an Olympian. As I went down flat on my tummy, the $4.00 cup of coffee went splash to my right and the breakfast sandwich went left.

A couple hours later, all decked out and limping in my wide black skirt, offset by a beautiful floral blouse Anni gave me for Christmas and my knee high boots, I took the witness stand. My make-up was partially ruined from the tears that had washed my face a few minutes earlier.

The Prosecutor had played for me the 911 recording of my call that fateful night and it was horrific. It took me back to a time and place that all I wanted was to forget. Mr. Defense Lawyer would later try to get that recording thrown out.

In total, I might have been on the stand for two to three hours that first afternoon but it was the longest few hours of my life. This was my first time testifying in a criminal proceeding, except for the preliminary hearing, yet I was comfortable on the stand.

Things changed when the cross examination began.

Discomfort was not what I felt but anger but my wise woman-friend was sitting to the back of the courtroom and we had agreed on a signal that would help me to keep all emotions in check. She could not see my eyes though!

The 'attacks' on my credibility came fairly quickly. It was clear what the strategy was when copies of posts from my blog, Comforting Words, was brought into evidence. Mr. Defense Lawyer tried to get me to agree with him that I was a whacko like his client back in 2007, probably willing to get even. When I said that I would not describe myself as insanely angry but bitterly disappointed, he drew the Court's attention to these lines from a February 2007 post:

"As for my birthday (February 15), ever since I was a year old, my mother would celebrate my birth with a party of some sort. It became a tradition for me to mark my birthday in some way, one that continued throughout the 16 years of my last relationship. Needless to say, at the time of writing the last post I was both sadden that this year would be different and somewhat angry at what know feels like a farce that took place last year. …. With both these feelings in my heart – sadness and some amount of anger – I continued to ask for Guidance. I knew I did not want to leave my solitude and be in any group setting where I might be expected to put on a brave face when brave was the last emotion that I was feeling."

I agreed that I wrote the word in my blog but the most prominent feeling was profound sadness. Point to Mr. Defense Lawyer. So he moved in for the kill – the indisputable fact that would prove that not only was I angry then but that I am now crazy!

Mr. Defense Lawyer:
"I noticed that you have a Facebook link on your blog."


Mr. Defense Lawyer:
"So, you are still using that name?"

"What name?"

Mr. Defense Lawyer:

Me: (Stifling a laughter that was about to overpower me) " I never used that name, Sir, before last year when I got married to one [R] McLaughlin."

The silence was so thick you needed a hack saw to cut through it. I believe Mr. Defense Lawyer congratulated me, but I was too busy sticking it to him in a diplomatic way:

"One of the ironies of life, Sir."

He did not hear me the first time, so I kindly repeated it for him.

All credit to Mr. Defense Lawyer, he recovered quickly and began to "suggest" to me several other versions of what took place that night. He suggested that the route that I said was taken to house was inaccurate and that we had taken a different one that would have gotten us there in less time. He suggested that I could see that Whacko's hand in pocket routine was innocent as the hand was visible through meshed material. He suggested that I actually sat outside the house and did not call 911 until I realized that Whacko's plan had gone sideways and heard the approaching sirens. Mr. Defense Lawyer suggested that I knew that Perfidia, who I had not spoken to in weeks maybe a month, was at the house watching The Oscars with The Witch and had communicated this to Whacko.

I really wanted to suggest to Mr. Defense Lawyer that he and his client kiss my ass but Anni would have none of it – she was staring me down from the back bench to keep calm.

My second day on the stand was relatively brief. Mr. Defense Lawyer came again, though half-heartedly, with his suggestions. It soon became painfully obvious that they were useless as I was more resolute than ever to keep calm and continue to speak only the truth as I knew it.

What the previous day of cross examining did to me was wipe me clean of any empathy I might have held for Whacko. Up to that first day on the stand, while not condoning the foolish choice to take someone's life because they were cheating you in every sense of the word, I understood the pain.

It never crossed my mind, not even for a second, to hurt Perfidia. Yes, I might have inflicted pain in my writings but it was not intentional. I only wanted to release myself from the emotional suffering and the best way I knew to do that was and is to write. As for The Witch – one of the slyest person that I have ever had the misfortune to meet – I would never physically exact revenge. Expose yes, kill no.

Whacko lost my respect and empathy on that stand. If Whacko could three years later carry out the threat to implicate me by attempting to discredit the thing dearest to me – my integrity – then my empathy was withdrawn.

A couple weeks after the trial, my curiosity got the better of me and I wanted a little more detail than I had. The Prosecutor had gotten in touch with me the day after the sentence was known. The judge found Whacko guilty on almost all the charges, except one, and a sentence of two years was handed down. However, the judge felt that Whacko was not inherently evil or violent or an undue risk to public safety so the time would be served through house arrest.

A Google search produced rich results, showing that the story of the trial was picked up by newspapers, television and radio stations across the country. Even a couple blogs carried the report and comments about the ludicrous defense that Whacko offered on the stand. Here is an edited version from the Edmonton Journal (January 20, 2010), the newspaper that reported the story the best in my opinion:

A spurned Edmonton artist who claimed [a] furious, knife-wielding attack on [an] estranged partner was a piece of performance art was sentenced Tuesday to two years of house arrest.

[…], 56, was convicted of uttering threats and breaking and entering with the intent to commit an assault with a weapon in connection with the Feb. 25, 2007 attack.

"Although the truth can sometimes be unusual ... Ms. […'s] description of events defies common sense," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Beverley Browne said in her decision. "[…] version of events is simply unbelievable."

Court heard […] had separated from […] in the months leading up to the attack. […] remained in the home and got a restraining order.

[…'s] mental health deteriorated and … tried to commit suicide. On Feb. 25, 2007, […] went to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in search of help but left after waiting for several hours.

A concerned friend offered to have […] stay the night …. The pair stopped at […'s] apartment to feed the cat and pack an overnight bag.

At that point […] started to conceive piece of performance art.

[…] selected a cheese knife and a filet knife from … drawers.

[…] would go to […'s] home… and stand … with the knives [to the] sides, to show that […] has nothing to fear.

[…] would say aloud: "I am not a violent person," and throw the knives over [the] shoulders [and] would fall to [the] knees.

[Then]…they would talk.

Plan in mind, […] turned to [the] friend and asked her to drive to [the] home.

The friend tried to persuade […] it was a bad idea, but […] was unstable and threatening…

The friend dropped […] and frantically called […], then 911.

She was so hysterical the 911 recording is virtually inaudible, Browne said.

[…] broke into [the] home, went upstairs and found […] and […] barricaded in the bedroom.

[…] lunged into the bedroom with a knife in each hand, […] fled across the bed and [the] new partner …seized the raging […].
[…] yelled: "You've been lying to me all along." […] kicked, bit and flailed wildly using all … bodily strength, Browne said, but [the new partner] was able to restrain[…] until police arrived.

"Jealousy is one of the most powerful emotions we all have to deal with at some point in our lives," Browne said.
"I reject categorically and completely the suggestion that […] went to the house to do performance art."

Now, my dear readers do you understand why these posts are entitled: "Performing Arts My Ass?"











Thursday, February 11, 2010

Performing Arts My Ass! Chapter 3

Late 2009 I was selected and sent to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to be trained and certified as a Negotiator. On some level it feels like it was too late to help someone I had lots of respect for.

Back on February 25, 2006 had I possess the negotiating skills that I now have things might have turned out differently.

On that fateful night, I was the only one standing between Whacko and a murder-crime scene.

Tried as I might, Whacko insisted that The Witch deserved to die and the killing was going to be done that night.

Still caught between Whacko and the front door I offered to drive as far as necessary to calm the situation (and my nerves) down. Whacko was not listening.

Finally, after what felt like an hour but were really minutes, Whacko said that my offer of a ride was good but not to some distant place as I wanted but to a major street – Jasper Avenue – not far from where we were.

On the elevator ride down from the 11th floor apartment, as we entered my car and driving out of the parking lot my pleading intensified. Still Whacko was not listening.

We got to Jasper Avenue and I pulled over by a plaza and said "Here is Jasper, get out!"

Whacko refused.

"Take me to the house."

"No, you said Jasper, so get out," I screamed as my own plan was falling apart. My intention was that as soon as Whacko got out, I would pull away and do the unthinkable – call The Witch – to warn about what was going on then go get Whacko's sister so that she could intervene.

Either I was transparent or Whacko could mind read – whatever it was that was not going to happen.

"Drive!" Whacko demanded. "Take me to the house!" That was when it fully dawned on me that the hand pointing at my side from Whacko's coat pocket had a knife! I had seen the gesture soon after we left the apartment but it only registered then that Whacko was willing to hurt me.

I drove.

While not yet a Negotiator, I was still a Chaplain and Counsellor and so those skills kicked into full gear. I reasoned, stressed, pled, begged, prayed, cried and wailed but Whacko had a response to everything I offered as reason why taking another person's life was not the solution to the problem.

Yes, I agreed that The Witch was evil and yes it was true that Perfidia did nothing to help resolve the impasse about the house. Nonetheless, killing The Witch would do nothing but land Whacko in prison.

"You can counsel me there," Whacko said to my warning that prison life is not pretty.

Changing my tactic, I begged Whacko to think about implicating me in this drama. Not yet a citizen in Canada and being black was enough to land me in prison for driving Whacko to the house to kill The Witch. I even threw in my baby girl in the picture – hoping that Whacko would get the f… out of my car if not give up on this crazy path to conflict resolution.

The response to that was my story to the police would be that after getting to the apartment Whacko no longer wanted to go to my place so I left and went home by myself. I watched enough CSI to know that that story would never hold even if I was stupid enough to offer it.

What could have been a 10-minute drive even on wintry roads took me much longer. We finally got one block of the house and as we approached the intersection where I would have to turn left, we both looked down the street at the house.

"It's dark, no one's home," I said "Let's go." I quickly did a U-turn and was heading back where we came from.

"Good, I will wait in the dark," Whacko said calmly. "Pull over!" And there was that threatening gesture again.

I did and Whacko came out of the car but turned around, bent over and looked me straight in the eyes and said "If you call the police before I get to do what I came here to do, I will tell them you were my accomplice, capisci?"

Whacko slammed the door and headed off in the dark.

For a couple seconds I sat there paralyzed by the threat to deliberately implicate me.

"You have to do something!" the righteous Claudette screamed at me, dragging me out of my reverie.
First I called Whacko's sister and as soon as she answered the phone I screamed, "Call the cops; [Whacko] is going into the house to kill [The Witch]!

Not convinced that she understood me, I dialed The Witch's number but got a fast busy signal. I then quickly dialed Perfidia's number thinking maybe there was another number for The Witch that Perfidia would have access to but that number was busy too!


Within five minutes of Whacko leaving my car, I dialed 911 – no longer caring if I was going to spend time behind bars, I just could not allow this to happen as much as I was hurting by The Witch's deceit and evil.

An Edmonton newspaper would later report that I was so hysterical that the 911 recording of my call was almost inaudible.

The police instructed me to stay where I was until the response team arrived and that happened within a few minutes.

Many hours later, actually in the wee hours of the next morning I was called to the station to make a statement. My first question as I got to the receptionist desk was whether [The Witch] was okay.

"Yes, she is," the Officer said "But the other lady was wounded."

"Other lady?" I asked and as if on cue I looked beyond the Officer to see Perfidia through the glass doors beckoning to me in a sign language that took 16 years to learn "What are you doing here?"

I fell to the floor, in a mixture of disbelief, despair, disappointment and utter disgust, wailing so loudly and painfully that the Officer had me taken outside and given water to calm down.

Stay tuned for the conclusion!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Performing Arts My Ass! Chapter 2

The story continues…

All hell broke loose with my suggestion that we contact Whacko.

It was about a week away from Thanksgiving and Whacko and The Witch were still visiting family across the country. Little did I know that Perfidia was in constant contact with The Witch. The telephone record would later show how often they were talking across the miles – probably laughing at how wise they were and how stupid their two University-educated partners were.

The dinner plates after our Thanksgiving meal were not even dry when Perfidia informed me that not only was our relationship over but the almost 16 years we spent together was a pretense and a farce. A week later, Perfidia walked out and never returned. That move coincided nicely with the return of The Witch to Edmonton.

Dazed, dumped and severely depressed, I tried to kill myself on October 18, 2006 by swallowing every pill in the house that I could lay my hands on. Obviously that did not work. My friend found me and called the ambulance. All I got from that experience was a fast ride and a pumped stomach.

Perfidia came to the hospital displaying no empathy and freezing cold, simply to inform me that the relationship was over. The Witch was only too willingly to reinforce that message each time I tried to make contact with Perfidia by telling me how shameful a person I was and how ashamed of myself I should be.

I tried to kill myself a second time just before Christmas when the stress of Perfidia's coldness, the silence and the financial ruin that was facing me became too much to bear. We had huge amounts of debt and all of it was in my name. We had planned and agreed that I would delay my pursuit of a second Master's degree to allow Perfidia to finish culinary arts training – but Perfidia walked out before the cherry was even cool in the pie. My return to University was down the toilet. I had no medical insurance as Perfidia was the one with the benefits but I needed daily medication for chronic diabetes. Within a month of leaving Perfidia cut me off saying that "You are not my partner." Death seemed the only way out but again an angel came to my rescue.

While I was going through my brand of hell, Whacko was trying to get a clear answer as to whether there was a relationship with The Witch. After listening to lies and innuendoes about me being a crazy, angry black woman Whacko had enough. A formal parting was the only way out and that meant splitting common property and selling their house.

That was when things got really ugly.

The Witch tried every trick in the magic book to cheat Whacko out of an equal share of the proceeds. Whacko was losing it really fast and attempted suicide a couple times. The Witch refused to budge, calling Whacko's desperation 'drama' and ignored attempts at mediation.

I watched Whacko deteriorate from a bright, intellectual, professional artist albeit intense person to a basket case.

By December 2006 The Witch had obtained a restraining order barring Whacko from the co-owned house that was to be renovated and put on the market. Whacko was reaching breaking point. In one of my last conversations with Perfidia, who was still denying being in a relationship with The Witch, I warned that Whacko was very, very angry. I begged Perfidia to speak with The Witch and get the sale of the house resolved so that everybody could move on with their lives. My plea fell on deaf ears.

By Christmas 2006, my connection with Whacko was being tested and on New Year's Eve night it was broken. Whacko walked out of a small gathering at my place over a disagreement about the ethnicity of an obviously African-American opera singer. I was not sorry to see the back of Whacko that night. The depression, darkness and paranoia that went with Whacko at all times was bringing me down. Actually, a friend who had come all the way from Toronto to be with me for Christmas shouted "Don't let the door hit you on the butt on your way out!"

My Messianic complex kicked back in early February 2007 and I called to check up on Whacko. Nothing much had changed and Whacko was in a worse shape. The house was neither renovated or on the market and The Witch continued making offerings that would only serve The Witch's interest. The darkness was thickening and Whacko was turning on me for not be able to say that Perfidia was a distant memory and not involved in what was going on. I could not believe that because that was not the person I knew so I could not say that.

Staying true to myself, I refused to budge in my conviction that Perfidia was at the core a decent human being. This only seemed to anger Whacko more.

That anger boiled over on February 25, 2007.

Later I was told that the chopping down of a cherished tree, one that was planted in memory of Whacko's deceased sister precipitated the events that would unfold that night. Ruing about the disrespect to the sister's memory, Whacko became so off balanced that an ambulance was called. However, being so agitated Whacko left the hospital after becoming impatient with the length of time it was taking to get any attention from the medical staff.

I made my entry onto this unfolding drama when Whacko was in a cab returning to a relative's apartment. Hearing that there was another attempt at suicide, I told Whacko to stay put and went over to the sister's place.

After hearing the usual ranting and raving about everything and everyone, I finally convinced Whacko to spend the night at my place. But Whacko had one demand which was to go pack an overnight bag and feed the pet cat at home first. So we made our way to Whacko's apartment and I waited and waited for a few pieces of items to be thrown into a bag and a really small cat be fed.

Weary, stressed and fed up with waiting I must have asked "Are we ready?" ten hundred times (exaggeration mine). Slouched and almost asleep on the living room couch, I noticed Whacko standing over me.

"You spoiled my plan."

"What plan?" I responded from the couch. "To hurt yourself again?"

"No, to kill [The Witch]," Whacko said in a tone that bordered on maniacal.

My eyes were half closed up to that point but opened wide fast like my dog's do when the alarm goes off in the mornings. Whacko had pulled one of the longest two-pronged knives I have ever seen from the waist and was flashing it around, ranting about the evil Witch and how this was the night it would all end.

Trying to remain calm and think at the same time, I was saying all the things I had learned about deescalating situations like the one that was now right in my face. Nothing worked.

"Okay what now," the inner, really scared Claudette was asking.

"You know I cannot let you do that, so please stop talking nonsense," was all I had left to reach for but Whacko had a quick response.

"Then I will slash your throat first," making the motion to show me how my life would end. I stiffened on the couch and must have played dead as Whacko walked away. I quickly got up and headed for the apartment door with some half-baked plan to run out into the hall, bar Whacko in somehow and call for help.

I made it to the door but no further when Whacko shouted "Where are you?"

As I looked back into the kitchen where Whacko was standing to say that I was just putting my coat on so we could leave, I noticed another knife being scrutinized. "F…," was all I could say before Whacko was upon me at the door.

Tune in for Chapter 3 tomorrow…maybe.




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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Performing Arts My Ass!

Promises are meant to be kept and I am a woman of my word.

A few weeks ago, I told my Facebook friends that there was a story to be told and today I was reminded that it is outstanding.

Less than a month ago, I travelled to Edmonton for an unfinished and undisclosed business. At the writing of my last post, it was not prudent of me to provide the details of my trip. It was still important for me to "keep my own counsel."

Well that time has passed.

Like every good story this one has some very interesting people and of course drama. However, before getting to the juicy stuff I must set the stage. This could be a long tale but in the interest of time many of the blanks can be filled in by scanning through the archives of Comforting Words.

The year you would be looking for is 2005 - 2006 approximately one year after four people met in a grocery store. At first it felt like a chance meeting but later my better sense would remind me that there are no accidents or coincidences in life.

In my soon-to be 45 years I have lived at least four lives. This story would then be the culmination of my third life. It lasted almost 16 years and were some best and the worst years of my life. The challenges of discrimination, a dysfunctional family – my own and my in-laws', a broken Jamaican economy and migration were painful but were fodder for my personal growth.

Nothing however prepared me for the events that would unfold almost four years to the date of arriving in Edmonton.

Two people came to this beautifully cold 'Promised Land' with a child and a dog in tow to start a new life. Multiculturalism, prosperity, economic opportunities and freedom to be who you are without fear of discrimination were some of the slogans that caught my then partner's and my attention.

The relationship, though rocky at times, had lasted for 12+years when we arrived and we were hope-filled that things would improve once the barriers to everlasting happiness were removed.

Perfidia , the name I will use for my former partner, was so excited when this chance meeting occurred in the grocery store. We had been in Canada for near to two years and had not made any friends. Isolated hardly describes our existence for a long time after arriving, up until I became a member of a very welcoming church. However, the church scene was not Perfidia's idea of fun and companionship and so meeting these people and their invitation to a house party bordered on climactic.

Soon we were "friends" with this couple, seeing them almost every weekend and sharing some wonderful meals. In fact, my first jambalaya was prepared by Whacko; the name I now choose to use for someone who I once thought honourable.

But all was not well in paradise and by March 2006, or there about, Whacko and The Witch were separated. It was to be a temporary situation, to give each party time and space to work out their differences.

I heard the news of the separation while in Toronto, Ontario on church business. The Witch was so devastated that although there was a raging snow storm Perfidia had to rush over to lend support. I would later learn, much later, that our then teenage daughter was left alone for the entire weekend in order to lend support to The Witch. What a joke!

My choice of the name "The Witch" for this individual has more to do with the persona than any residual feelings of bitterness. Anyone who would lie about their husband of 22 years just to escape in the arms of another, lie about their academic achievement to gain a job they were not qualified to have, try to seduce a relative of their partner bearing a bottle of wine and a person who would smile while calling you a bitch because you were too sick to attend their birthday must own a wand. Not to mention that this individual is actually a Wiccan.

The much touted feminine intuition should never be discounted no matter the pressure received from others, particularly a suspected cheating spouse.

My spider senses were beginning to tingle when The Witch announced that a planned trip to their childhood home in another province was not to be solo but in the company of Whacko. I was flabbergasted as by then it was clear to both Perfidia and I that that relationship was over. More than once The Witch had mused aloud the plans being cooked to buy out the house co-owned with Whacko. So why in heaven's name would one go across the country to introduce to the family the person you were leading on until you could pull the rug from under their feet? Witch!

That moment should have been my first real indication that something was going on between The Witch and Perfidia. It escaped me then but I certainly did not miss when they covered themselves in a blanket on our living room couch one evening after supper. After The Witch left, I confronted Perfidia . My questions, however, were rebuffed and I was instead accused of being too jealous.

The Witch had become something of a fixture in our lives by that time, even sleeping over in our two bedroom apartment. I became uncomfortable and began to have dreams that would only later make sense. Months later I would check my journal to find an entry about a snake the morning after The Witch slept over. Most dream books that I checked basically told me the same thing:

"The snake is most of the times associated with hidden facts and thoughts, with danger that lurks somewhere near you, but you are not aware of it…The snake may also stand for slyness, deceit and treachery. With his slippery body, hiding in the grass and crawling at your feet so you do not notice it, the snake will wait for the right moment to attack and maybe kill you."

What I did not know then in July 2006 was that the snake, The Witch had already attacked. My intuition was being compromised by Perfidia's constant feeding to me that they were just friends and I was simply too jealous. Another clue that I missed was the way Perfidia became unglued when I installed caller id on our cell phones. I had no real reason to do this but a telemarketer from the phone company had convinced me that it was a great deal.

Things finally came to a head when in late September 2006 I declared that it was not right that we had seemingly taken The Witch's side and had ignored Whacko. Perfidia was not at all excited when I suggested that we got in touch and invited Whacko to dinner – just to remain balanced. As far as I was concerned they were both our friends and frankly it felt to me as if The Witch had captured us in a conspiracy to screw over Whacko.

Little did I know how close to right I was!

Come back soon for Chapter Two.






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