The Interview err…Interrogation

Where I last left things, I had just locked myself in the Courthouse bathroom.

There I was, clutching a door knob that cared not what I wished it to do. I began to bang on the door. I could hear the echo it made in the empty halls and I recalled how no one was near me. I hoped the custodian might be nearby. After what seemed like an eternity, I began to bang loudly, again, because no one had come to my rescue. And still nothing. Panic set in. “They are going to think I skipped the interview!” I thought. My mind was off and running on how bad this was going to be for me. And the sweat just poured off me. I looked around at what I could use to get the door open and tears of frustration welled in my eyes. I turned around and gave the door one last effort… and finally, I heard someone coming toward me.  The custodian had heard me. About two seconds later, he could smell me. I mean, even I could smell me. Those 10 minutes had reduced me to an animal-like panic state and there was no mistaking it. I tried in vain to rewash myself but was so late that I just gave up and ran back toward my parents.

When they saw me, I am sure I was a sight to behold. When I told them what happened, my own attorney said “Ahh Keri, you are such a disaster, no?” How did he know that? He had just met me earlier in the day. That’s part of my charm, I guess. I live out loud, warts and all. And sometimes, I lock myself in bathrooms.

Finally, the Public Prosecutor (who was a judge too) arrived. What a stylish woman she was! Cropped blonde hair, a very Chico’s beach weekend ensemble of white flowing pants and a linen loose shirt with soft blues and yellows. She had striking features and she looked determined. My attorney gave me a few words of encouragement, and off I went with the judge and my interpreter (who had arrived only moments earlier).

Once inside her private chambers, I was  seated across from her desk. To her left was her secretary. To my left was the court recorder and to my right, the interpreter. All five of us were intro’d. I was told the recorder would record the entire interview for transcribing later, and we’d likely have to stop the interview at times so she could switch out the full tapes with blank ones.

I pulled out my State Department report from my shoulder bag, along with a marked up copy of my police report translation, and prepared myself mentally. And so it began.

The judge asked some basic questions of me “for the court record.” Then, she pulled out the police report. And that’s where it got interesting. Stick with me here because you will want to know this…The judge would ask me about an item or instance in my report, and ask me to expand on it. (We spoke in the chronological order of events per the report.) Many times, her questions were an attempt to trip me up. For example, she asked me to describe the walk to Marco’s art studio (with the cafe owner and my traveling companion) from the Papa Cafe.

“So, you walked down the hall, went up the stairs and made a left into his art studio?” she asked.

“Yes, we walked down the hall, and made the first left into his art studio. But there were no stairs,” I answered.

“There were no stairs??” she asked with a look of great skepticism, as if I was lying about the stairs.

“There were no stairs. His studio was on the ground level,” I said.

“Good. There were no stairs, ok, so…(moved onto another topic)…..

She knew all along there weren’t any stairs, but she wanted to test the strength of my memory. Had I just agreed with her or been intimidated by her firmness that there were stairs, she would have then whipped around and said “A ha! There ARE no stairs! You lied!” And thus would have begun a downward spiral of doubts and her not quite believing me. The example I just gave you marked the distinct realization on my part about what she was really up to:  testing my mettle for a cross-examination by Marco’s defense attorney and testing my mettle as her witness since she would need to have faith in my honesty. I knew then and there that this was not merely going to be an interview by a sympathetic ear. She was acting as the defense attorney. And she was going to grill me.

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