When Peter was arrested, at first I was shocked. Shortly after, a numbness set in as I listened to other opinions on the event.
My friends said there’s no way he did it. Peter was our friend, they remind me. He was gentle and trustworthy and he would never do something like that. I reflect on the sneering remarks they made behind his back about his desperate attempts to woo Cindy West.
My parents told me Peter was always troubled, that it was just a matter of time before he set off on the criminal path. They reminded me that they always thought he was a bad influence. I reminded them of the time they invited Peter to spend a week over summer vacation in Florida with us at my great aunt’s.
Mr. Johnson wondered where his guidance as a mentor, a father figure, and teacher went wrong. He wished he could go back and talk to Peter about troubles at home. I wished Mr. Johnson never would have asked Peter if he wanted to flip burgers the rest of his life, the whole class silent in fear or empathetic embarrassment.
Peter’s mom speaks to anyone who will listen, crying out that Peter’s not that kind of boy. Tears fill my eyes whenever I think about the idyllic family dinners I had with Peter and his family.
The mayor is making an example out of him. Peter’s trial will be the first of many in a crackdown on elder abuse. I think back to Peter’s smile when he received the letter from the mayor’s office, his first and only time on the Honor’s List.
Peter’s lawyer paints him as an upstanding, Christian young man who volunteers and is more responsible than his peers. I remember the time Peter and I were laying mulch in front of the school and he laughed at a homeless man passing by.
The Prosecutor tells the court that he’s shown a history of violence and bullying. I scowl in the courtroom, thinking about the time Peter berated himself for being scared of running the ball during football practice.
I stopped by Ms. Zicowicz’s shop. She was oddly quiet on the matter, which, without me realizing it, put me at ease as I explored her small store. As I was checking out, she noticed that I seemed troubled. I told her I was and explained to her how I felt. How could people see the same facts and come to different conclusions? How could these conclusions lead to different perceptions of the same person?
Ms. Zicowicz smiled sadly. “You’re searching for the wrong truth. If you want to know what really happened, you’ll never know. You weren’t there.” She shrugged. “Even if you were, your memories could have inaccurate details of the event. Instead of listening to the collective argue their opinions, you need to come to your own conclusions, your own truth.”
I left her store more confused than when I arrived. Ms. Zicowicz is an asshole.