The confrontation that I had with my neighbor happened in late July, 2018, I detailed that incident in a blog post called “The Precipice” that was published on my blog “firstname.lastname@example.org” on August 11th of the same year.
I won’t belabor any details of that confrontation. It happened, it was confusing, and it didn’t really end right in my mind…I mean I’m a storyteller, and I wanted a story with an ending that you can smile, nod, and sleep peacefully that everything wrapped up nicely and everything was put back in it’s place like it’s a children’s book.
But it wasn’t.
So after we went to court, after everything was done, it didn’t fit all nicely in a box.
I replaced a custom order door for the 1900s goofy dimensions…the damaged door still sits leaned against the back of my house (Jake will you PLEASE get this!) and I have ZERO expectations that I will be paid back as the court has ordered…about $900 down the drain.
Mentally, I won’t lie, I was on watch for a pissed off ex—neighbor that might try to find me one night with a gun, a knife, or a baseball bat. I set “weapons” in key places should I get confronted in my house or in my yard. I heard things in the night that woke me out of a dead sleep that I went to check with gun in hand. I installed a security system with cameras that were tripped by every animal type in North America. I kid you not, squirrels, possums, raccoons, around 7 different neighborhood cats, dogs, deer (buck, doe, and fawn), MANY birds, a neighbor kid playing with the neighbor’s stray cats, and the mailman, all on a REGULAR basis set off chirping “alerts”.
It was like I had a petting zoo around my house.
I don’t remember where the idea came up for a restraining order…but someone told me I needed to have one, so I filed for one. To get a restraining order, it’s a two part procedure. First you file paperwork to get a court date. THEN you go to the actual courtroom hearing for the restraining order.
SO to I file for the restraining order, go to court downtown, go before the judge and a date is set for the restraining hearing. Part one is done, part two is few weeks down the road.
With date set and I prepared myself with “my story” and the supporting documents that included the police reports of my first incident with him along with the actual assault report. The day before court I’m a little nervous. I got up early, find parking space downtown, got to the courtroom early, waited for my name to be called…and when it did, I went up before the judge only to be told that the other guy had not been served with papers and the hearing was postponed. They didn’t know how to find him…and that I HAD TO GET HIS NEW ADDRESS to the court.
Three things cross my mind.
1) WHY THE HELL didn’t someone just pick up a fu#%$ phone and call me to save me, the judge, and the 5 other people working in the judge’s chambers that my case was postponed to save us this wasted time in our lives?
2) You want the assaultee to get the assaulter’s address? That’a little messed up.
3) This guy’s on probation, right? Seems the court should have known to call the probation officer to get his new address. Seems perfectly logical to me, right? They didn’t. Seems they leave that up to you to call the probation officer (who knows they can’t tell you the information) to call the court and tell them this guy’s new address.
Anyway, court date is put off for a new one…two months down the road. Two more months of practicing my ninja skills.
Two months go by…haven’t seen him a single time….and I’ve been watching and looking…thinking surely this guy’s got to be pretty angry.
So, two months later, I’m back at the courtroom. I’m there early because I know what and where I’m going…I’m practically a regular now. I let a couple amateurs next to me know that playing with their phones is frowned upon…cause I’m a veteran in the courtroom now and I’ve watched them make an ‘example’ of a person or two. I also know that you tuck in your shirt and don’t wear shorts (One judge declared to all of us, “You’re not at a picnic, THIS IS COURT OF LAW FOR GOD’S SAKE!!!”) Also, side note, if there’s a state seal in front of the judge, don’t step on it…just warning you, it’s a setup.
I’m sitting there…and THE guy that I got into it with, shows for court. I didn’t expect him to be honest…but he showed. He sat in the bench behind me, off to one side. I actually wondered if he would hit me in the back of the head in court. I realize that would go poorly for him but what good would that do if I got some Chuck Norris death punch to the neck?
He didn’t hit me…but I watched him out of the corner of my eye.
Anyway, we were called up in front of the judge very quickly. She asked a few basic questions and we were about to get sworn in. She said to both of us to raise our right hands to be sworn in. I rose mine and the other guy was messing around with getting something out of his backpack. She snapped at him again to raise his right hand with a firmness that caught both of our attention.
He raises his LEFT hand. (Of course he did I thought)
“RAISE YOUR RIGHT HAND!” She barked at him. He’s startled, wide eyed, and shoots up his right, hand AND arm like he’s giving her a Hitler salute. I know he didn’t mean it (or did he?) but I actually had to keep myself from smiling.
We swore in and she told me to present my case.
I began laying out details as I had in my story. She took my copy of the police reports and looked at them as I outlined “my side” of things. I fancied myself a lawyer for a second, yes, this would be my next career.
The other guy tried to interject once, but she stopped him. The second time he tried to interject, she warned him NOT TO SPEAK out of turn and that she would not warn him again! I secretly wondered if she had been one of those mean nuns at one time in her life. Judge’s robe to nun’s habit was not much of a stretch.
I was like, wow, this was really going to go my way.
Until it didn’t.
She looked and listened to MOST of my story before asking, well, not so much asking but telling me that I didn’t have the criteria needed for a restraining order. I needed 2 incidents within 3 months….I only had 2 documented incidents within 5 months. I stuttered…thought for a second. Nothing documented, no witnesses…I had no other cards to play. I finished my side of the story.
My career as a lawyer was halfway over.
She asked me several questions that let even more air out of my balloon…where was the dog when it was loose? His yard. Was the dog ever loose after our first incident? No.
My career as a lawyer was three quarters over.
She then says do you have any other documents? Any witnesses? Anything else I want to tell her? No. Do you rest your case then? Yes I said.
My lawyering career was given a 2 minute warning.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when she asked him if he wanted to tell his side of the story or refute anything I had said. I don’t know what I expected…but I expected things to get worse from here. Maybe he would heap accusations at me, tell them about me being a bad neighbor…or maybe he would lie about things.
“Do you want to add anything? Do you want to tell your side of things?” She asked him.
“No, he told the truth…that’s exactly the way it happened.” He said.
“He told the truth.”
I think he was genuinely surprised that I told truth of everything…and it surprised him. I’m not sure why, but I was surprised that he was surprised.
The judge ruled that the case was dismissed in that it didn’t meet the requirements for a restraining order. I felt as if I had wasted everyone’s time. I was doubtful my next career as a lawyer would get off the ground.
When the judge said it was over and he then asked if he could go back to the house and get his stuff. The judge responded that my ‘stay away order” was in place and that he could not trespass or interact with me whatsoever. She also stated it would be best if he did not take his dog. He said that he had to give up his dog with everything that had happened. He said he hadn’t found a new place to live yet and that he would get another dog when he did.
I kind of made me sad because I know that dog, no matter how much I knew it wanted to eat people, that dog meant a lot to him. He had lost his dog and his place to live, that’s a rough couple months in anybody’s book.
The nun in disguise dismissed us and called the next case.
When you’re done with court, you go out the side door to the hallway where there’s an office, a cubby whole with a person and a printer. They get the official documents of the court, copy them, and give you a copy. So he and I went out the side door…and as we’re sitting there, he walks up to me and sticks out his hand and mumbles something about “being sorry about all this.”
To say I was surprised is quite an understatement.
In my shock, I shook his hand and I mumbled “I am too”.
He gathered up the documents and walked off. I sat down for a minute.
It was over for both of us.
In moments like this, I ask God, ”So….what was that all about?”
I think His response is “It’s not for you to know everything…it’s not all about you.”
Fair enough, I think.
As someone who has faith I often ask God to use me. When I say that I want to be used, I really mean, “let me win the super lotto so I can be super generous with some of it” or “I’ll be the hero in your story”….kind of way. I want a story like “let me catch the winning pass in the Super Bowl and I’ll give you all the glory” kind of way. But that’s not the way God always works. Some times you get to be the punching bag so God can teach the other boxer a lesson.
The lady next door has never given me a reason to think she’s a Christian…but some how I just know that she’s watched over by God. Maybe I was the answer to her prayer or her daughter’s prayer, or her granddaughter’s prayer…but I think it’s the lady.
Why do I think that?
She told the truth the night of the incident. He statement backed my side of the story. She is still my neighbor, and she and her man, and her daughter and granddaughter have been very nice to me ever since.
Another sign is that ALL the stray cats in the neighborhood are drawn to her house. And I mean ALL of them. They lay around her porch like seals on the ocean docks on a warm sunny day.
Maybe that guy he has a purpose to fulfill for God but he was hiding from it, like he’s Jonah and had to be in the belly of the penitentiary whale for 2 weeks to get him to wake up.
Maybe God needed him out of that house and onto something else…I don’t know and until he starts a blog or my neighbors tell me, I may never know.
I also suspect God used that incident to wake something up in me that I’m not fully aware of yet. Or maybe He wanted to show me what I was not….besides a lawyer.
Do I understand all of God’s ways, His reasons, His methods?
Do I trust all of God’s ways?
I say yes…but I have to laugh because I know that I don’t have a choice. Like a toddler buckled into a car seat, I can scream and throw tantrums, or I can sit back, look out the window, and enjoy the ride.
Some day maybe he and I will be friends…we’ll sit and laugh about it, maybe have a beer.
I just hope we don’t attract a bunch of stray cats when we do.