Significant Injury

Today in a jury room, while myself and eleven other jurors deliberated on the case we’d been assigned, a DUI resulting in a T-bone car accident, our deliberation took us to this question: Should we take into account that the trauma surgeon treating the victim’s broken arm didn’t prescribe opioids or narcotics? Was this an indication of her level of pain? Did it mean that the shit-face-drunk driver (his alcohol level twice the legal limit) hadn’t caused her “great bodily harm”? At which point I offered this: “My wife recently had surgery and, though her doctor recommended opioids to ease her pain, she chose not to have them prescribed.” I mean, with the information we were given, we jurors had no way of knowing whether a similar interaction might have taken place, the victim may have turned down the drugs like Dixie did, so I didn’t think it was a valid argument. People have different pain thresholds, and different feelings about drugs. My fellow jurors agreed.

But none of this is my point. My point is that I used the words “my wife” when talking to eleven people I barely knew. I used to hate those words. So did Dixie. It was one of the things we were clear on when we got married in 2017, right after Trump was elected, because Trump was elected: that we would never ever ever use the word wife! I didn’t like it because it sounded too much like “wipe”; Dixie because it came from the word “with.”

It’s not the first time I’ve uttered the words in reference to my sweet Dixie. Nor will it be the last. Dixie now uses them regularly too when talking about me. But in our defense, neither of us had any idea the legitimacy that those two words, my wife, would give our relationship to the world at large. Especially when dealing with institutions like PG&E or banks or courts. Start your sentence off with “I’m calling on behalf of my wife…” and by God, people listen. It’s amazing! I really had no idea what we were missing! All this entitlement. All this respect. It’s crazy having the federal government affirming our relationship. Empowering, to say the least.

I think it’s significant, too, that I casually tossed off those two loaded words “my wife” in the same building where we’d taken our vows on that rainy February day in 2017, when, over breakfast at the wharf, we’d spontaneously decided to legally register the glorious knot of love that continues to hold, us together twenty-eight years later. Significant because when we got married the government was bestowing upon us a right, and now, as a happily married woman, I was acting on behalf of someone else’s rights, the defendant’s.

And speaking of significant, we hashed over that word for hours today in the jury room. Significant. What constitutes significant bodily injury? Do you include the fallout of the injury on the person’s life? Or just the actual injury? And how significant is a broken arm? And does it matter that the break was close to the elbow? Well, that discussion took all afternoon, so I won’t go into it here, but it was a fascinating conversation to have with a bunch of strangers.

I want, however, to return to the use of the words “my wife”, and the ease with which I used them in that jury room. It’s got me thinking. For all those years, having our relationship marginalized, so many that we’d gotten used to it, so many we’d become numb to it, oblivious, was, in my opinion, a significant injury, an injury we didn’t even know we were experiencing. It might not have been bodily, but it was certainly an injury, a slow drip of poison into our sense of belonging. That’s what I, Juror Number Eleven, think. So even though it seems like the world is going to hell in a hand basket, we have made some gains, and it’s does me good to remember them.

Dixie would like me to add that the hundred bucks we spent to get married was the best hundred bucks we’ve ever spent.

So that’s it for today. Remember, live the love, it’s all we’ve got!

3 comments

  1. This is so true. I’m French, same-sex marriage became legal in 2013, and my partner and I decided to get married in 2014, on the day we were celebrating twenty years together. We thought getting married was nice and all, but wouldn’t change our lives that much. We were already established as a couple, weren’t we? After twenty years? A child? An appartment we had bought together? What else could it bring? So much. It brought so much. Maybe not from the people who already knew and loved us, but from others. Those words, “my wife”, they change everything. It’s unfair, really, but it’s true.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s