Neurodivorce, Italian Style
Here from time to time over the remainder of this year and, after a pause, next, I’ll be recounting the story of a divorce. There is a narrator, rather narrators, and characters: men, women, lawyers, judges, brothers, wives, prostitutes, managers, politicians, villains, heroes… the usual. In each of those people, each of those posts, there are other stories within. Not merely sub-plots or anecdotes but… conditions. Smaller stories, as it were, that reappear, influencing or even determining outcomes later on.
The posts won’t be placed in one full chronological order at first, instead they’ll center on 8 people, each on a kind of trial. The 8 accounts are preceded by opening, and followed by closing, arguments, 10 chapters in all. After each person covering a chunk of the overall story is presented, a second part of each chapter is a sort of rebuttal, a defense. In form. In function…they’re more like articulations: how each person became what they are, their personal and family histories, motivations, ecc., how their minds maybe function or dysfunction resulting in their behavior, of whatever they did and do. It’s the juicy part, for me anyway.
I didn’t think, when I decided that eventually were I still around I’d tell the mostly irritating tale, that it would also be a case of homicide or instigation of the same. It may be though: the jury, you, will make that call, depending on what story you create. Sometimes it’s very easy to influence a person… in difficulty. Which may be the why that pushing fear and anxiety onto others is becoming so widespread. It’s an effective way to separate people from their own identities, regional, communal, familial, emotive, even individual. A division of you from yourself. Once divided…conquest is easier, even risk-less. Everyone knows that. Divide. And conquest.
In the main story… there’s a ton of injustice (always present in the world we make but lately more so.) And corruption, sexism, madness, economically influential people, some famous people, some famous stories, (famous or notorious people in the real world, though mostly Italian.)
I’d prefer not having to tell this story at all, as mentioned a mostly unhappy one, filled with the most rotten of our species doing the most rotten of things. If I could have molded one or two somehow into… at least fun villains, like, say, Freddy Kruger, you know, give them enough of one kind of aspect, maybe determination or intelligence or… anything, enough to make them interesting. But after researching various examples… you don’t get that much. Just bad people doing bad things and trying to convise the rest of the world that, well, we’re all bad. Bbut we’re not, in general. Only a few. For the most part that kind of person remains the kind of individual (or institution, depending,) filled with hate and fear, heavily motivated to disperse that fear and hate on the rest of the world in one way or another. I’d prefer happier characters, and people, fun to be with, that add a little beauty or wonder to the world.
Still, it’s a story that asked to be told, screamed it almost, all the more considering the news of late around the world (predatory, misogynist US supreme court appointments; anti-abortion laws in Italy; fanatical, religious fathers and husbands murdering wives and daughters, and so on.) The villains within aren’t contained to this story but are examples of the same who have damaged and continue to damage the real world. And they will continue to – unless the rest of us change, refuse to be divided from ourselves, from each other, from our common sense of justice, (thick and rhetorical as it sounds,) and see those villains for that: self-referring parasites. Cancer. There is no dialoging with such. They have to be revealed, isolated, and removed.
The pages in this blog, eventually book, won’t right all the wrongs done to and by the same characters in this tale. Then again. In the least, it sets some records straight. Maybe from there it’ll do more. And maybe a little more. And maybe a little more….
After the opening arguments, the first witness on trial is a deceased executive. We’ll call him Mike for now. He came from an unpleasant place, not socio-economic but developmental. One of those personal family histories necessary to address in order to make sense, give cause, as to why some behave as they do. Still, it’s no excuse for destructive behavior. Many come from worse, including me. But it can be a contributing reason and maybe even a determinate one as to the timing and causes of of many choices and, in Mike’s case, his death. From there the story moves to his widow, then his ex-wife and so on.
Each of those three people demonstrated quite different responses to severe adversity as they grew. Timing is often more than important. Each found themselves forced into premature affect, forced to respond to stress without enough space to avoid or escape it, at different stages in their lives: Mike in late childhood, his widow in adolescence, his ex-wife in late adolescence. Decisions internally made then would determine much of the way they would view themselves and the world for the rest of their lives, in the first two distorting or perverting the possibility of any future fulfilling relationships, solidifying into permanence the hate and fear they carried and pushing them to narrow the world paranoically – and look for others to harm in one form or another. I’ve digressed.
Ladies and gentlemen, you, the jury: look here….
note: introductory note – what is narrative?
“Stories help us to organize information in a unique way,” he said.
To find relevant stories, the researchers sorted through 20 million blog posts using software developed at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies.
“We wanted to know how people tell stories in their daily lives. It was kind of like finding stories in their natural habitat,” said Kaplan, assistant research professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
That 20 million was pared down to 40 stories that each contained an example of a crisis involving a potentially protected value: cheating on a spouse, having an abortion, crossing a picket line, or getting in a fight.
Those stories were translated into Mandarin Chinese and Farsi, and then read by American, Chinese and Iranian participants in their native language while their brains were scanned by fMRI. They also answered general questions about the stories while being scanned. (link above for the article)
Comment: Motivation. In a sort of deep way, the development of how we think, of where we place ourselves in differing contexts, the direction of our understanding or representing relevant aspects of the world. Our individual grooves, so to speak.
Narrative is not the organizational way we organize experience and memory of human happenings. It is instead, I think, a dominant way of describing memories and experience extrinsically – which includes others, including self. Narrative also doesn’t have to be character-based but usually is, as a couple studies seem to point to, because cultural influence can trump other stuff, ie like what is a character. And emerges because of the diffusion of imitation, likely influenced by a network of mirror neuron ‘turbo-chargers’. Hence as a species we are able both to abstract ourselves from ourselves and place ourselves into something – most importantly someone – else, or a representation of the same. Hence we build representations on varying strata. Symbolic thinking was a necessary precursor.
Time, or better ‘t’, is likely quanta – but separate from meaning, even physiologically. It is a sort of emergent abstraction. Kind of like a field. Narrative needs to use that approach in order to convey, per force, by speaking to our corresponding abstractions and in turn to other representations top-down. And the unfortunate thing about real time, block time, and abstracted self or representations involving manipulations – they cannot afford contradiction. Only one possibility at a time. So: the necessary removal of information. Inhibition, which is a distinguishing aspect of our species, both the percent of and absolute amount of inhibition in our brains. Leading to a sort of narrative uniqueness – which may be representatively true only in narrative, but not beyond the particularity of the narrative.
It’s hard to keep the flavor, I realize, but principles of emergence and plurality (in systems of information) might run more deeply. Ironically more than purely hermeneutical, a story is successful more when it allows the emergence of time-less, non-hermeneutical aspects that come from (here it comes) BEYOND (nudge-nudge, wink-wink, without italics) the narrative, both of the conveyor and the conveyed to, more than ‘constituted’ or functions by the same. That is, it acts a bridge into larger integrative systems.
We often mix story and narrative as concepts, using contextual domain conceptually to distinguish the two. That’s perhaps not a great idea even if a bit inevitable. Stories are always created (constructed or inferred,) by the receiving. An author never tells a story – they present elements of narrative that might induce the creation of story by others. You know, from ‘in the beginning there was the verb,’ to ‘it was a dark and stormy night’. Or call me Ishmael. Or even… ‘deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans, there lived a country boy….’ Anyway.
Opening arguments for the prosecution
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you: look here, at me. What do you see? A man in the middle of his life, 40 or so, full head of lightly waved dark brown hair, off-gray suit shaded with a hint rust-red, shined off-red shoes – I shine them myself – white skin, clean shaven face, straight posture. Decent jaw, maybe. Well, that depends.
Some of you see something a little different, certainly different than what I see, of course. I can’t see you, not directly, though if you’re imagining yourself sitting in this gallery listening to me as I address the jury, maybe I can. See you, that is. You might already be there, or here, even if a little detached. Something like a fly on the wall, or a bird on the window sill outside, listening.
Maybe you hear my voice, a tenor, clear with a slight shift toward the earnest. Maybe you hear and see something different, or nothing at all, only the words on this page, their rhythm, the tone. Maybe the images they describe remaining fleeting and square or flat, like… clothes in your closet. But I hope you hear a voice, a voice above all. Because that single voice you hear is very important. They always are, singular voices. Almost, anyway.
You can describe one, qualify it: a mean voice, a kind one, superficial, intense, experienced, young, old, wise – any word, any part of it that might help you wrap yourself around it, or vice versa. My name is Berchtold, so you might call this voice ‘Berchtold’s voice’.
Sometimes you hear the words being said before any voice speaks. You know what I mean? Yes? No? Well, let’s see – look over there, at those people sitting in the accused stand. Or at the others in this hall – their colleagues, friends, family. Just look and listen a second. It’s different, isn’t it, the way you hear, the tone, their voices, the words to qualify, a little fuzzy still, a murmur. Like you’re searching, a pause. The intro to a familiar song before you recognize it. Now… if you listen a little more closely, try to really imagine those people and that sound… you might hear your own voice quieting, and in that quiet hear a different part of you growing louder. Hear it? It’s a … pretty deep part of you. A part of all of us.
Anyway. I realize opening a trial by talking about words and voices seems weird but – this isn’t an ordinary trial, and the voice thing is an important point, that change in what you hear, maybe what you feel, when you listen closely to me or to these words or if you lift your eyes from this screen and stop – to listen to everything around you, wherever you are. Maybe the most important point.
Because this trial is about what you hear and why. What we hear. And why. Outside, inside, real, imagined. And about having enough silence inside to let yourself hear things in the first place.
And it’s about deciding which voice you choose to hear, not the voice someone else tries to make you hear. That man sitting at the beginning of the accused stand, see him? The short one there on the seat in front closest to you? Well, he’s gone now from your world, though he’s still in this one.
He had a lot of trouble listening to people – because he couldn’t stand that silence. So he listened to voices instead, ones he chose. Bad ones. One of them even caused his premature death, but we’ll get to that later. Sometimes voices outside can be so loud, and so convincing – kind of like those old Looney tunes cartoons about the battle between good and evil, a small white angel on the right, a little red devil on the left, each whispering in your ear. “Take out the garbage.” “No, do it tomorrow morning. Sit back in the couch and have another beer,” and so on. Right? “Don’t eat the whole quart of ice cream.” “Do it, do it!” I usually do. The whole quart. Coffee and pistachio. And then I feel guilty about it the next day and don’t eat. Anyway.
I be a little careful. I’m overstepping: those aspects of this trial, the sort of deeper things like causes, motivations, emotions, those things, belong more to the attorney for the defense, in her way, my colleague Francesca, sitting over there. I’m the prosecutor, an accuser and public defender seeking justice. But a limited one. I’ll present the main narrative, in pieces, the almost bureaucratic parts of – this divorce, the main story at hand. The people directly and indirectly involved, events, facts, history, the law – though laws are easily bent, we all know that. Powerful people don’t follow the same laws as the est of us, at least in our world. But they have to here, in this one. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. In a word, I’m the storyteller of this divorce. Who doesn’t like a good divorce story?
So. Let’s take another look at the accused. They’re not all accused of doing harm, by the way. There are a couple of good people there, guilty only of trying to make the world a better place. I wish there were more. Actually there are. Most people, most of us, have kind hearts, or want to. But you won’t find many sitting over here.
That first person I mentioned there on the left, let’s call him Mike. I’ve placed him there as he was a few years ago at age 51 but sometimes you’ll see him differently. Like I said, he’s gone from your world now, the real one, so I suppose he’s more like a voiceless ghost than a personage here. There may be one or two of those in this word-filled room. Mike is sitting so you can’t really tell how short he was. Really short. Barely taller than a…. garden gnome. Which is no fault of his, not even a fault. Neither is that wide, small face he has that makes his eyes seem bigger than they are. But the bulging of those eyes, his empty expression – look close. See what I mean? Empty. Joyless. A little bored. Even a little sad – and those red pants he has, very expensive red pants. Sigh. Well… those are on him.
You probably wouldn’t imagine he was a what we call a VIP – I don’t get why we call them ‘very important persons’. More important than who? A life-saving surgeon? A biologist who discovers a new way to treat cancer? A mother who worked 2 jobs to pay for her kids university? He wasn’t any of those. Just one of the more powerful business executives in his country for awhile, before he started screwing up…. pretty badly. Nothing else, no lives saved, no new discoveries.
But he was filthy rich. Mike, would you kindly take out your wallet and show the jury your American Express card? Thank you. See? It’s not an an urban legend. Black. No spending limit. He could have walked into a Ferrari dealership and drive away in a roadster. Or take a friend and drive away with two. Or stroll into a watch store on a whim – even if they were closing, by the way: he just had to flash the card and they would’ve gladly reopen to let him in, wrap a watch around his wrist that costs, well, about as much as the one he has on, actually. Mike, would you show the jury how much you paid for that? It’s a Patek Philippe, right? Just raise fingers. 5-6-7. Seven thousand? No? Ah, 70 thousand. You had a small collection of those, if I recall. Any of them more expensive that the one you have on? My apology. A dumb question. Ok, you can sit back down.
link to Patek Philippe: https://www.patek.com/en/collection/new-models-2018?gclid=Cj0KCQjw5qrXBRC3ARIsAJq3bwq5ss-DPJ7bAUEi80kdYzwoVZodZ4zZligtwu7LFlEZdDuW0DMtU5MaAl2sEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds&gclid=Cj0KCQjw5qrXBRC3ARIsAJq3bwq5ss-DPJ7bAUEi80kdYzwoVZodZ4zZligtwu7LFlEZdDuW0DMtU5MaAl2sEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds
70 thousand. I would guess that’s more than at least a few of you earn in a year. Before taxes. Which reminds me: Mike, would you stand again and show the jury how much you paid in capital gains taxes over the last decade of your life? Zero? No answer. A finance exec like you didn’t make any money at all in the stock market or investing, art, books, real estate? I’ll remind you that here even in gesture, all lies are forbidden. It is however your right to choose not to answer. No answer? Hmm. Sit back down. Red pants. Even dead, he’s still a tax evader. Can’t help himself. That’s what they call it for us anyway, non-vip ordinary folk. They call it ‘fiscal optimization.’ Really, they do.
That was only to show you – money, in this case, there’s no shortage of. Of course all that money didn’t save him from a relatively early grave, probably actually contributed to it. Anyway.
A few of you might be thinking that he and others on trial, deserve their wealth. The usual spiel: they worked hard, the worked smart, free markets, competition and all that. Sometimes that’s true, and you’d be right. But I’ll be showing you how badly he fucked up and damaged the companies he worked for, even destroying a nationally strategic one, basically. And it wasn’t only him, of course. You’d be surprised how badly and how how often many famous managers, we confuse them now-a-day with businessmen but they’re not, fuck up. I’ll be presenting evidence that will condemn most of those people sitting there in the front row. And not a few seated behind. But the thing is, like the law, once you’re a certain kind of VIP – you don’t have to worry about that, about actually doing a good job, even a bad job. You only have to make sure that you fuck up big enough. Too many of the rest of us are always ready to compromise responsibility, find scapegoats in exchange for… table scraps.
Like that sun-tanned guy near the end, with the wavy, longish, really black hair. Mr. Olive, we’ll call him. He’s a practicing Italian suburban lawyer. His story is gonna piss you off, I’m sure. A real slimy bastard. It’ll be rough, once we get to his case, for not to at least suppose his complicity with his client’s adversaries – even rougher than supposing that that’s his natural hair color. Be kind. The associate he hired is at least 20 years younger than he is. And she has long, really black hair, to. They’re… friends. Wink wink. At least he isn’t wearing red pants. It will be up to you to determine wether his complicity was implicit or explicit. In the very least, I’ll prove he is guilty of perjury – against his own ex-client, for personal gain. Table scraps.
Sometimes it’s more than a few than a few scraps. Many more. Millions more. You might recognize that old guy in back, the one with the mustache. He’s a well-known leftist politician in Italy, at least he calls himself left. We use ‘liberal’ sometimes. Though we’ll only have Mike’s words regarding a specific case of a pay-out – a pretty big one. Politics is an expensive business. Corruption and politics, wow, ya’ think? At least he has gray his hair. He’s vip enough that he doesn’t need to color it. That politician’s name also begins with an M. by the way. Maybe it isn’t only a coincidence. In Italy many first born boys have name that begins with an M but that’s a subject for Francesca, the defending attorney. Anyway. It’s important because the subsequent management, or mismanagement, of that company in question then resulted in the demise of a strategic industry for their country. Let me take a sip of water.
I had thought, when I was assigned this trial, that it would be a direct example of gender discrepancies, male chauvinism. You know, the usual divorce story. And there is a lot of that here. So I was surprised when it turned out to be not at all a men vs. women thing. It’s pretty much an everyone against women thing. That, to, is a topic more down Francesca’s ally. But those women on the accused stand, well, I suppose, from a woman’ perspective, you could call them traitors. As many witnesses in the gallery. Lawyers, judges, ex-prostitutes… all of them misogynists. It doesn’t matter much whether you have a sausage in the middle.
Let me take an example or two. Let’s see – her, the woman sitting in the middle, the honorable judge Star. I’ll be showing you how her career took an unlikely upturn after a series of… creative sentences, let’s say. Sentences always in favor of rich or powerful men. Which usually means against women, usually first wives. But I’m sure the judge won’t agree. Or the career of that woman in the back, the pretty one. Yes, you, Francesca, her name is Francesca as well. Don’t worry, you’re not on trial here, merely a parenthesis. That Francesca was an ordinary banking clerk when she became one of Mike’s many lovers. 6 months later she was a vice president at the branch where she worked. Which turned out to be very convenient for Mike. Because mysteriously, his signature appeared as a full investment manager on his ex-wife and mother-in-law’s savings account at that same branch, an account opened by the same Francesca. That means, in case you don’t know, that he could not only manage the account but also make withdrawals. Even though, according to both his ex-wife and mother.in-law, he wasn’t in the room, not even the building, not even in the same street, when the account was drawn up and the paper worked signed. But when Mike tossed his ex-wife out of their house after 25 years of marriage and 35 years as a couple, then decided to divorce, that his signature came in handy. He emptied the account – even though for him there wasn’t much in it. Even more mysteriously, neither his ex-wife nor ex mother-in-law were ever notified of those his odd withdrawals – even though policy and law, for that matter, would have obliged the bank to notify them. His ex-wife merely found the account emptied, later, when she went to check. Nice goin’ Francesca. Sisters. Doin’ it for themselves.
That’s the smallest of stuff in this case. You’ll be hearing much more… awful things as this story unfolds, and I am sorry about that. I wish you didn’t have to. That was only to demonstrate that it isn’t at all only a man thing, and corruption, in this case, there’s no shortage of. And sex. Prostitution in this way or that. Excuse me. Another sip of water.
Ahh. Clean and cool. When you’re thirsty, nothing’s better. It’s kind of …the place of all our beginnings. Water, I mean. Water can have a kind of voice. You pause whatever you’re doing to move yourself wherever you’ll find something to quell your thirst, when you’re thirsty. And drink. And afterwards go do something else. Imagine what would happen if you became thirsty all the time? What do you think you would do? What would it feel like? How would it change you? Just a thought. For now.
So, where was I? Ah. Sex. Prostitution. Voices. What kind of voice do you hear now? A bored one? Maybe curious? Indifferent? I hope not the last. But in case you are, let’s shake things up and change the scene. Literally. We can do that here, by the way: take a breath, exhale and before its end you and I can be somewhere else. Like taking a sip of water. See the courtroom disappearing? New walls, new… colors, different smells. A different place.
The place at the beginning. Not the beginning of the whole story. Or of all the stories of all the people involved in this case. But it is, or it was, a beginning. The …difficult finding of all those other starting points falls to Francesca, my colleague for the defense, who will be up in awhile. My job is much easier. All I have to do is start at the beginning of the divorce, here – in this clean, well-painted, well-lit stairwell. That woman standing there, fixed in time, in tears, suitcase beside her on the floor. See her, her long, straight hair, dark? Olive skin, sharp features… but pretty, isn’t she, despite the tears. And very thin. If you think she looks a little like her, the woman on Mike’s other side, you’re right. It’s his first wife, though a younger version. Much younger – this was and is a terribly long, horribly destructive divorce even by Italian standards. It’s amazing how she’s held up.
Before I explain what’s going on in this scene, click the ‘play’ button to let its time start to move, I have to ask you to remember something. Though there may be reasons why or how people become rotten inside and out, hard times, sad stories, dramatic childhoods and the like or even simply ‘doing it because everyone else does it’, those reasons rarely provide justification, let alone excuse. We do have space, all of us, to decide. Decide which voices we listen to, and what we do. Most of the accused here are… monsters, real monsters, who enjoyed and enjoy hurting people, stealing from them – that means all or any of the rest of us, and several of the remaining others gleefully sell themselves into unconditional servitude to the powerful. You know, VIP slaves. Voluntary ones. Slaves. That’s one word you can use. I would use more colorful ones.
Let me step over to Pippa, we’ll call her, the woman in tears – who looks a lot younger than her age. She’s already 48 in this scene. About 15 years have gone by since. Really.
Look at the …sadness, would you say? Resignation though, is more like it. On her face. Now I’ll turn on the chronology, get time moving again, and let her step into the arriving elevator. She lifts her bag, in she steps, door closes, away she goes – there’s a taxi arriving on the street outside.
The taxi will take her to a second apartment, a tiny place in the suburbs she bought with money her mother gave her after selling the family home. It’s the place she stays when her mother needs someone near. Which is frequent.
Now, let me hold time still again and step through to the other side of the apartment door. Now you can see – yes, it’s good’ol Mike. And yup, he still has red pants on. And is wearing a Patek Philippe. Now you can see how short he was. See the difference when I stand close – and I’m not that tall.
Let’s go in close so we can focus on the expression on his face. Ouch. Scary. Determined, would you say? Or – certain. Very sure of himself. A little cold. And… bemusement, I think. There is pleasure there. And still that emptiness in his eyes Looks oddly familiar. That guy will appear in this story to, believe or not. He and Mike knew each other. Birds of a feather.
Oh, I’d like to take a stroll into his mind and show you how happy Mike is at this moment – he just kicked Pippa out of their house, made her pack her pack her bags, shoved her out the door – he wasn’t so new to using the physical, at least with small, thin women and girls. Again though, those kinds of things are the province of the defense but I can tell you monsters… are monsters all the way down. They’re not like you and me. They do stuff, bad things, and we let them get off without consequence.
Let’s back away, get a view of that apartment inside. Gorgeous, isn’t it? It was made up of 2 apartments that Pippa looked very hard to find, then designed their unification, the new floor plan, supervised all the restructuring, all colors, textures, furniture, artwork, everything – all the way down to the book lamps and door handles. Turned out well. Mike intends to use it as a sort of … demonstration of his wealth and taste. He needs to hire someone for that. He was a bit of a goat in those things, they say in Italy. A Gomer. Shame his first wife won’t be allowed in ever again after all that work – ever. Despite being legally the owner, at least of a part of it. 85 percent of this apartment, along with nearly everything else including the Patek Phillipes, will end up in – her hands, his second wife, Ursula. She wanted all of it, even the scraps but had to let go of a few. At the time of this scene she’s still working, selling her …services. Her number is on Mike’s cellphone. He will be calling her shortly, maybe already proposing a kind of deal.
When his first wife and Mike were younger and not so well off he hadn’t wanted children. The usual reasons, career and such – the career he’d convinced her was paramount to everything else, including her own. He’d even used his ‘sad’ face. Like most monsters he has faces he uses. At the time of this scene he’d changed his mind. Nothing wrong with that but… how can I phrase this. He’d…. asked around, to not much avail. Lots of ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you.’Irina’s rejection, Irina was another one of his younger mistresses, a GFE, a very expensive one, actually stung him a bit – we’ll get to her later. She was actually pretty important in all this. They met in the states. Anyway. You probably get the idea. Mike isn’t looking to have children like the rest of us do. He’s looking to hire someone to be the mother of his child. Which isn’t the same thing. At all.
I’m abusing my space – my colleague has the same rights as I, maybe more because she has more interesting things to say. Let’s take a last look here and then get back to the courtroom to let her speak. Sigh. Red pants.
That moment, that scene, I’m using as the beginning. Mike had already prepared for the moment of course: that savings account I mentioned earlier had already been emptied, all their mutual properties had been sold and the proceeds disappeared into the labyrinth of offshore shell companies he used. The apartment had just been completed – he was well aware how efficient and competent his first wife was and is for those sorts of things. He simply waited until she finished the job to make up an excuse to toss her out, to bring in Ursala to have a child. You might wonder why his first wife had been so – gullible. I’ll answer: we all have a history. That to, is an important point in this trial. Those personal histories.
Because it’s from that history, our own personal culture, that we learn – not only what voice to listen to or the voices we hear, but also the one we speak with. The world we allow. There’s no shortage of dramatic personal history in this case. We’ll get to it soon, chapter by chapter. Even Mikes, or maybe especially Mike’s. Who learned to listen to a kind of never ending thirst early on. A thirst or voice that was always there in his background, like a distant murmur. That became louder and louder as time moved forward. Voices.
Thank you for listening to mine. I will now leave the floor for Francesca….
Opening Arguments for the Defense
…. thank you, and thank you for the kind words, Berchtold. You might be a little optimistic. I don’t know if y’all will find what I have to say all that interesting. There’ll be some science, not too much, don’t roll your eyes. There’ll be emotional stories, to. Emotions, after all, are also part of the science. A big part, actually. I’ll do my best to keep things even, liven things up when I can. Better gravy than no grease at all, right? That’s something people say where I’m from. Don’t tell anybody but I’m not completely sure what it means. A little. By the way, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, good morning to y’all.
My name is Francesca, as my colleague mentioned. Francesca Ditonno. Unlike him, I’m not going to open my introduction by talking about what you see or what you hear. You already know that. I’m here, for one, the blonde hair is all mine – not like Mr. Olive’s. Legs to, the whole thing. Everything came from my mom and dad. Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly runs clean to the bone. Take another Mr. Olive over there – see what I mean?
I am a bit younger than Berchtold but don’t let the looks fool you – only a smidge. You can tell from my accent that I’m a southern girl. We smile a little differently but we’re the same, basically. Well, maybe. It depends on what we’re talking about. I would ask each of you to smile, see if it’s different than mine, tell me a little about yourselves but the judge says I’m not supposed to ask any single jury member any questions. So, let’s get down to business right away. Could you dim the lights now, please? A little more. Ok, thank you. Let me click this little switch here and… there we go.
Pretty cool, eh? You probably know what that squiggly blue thing is. It’s a brain, of course, a human one. Well, a 3 dimensional model of a brain anyway. Don’t worry: we’re not going into the science stuff just yet. It is neat though. Makes me smile like a baked possum. We can spin it around like this, or close in on one place… see how that works, that close-up? We can step inside like Berchtold did with the past. Change the view, change the colors – blue to green, or red… any color we want, make it easier to see how things connect and change. A lot of options.
A lot of this trial has to do with that. Not this brain. But theirs, the people you’ll be judging. I’m not here to defend them, only to maybe see why they did what they did, and do what they do. Complete their stories like a swing on a front porch. It’s not only their story. It’s ours, to, both here and outside, where the weather’s been getting sticky as day old gravy on a plate.
You’ve heard the line: ‘No man is an island,’ right? That’s from an old poet, John Donne. He was right. It’s true. Let me show y’all… so I have to push this light and… voice commands? Well I’ll . Ok: ‘Run Donne’s Island.’
There we go. See all that activity, the way those yellow lights turn on, then there, then there, then all over… that’s someone listening to someone else during a conversation. Actually, it’s that teenage girl – you can see the hologram of her image up there on the left. We all here are connected because of those things, whether we like or not. All of our brains are always talking to each other even if we don’t hear it. Like those voices Berchtold alluded to. Our brains, you know, groove together, wherever we are, and whomever we’re with. So it’s better to keep good company. Birds of a feather.
It’s true even with places. This room, with me, or with the screen you’re looking at right now. You’re interacting with it, processing all those…differences, and turning energy into information, comparing it with all the people you’ve ever met. Wherever you’ve been. Every person or place you’ve ever interacted with, your parents, your sisters, brothers, friends, even the clerk at the grocery store. We carry them all inside. They all changed you a little, changed that, our brain – maybe you added a connection between here and here, the white and blue lines. Or took one away from here. The past is gone and maybe we can’t change it. But all that past interacts with you in the here and now, changing the present. So who knows? I’m from the south. Maybe one day I’ll put syrup on my grits. Well, maybe we won’t go that far. You can take a girl from the south but you can’t take the south from a girl.
The neat thing about that: if the past changes the present, maybe we can flip it, make the present change the past a little.
…will you turn the lights back up? Bless your heart. There are plenty of people involved in this case. Just counting the ones here, witnesses and accused, how many are there? 50? 60? Architects, fathers, managers, friends, politicians, a whole bunch of people. But its only dominated by three, the first three over there on the accused stand. At least, the narrative is. They’re why we’re here, the ones responsible for pulling us in. Mike and his two wives, Pippa and Ursula. There’s quite an age difference between the first two and the last. Mike was a man, we all know, and a business man to boot. When he was alive, he thought he could buy the moon. A real egg sucking dog, piss on your leg and tell you it was raining. But was he always that way? If you look at Ursula, his second wife, whose nose is so high she could dry in a rainstorm, a snake in the grass to, slicker than owl do-do. There’s a lot of irony in that, seeing what she would do to him. You might think: yes, birds a feather again, or what goes around comes back. Then how do you figure Pippa, his first wife? Nothing wrong with her. Nice lady, generous, thoughtful, graceful to. Those other two look like the ugly tree whipped them silly. What did Pippa do to deserve all that meanness? Know what I mean?
Let me put another way. I’m Francesca Ditonno. That’s my name. It doesn’t mean much. You could Google me maybe, find out where I went to school, where I’ve lived, all my relatives, look at a picture of me on vacation in Barbados, or the first time I made pizza. Or the last time I made sushi.
And you might be able to read some comments on Facebook, or find other pictures on Instagram, maybe even look up articles I published, find other cases I was involved in. Or you could if there was a me outside of here. Of course, there might be. I don’t know. Maybe I should Google myself. Maybe we all should. You never know what you’ll find. Francesca Ditonno.
All those things, the people, places, things done, meals prepared… they’re all part of me. Just like they are for any of the accused. But what you might find on the surface doesn’t tell you a lot. Not really. Like Mike. He has his own history, people and places. You’d find a lot of information if you Googled him. But all that… doesn’t help us too much. A little. To find out why we did what we did, why we do what we do… you might need all that stuff, all those things that come together. Or you might need only a few moments, those so few moments, which really had an impact. Wonderful or terrible scenes where what’s inside and outside come together for good or bad.
Take Mike. His mother’s brain – you can see her there in the back of the gallery – didn’t develop very well. A low IQ, not that that matters much but it can. She was out of control, so narcissistic to want even her boys to desire her. You cannot Google that. Or have his father spent most of his time faraway in other countries, leaving Mike alone to deal with her mothers drama, be the man of the house, take care of his two younger brothers. I’ll be showing you what that sort of trauma did to his young brain, using the moment he was called away from school at 10 to come back home to take care of his crying, screaming mom, lying on the floor half naked. Can you imagine how that might alter the kind of relationship he’d have with the women the rest of his life? It make Ursula’s arrival into his life.. not so surprising. He viewed women as… not even prostitutes. As he would always say: ‘fuck as many bitches as you can.’ It’s not that those moments alone make up what most of us will do for the rest of our lives. Then again. The most important decisions of your life you make blind. It’s not only luck. Biology plays a part.
I would go on but after seeing how long Berchtold talked in the first post, he’s decided to set limits, at least here. Y’all probably agree. So I’ll close by saying again – I am not here to defend the accused but to place them into a context. Maybe you will be convinced enough to show mercy, even find one or more of these defendants innocent. That is not for me to say. Maybe you won’t. Maybe the arguments I present will do the opposite, convince you that the defendants should be whooped tell they’re red for eternity. I will in any case try to show you why, partially, these people did what they did. And do what they do. You’ll be the judge.
Bless y’all for listening. I’ll sit now and let the prosecutor call the first defendant to the stand.