161017-customaryShe’s balancing a carryout container in one hand. Church food, I assume, since it’s Sunday and she’s wearing a dress. A dress, low heels and a wig, actually, and standing out like a sore thumb on the trail this autumn afternoon.

“Is that a preacher?” She points to the pocket where Thom Hartmann is holding forth. A podcast. I tell her he’s a pundit, so yes and no.

Then I start to walk ahead, but she keeps asking questions, so I match her stride and we talk. Nothing out of the ordinary. Not at first. You don’t know what’s uppermost in a person’s mind until they tell you.

“I was raped as a child,” she says, seizing the tail of something just said about Trump. Whether segue or setup, all of a sudden I’m the anonymous confessor, the stranger on a train you open up to between stops then never see again.

“Momma took me to the preacher and the preacher told momma to take me to the police.”

“On your left!” from behind us. A cyclist whizzes by.

“Did she do that?” I ask.


“Nobody was punished, then?”

Not possible, she says. Not in those days. “The police ain’t here to help nobody no how.”

True enough, I say. The presumed helpfulness of law enforcement is hardly an open question, not for me, and certainly not for her, black citizen of the national security state.

She touches my arm and asks confidentially, “If you was on a jury, and a man raped a woman, would you have him sodomized?”

I wait for the joggers approaching us to pass, then answer, “That would be kind of Biblical, wouldn’t it?” An eye for an eye, a rape for a rape.

“Yes, it would. It’s what Jesus would do, too. If I was a judge, I’d send that man to a doctor and I’d have him sodomized.”

If you were a judge in 13th century Mongolia, I think, but again I don’t argue, because again I don’t disagree.

And come to think of it, we did have Abu Ghraib, didn’t we? Rectal feeding? That was a thing. Or is.

And we do have Guantanamo Bay.

Closer to home, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2008 that forced catheterization (pushing a catheter up a male prisoner’s urethra into his bladder) in the context of a drug test doesn’t qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. (LeVine v. Roebuck, 550 F.3d 684)