Years ago, I was in court testifying for a friend, and the defense attorney was doing his thing: trying like hell to discredit me. (Good luck with that, bruh.)

“So you’re saying you drank some beer and smoked a few bowls.”

He said this in a lazy faux-SoCal sort of way. It was probably my long hair and slow talking that made him feel like he had a license to do so. But he didn’t know shit about me.

“No” I rebutted. “I said I had a beer bottle in my hand, and I took a few tokes from a bowl.”

It bothered me how this guy’s rendition of me was admissible in court, even though he was anything but unbiased, and even though all he knew about me was what he saw that day and what he’d read in a transcript. This was our very first conversation: a fun Q&A with the goal of making me look like a loser, someone not worth listening to. Such is the point of a cross-examination in our justice system.

“Tell me, Mr. Flamer, what were doing this whole time, up by yourself while everyone else was asleep?”

“Just sort of zoning out.”

He looked around the court even though there was no jury to impress, just a judge, who he probably knew much better than I did.

“Just sort of zoning out? Could you elaborate on that, Mr. Flamer?”

“I like to think.”

“When you’re high?”

“No. All the time. It’s just something I do.”

“So you’re saying you like to stay up late and zone out?”

“No, I’m saying I like to sit still and do nothing.”

This guy was looking for something, and he wasn’t going to find it. I had a job, a home, a girlfriend, and a stable upbringing. But above all, I liked who I was. You can’t pierce the confidence of someone who has that. And the more you try, the more you look like a fool.

But he kept pushing, kept searching. I was full of surprises.

I wasn’t a stoner
I had a degree
I made more than him
My boss loved me
I was well read
I was monogamous
I was content

He looked at his notes, flipped through the yellow-lined pages.

His ace in the hole fell deeper into the hole. He had a look on his face like a hunter, realizing for the first time out there in the cold and icy snow, that he was the one being hunted.

He thrusted and parried a few more times before dropping his notepad to his side.

“No further questions, your honor.”

Yeah, that’s right. Take a seat, bruh.

You mess with the bull, you get the horns.