I heard a scream from behind a closed door. It was a painful scream, one of agony and terror – like a young child crying out for help. The moment I heard it, I woke up, startled. My face was covered in sweat; my heart was pounding like a drum. I got up, sat on the edge of the bed, and checked the time – it was three o’clock in the morning. I walked to the bathroom and turned on the light above the sink. When I looked up in the mirror, I saw an unfamiliar person staring back at me. It was my reflection, of course, but it appeared different as if I were looking at a complete stranger.

I opened the medicine cabinet door and reached for the yellow pill bottle that I typically grab during these bouts. I twisted the cap open, took out a pill, and washed it down with half a glass of water. Then I came out of the bathroom and crawled back in bed. I still had five hours before I was supposed to wake up to go to work.

Every couple of nights, this pattern would repeat itself. Unwillingly, I’d find myself outside the door screaming from the other side. I would suddenly wake up with cold sweats and then spend hours staring at the ceiling, trying to go back to sleep, or I would have to take something to calm my nerves. This was my life filled with recurring nightmares of everything that I went through as a child.

My past, particularly my early childhood, was not ordinary, like most other children. I did not have positive experiences and memories that would help shape my adult life. So, here I was, a grown man, independent with a stable career, and living comfortably in my own home, fearing my own reflection. Keeping in mind all that happened to me as a child, I am surprised to have come as far in life as I have.


“Can you describe how your adoptive parents treated you once Paul Wilson was born?”

There was a long pause as I looked across the room at the jurors, then to my right at the attorneys looking back at me. I looked over at my adoptive father one last time as he was staring down at his lap, probably continuing with his prayers. Paul was staring at a notepad on the table next to his attorneys.

“Do you want some water?” the judge asked me.

“There is some water up there, your honor.” Ms. Gaines said.

“I have some. Thank you,” I told the judge.

I needed to regain my confidence. Of everything I rehearsed, I hadn’t gone over where to start and how to end my testimony. After taking a sip of water, I set the glass down on the railing in front of me. My mind was focused squarely on that glass. Finally, I took another deep breath in and began speaking, “What I am about to tell you are the experiences I suffered as a child. It all began when…”

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