Laura is arrested and arraigned
Laura imagined she leaped into the air and with her best ninja moves karate chopped Dickov in the neck and bolted for the door, grabbing his gun in one swift perfect motion and spraying the entire floor with bullets. But alas she was trapped and didn't have any true lust for violence.
Laura was led off by what she now fully realized were two NYPD detectives. Dickov shuffled his feet as he led her through the corridor to a waiting elevator.
“It's only a misdemeanor.”
“Don't ever contact them again and you'll be fine. You are lucky it's not a felony.’
‘Was that guilt she detected in his voice?’
She pulled out her phone and texted Dr. Andy Ferrari
“I've been arrested.”
Dickov took her bag from her. She was placed in a small cage at the edge of the office work area. She was in there with just her phone and her thoughts. It was a holding cage she hadn't even noticed she had past when she went into the initial interview room.
“I want an attorney now.”
“Good, so contact one,” He pointed to the phone he hadn’t yet confiscated.
‘How the fuck does one pick an attorney? Especially from a cage and especially when she doesn't want her parents to know.’
She googled “New York Criminal Defense Attorney”. After examining three websites she picked the one that had the most professional looking website. He wasn't available but his secretary assured her that she had spelled Laura’s last name correctly and that the attorney would show up for the arraignment. Laura didn't even know what an arraignment was but she agreed.
She felt dumb. ‘How could I have ever thought to try and get Megan to understand my side?’ She felt a hot rage waft over her. The image of Megan's features twisting in her mind until the full image of a red-headed demon emerged. There was a steel bench but Laura opted to sit on the cold harsh floor. She felt like what homeless people must experience when society steps over them. The eyes of the office workers who were pretending not to stare burrowed into her soul as she could see them gawking out of the corner of her eye. They eyed her with suspicion and what she was certain was their derision.
“Would you like anything for lunch?” Dickov offered.
“No, no I am fine,” she couldn’t think of food at a moment like this.
“Well, I am going out. I'll return in a few. “
Her phone buzzed.
It was Dr. Ferrari texting her back. “Laura, What the Hell happened!”
She texted Itamar, “Hi.”
And shortly thereafter received his quick reply, "Laura I had a wonderful time last night but I am sorry. This won't work out as I just don't have time for a relationship right now."
The numbness returned. Then Dickov returned.
“When am I getting out of this cage?”
“Oh, you'll be out of here real late tonight if you are lucky. That's why I was asking if you wanted anything to eat.”
Her head ached. Her heart was smashed. Still, there was something alive about that moment sitting on the dirty cold floor of One Center Street.
She had failed. She could fall no further. Perhaps the pain could somehow end as she laid down hugging the linoleum. From the depths of her despair, other feelings began stirring inside of her.
She remembered similarly hugging the carpet when she was seven after her father had one of his rages fueled episodes. It was that same sense of survival which she had time and again channeled to cope with it and to be able go to school the next day numb, as if nothing had happened, just to survive. Defiance was building up inside of her.
He had hit her as a child but as her mother had explained it to her he knew better than to leave physical bruising. There was always a reason why he hit her. Because she spilled the milk. Because he didn’t like the sound of her high pitched laughter.
He had changed after his parents were both killed by a drunk driver when Laura was thirteen. He was an only child. He had to bare the grief of their death alone.
He hit Laura until the day she was physically and mentally was strong enough to hit him back.
“Clean your room, Laura”
“I am busy.”
He disconnected the computer.
She stood up and faced him,” what the fuck!”.
“I asked you to clean your room.”
He punched her square in the shoulder. She punched him back just as hard as she could. The punch landed on his shoulder. He had the look of surprise on his face. She had never once fought back. He was 6’3” and she was 5’6” at that point. It didn’t matter as she had had enough.
“Don’t ever touch me again. If you ever lay so much as a finger on me again. I will put you in the hospital. I will show you what fifteen years of abuse looks like if you ever put your hands on me again.” He knew she wasn’t joking. He never hit her again. That’s the story of how she got her father to stop using her as a “human punching bag” as Dr. Bender had once put it.
Her father’s abuse was rationalized away as punishment and he only became his full scary self behind closed doors. It was maddening to Laura that no one outside really knew what she went through. His own parents never even knew.
Laura would ask her mother “why can't you just leave him?”
“I am not ready to yet.”
“I am not sure I can make it out there on my own”
Her sister, Francesca, was rarely punished. It as her sister though who would bring her a blanket and her shoes when Laura was kicked out of the house without them. Laura came up with a nickname based on her sister’s status in the household, her excellence at math and her blonde curly locks “the Golden Girl”.
Recognizing her father’s actions as abusive and giving it that label “child abuse” would be the one thing above all else that Laura would always be grateful to Dr. Bender for.
“You do realize this IS child abuse” Dr. Bender had confronted him in a one-on-one session.
“Yes.” Professor Nickelbaum acknowledged it.
One Center Street - Present Moment
“Well, now I am hungry.”
Dickov sighed. He was at the desk filling out paperwork with his prisoner in a cage on the floor. In an act of what could only best be described as a memorable kindness, he split his sandwich in half and reach through the bars to share it with her. They ate their lunch together in silence. Grilled mushrooms with onions, spinach, and zucchini in a sundried tomato basil wrap from the corner deli with a hint of salted tear had never tasted so gourmet. He then led her out of the cell, took her bag, emptied out coins and handed it to her. Thankfully there were a lot of them as Laura had not emptied her bag in the last two weeks.
“Here. This may come in handy.”
He handed her the fistful of quarters and slipped her her credit card. He held his business card in between his two fingers and then handed it to her.
“This is to get in touch if there is anything else you want to say or later to pick up your stuff… email me.”
He took her phone, her bag and some books on sightseeing in Italy. She knew they’d find nothing exciting on her phone so maybe it was a good thing they took it. She had taken a screenshot of Altheim’s family a few weeks ago saving it onto her phone, but she had already deleted that. Her phone was password protected. She imagined them going through the trouble of unlocking it only to find the artistic shots of her neighborhood which for a time was a hobby she enjoyed.
Laura calculated there would be more than enough quarters to make a bunch of phone calls. She was fingerprinted and led towards the elevators.
Dickov held up the silver handcuff bracelets. “I have to put these on you now.” As an investigator he seemed to instinctively understand that it was more theater than necessary and that Laura was harmless.
The handcuffs themselves were not heavy however the symbolic heft was crushing around her neck. She knew that she would never contact Dr. Altheim and Dr. Bender ever again. Whatever they could say would never again matter. To her, they were dead from that moment on.
They got into a creaky old elevator, and they descended down into the dank dark belly of the beast famously known as "the tombs". It was just four floors straight down into hell.
She was in shock. Were we not all just one bad decision away from ruining our lives? For her maybe it had been one hundred and one bad decisions… She just had had that itch caught somewhere deep in the back of her mind that needed to be scratched. That unrelenting need to push that send button. And when she did she felt a pervasive sense of relief and hope. At least in sending it, she could feel she made every effort to comprehend them. To try to right the ship when the world was dangerously listing sideways to her. She had had what she thought was a sign of maturity. It was this faith that with communication anything could get better, only the doctors had rebuffed her at every turn with their scalding silence which just reiterated to her that they saw her as unworthy. They had painted her the freak.
Hot air mixed with cold as they walked down the bleak stained corridors together. Jail smelled like bleach and piss and stale bread.
There was a man with a wild look in his eyes and a comb sticking out from his afro ahead.
The thought of being raped flashed through her head.
“Are you going to put me in a cell with men?”
Dickov let out a hearty chuckle as if she was just a silly adolescent.
“No, no. We would never do that to you. I will, however, leave you here now.”
He handed Laura off through the doorway to a female officer that looked like she had wanted to go home hours ago.
“Take off your shirt, no, not your bra,” the officer barked at her as if talking to a dog.
Laura wondered if this female cop would then go home and fantasize over the state-sanctioned touching of half-clad women.
The cop made a ‘what were you thinking’ face as she took Laura’s keys. ‘I guess Dickov had forgotten to take them,’ Laura shrugged.
The weapon factor they could theoretically pose wasn’t lost on Laura. It was just an extra reminder of where they were and that ordinary items could mean the difference between life and death here in this shithole place. Now all that remained was her coins and her credit card.
Laura was so emotionally drained from the long day that she was prepared to lay down naked on the spot surrendering to the dirty floor had she been asked. She was searched and then led into a room with about fifteen other women.
Empty milk cartons and plastic sandwich bags with half eaten food littered a floor covered in gym mats. A steel bench outlined one wall. There was an alcove adorned with a toilet and overpainted chipped saloon doors. The lack of privacy made Laura cringe. Thank god she did not have her period. A black sludge covered the floor of the toilet alcove. Light in there like hope was limited. It had to filter through dust, grime, and thick iron. The inaccessible window at least ten feet above their heads looked like it had not been deep cleaned since Fiorello Laguardia had been mayor. Laura had her guard up. She was ready to be attacked.
It was filled with mostly black and Hispanic faces around the room; it became apparent immediately amongst the alleged female scum of New York City there that night there was no one there to fight. Perhaps like her, it had been merely circumstances, good intentions and convoluted wrong turns that had landed them there too.
They were all trapped there together at this existential weigh station. Stuck at a fourth world airport ready to get on a plane to nowhere. Everyone was pretty much huddled separately in their own mind’s mournful despair. Some were rocking, some hugging themselves, some stared at the wall. There were quiet conversations ongoing with neighbors while others were trying to capture elusive sleep. They stared at her with blank wide searching frightened eyes as she entered.
Was it not a coincidence that the one making the most noise was the only other white chick there in the corner yelling into the one payphone.
When she saw the phone immediately the thought of calling and gently taunting Altheim from prison crossed into Laura’s head. ‘No, Never Again!’ just the thought of communicating to that woman at all again made her stomach bile churn.
She had been revolted and jolted enough by being placed in those handcuffs that the iceberg of her emotions had dislodged and her tides shifted towards a different shore. The need to call them had been so great at times, that had it still been with her, she would have been powerless to stop it. It would have washed over her and swept her out to sea. It didn’t care about Megan Reilly’s grip on her or punishment or Laura’s future or anything that was of this earth. It had just been an unrelenting restless ghost that haunted. It was a compulsive troll with large fangs that fed off the very daylight that she had attempted to destroy it with. It was an unheard toddler's rage. It was a baby that needed a cuddle. It was a lonely middle schooler that needed friends, it was teenage angst that still needed parents.
“It’s not fair!!!” Rebecca whined into the phone.
The jovial frisky short haired girl sitting next to her tapped her on the shoulder.
“Hey, can I get a quarter?”
Laura reached into her pocket and dug one out.
“Can I get one too?”
The girl behind her put her hand out.
She ended up passing out about $2.00 in quarters. It was really no big deal to her as she knew she could make any call she needed to make using her credit card. And she still had a few quarters left for an emergency.
Rebecca was concerned about her Pomeranian, Pookie. She was worried that not getting out of there tonight meant there would be no one to take care of Pookie for the entire weekend if she got stuck going to Rikers. The only other person with a spare key was the fiance who she was accused of smashing over the head with a bottle of Pinot. Rebecca’s voice was so broken it almost didn't sound like she was speaking English into the phone. By contrast, Laura sat there cool and collected. Her childhood had trained her too well to deal with intense drama by wearing a mask.
A small ancient dusty television set hung from an elbow outside their cell. She soon learned the television is how people told time in prison considering no one had their watches or phones. If Judge Judy was on, it meant it was 4:30 pm. The news was at 6:00 pm etc.
Laura grew bored with counting the stained wall tiles and so after about an hour, she broke the silence that had pervaded the room.
“So, what's everyone in here for?” she said cheerfully as if this could be more like a summer camp gathering around a campfire and it was time to tell ghost stories.
I got into a fight with my brother.
“Shoplifting.” The cropped haired jovial shoplifter seemed the woman most in charge then asked her, “So, what about you?”
“Stalking,” Laura replied nonchalantly.
“What? You like stalked your whitey boyfriend or something? She asked, “Love gone bad?” She mocked, slapping her hands together wildly for effect.
“I stalked my therapists.”
“Well damn girl! That is badass! Now, I am a little afraid of you,” she joshed. The others were all smiles around the room enjoying the exchange.
Looking around, these women were all clearly having the worst nights of their lives.
When it was her turn to use the pay phone she called her assistant Trevor. She had written his # on her palm when she had still had her phone. She reached him.
“I’ve been arrested”.
The sound quality was terrible. It reminded her that she knew the calls in jail were recorded.
The girl who fought with her brother who Laura learned also worked as a paralegal now spoke up, “If they don't call us soon, we'll be spending the night at Rikers.” A roar of panic quickly swept through the room.
Laura tried ordering Kosher as she had no interest in the yucky looking sandwiches the others were forced to endure. They were going to respect her request; this is New York after all, only that the kitchen was closed and it could take hours.
Just then when all seemed lost, a cool breeze came in, and at 10pm the jailer entered their hallway and started calling names, “Laura Nickelbaum.” Laura stepped forward.
Her metal bracelets had been removed. It was a serious room lined with mahogany paneling that resembled Hershey chocolate bars. The benches were also made of mahogany. The finish was well worn from comforting the buttocks of the accused. Some more innocent than the next, but all condemned to sit there in that courtroom on a Friday night awaiting the prosecutor’s accusations. It was a preliminary judgment call by a small crew of individuals in courtrooms across America whose own sins were almost unchangeable. They were almost untouchable by the long wide arm of the law. The prosecutor’s consisted of a class of people whose main qualification to hold the position had been good grades at law school if not years of experience pointing fingers and collecting plea bargains. This was the round one pairing of waltzing partners. In this case, a misdemeanor charge that could go on for some time with the reverberations that left a subtle or profound imprint on a lifetime.
“Laura Nickelbaum?” A portly man with a pockmarked face and fat Rolex wagged his palm at her. He looked like every bad lawyer joke. She had no idea what to expect. She was glad to see him.
They powwowed in a booth specially built to contain their privileged conversation. He was both to the point and oddly understanding of her ordeal. For a complete stranger, he was doing a decent job at quickly being able to understand what had happened. His index finger grazed the pages as he skimmed the four stapled pages. He then raised an eyebrow.
“What is it?”
“They want the maximum allowable bail. This is bad. Really bad. They are really gunning for you.”
Her name was called out. Her alleged sins were ere read aloud at 10:00 pm for all the world to hear or at least whoever was within earshot. Two counts of stalking. Thirty-five counts of harassment. But all misdemeanor level offenses.
Each word the DA said echoing throughout the chamber of the courtroom and into eternity. The heavens cried.
She remembered it was Asher who had first used that word stalker in reference to her. Maybe he had been right and it had only just been a matter of time?
14 years earlier
They hadn't really been in touch much over high school. Asher had gone on to a fancy high school in Manhattan while Laura had gone on to study at public School in Westchester. It wasn’t that Laura’s family didn’t have the money for a private school it was more than Laura had felt disillusioned with modern orthodoxy after being weight listed at the same school Asher had gotten into. Asher and the popular kids had never been her friends. They had been together for seven and a half years and yet they were essentially mostly strangers to her. It was a tight-knit group. The popular kid's parents were all from Riverdale and their parents were friends too. It was an intergenerational clique. Laura wasn’t the only outsider but she didn’t have much in common with the other children who were also excluded and this at times had compounded the loneliness.
She had gotten Asher’s phone number from his mother. His mother would not give it out initially. She asked Laura to call back after Asher’s mid-semester testing was over.
“Hi Asher, this is Laura.” She was leaving a voicemail on his college dorm room phone.
“I am just calling to say hi and see what’s new. You don’t have to call me back if you don’t want to.” She tried to sound breezy and unattached, but she knew she came across as someone who had no confidence they were going to get their call returned. She had no real expectation he’d ever get back to her given the rocky history between them and perhaps that was for the best. She would try to reach him again live in a few hours.
She ate a salad and a chicken parmesan sandwich for lunch and did laundry. The darkness outside made her feel alone and so she decided to reach out to Asher again.
Laura dialed the phone.
It was Asher.
“How are you liking school?” she asked.
There was a noticeable pause.
“How come my suitemate who doesn't even know you said “that girl who left that message sounds like a stalker on the answering machine?”
His words pierced her heart.
“Well Asher, I guess the question really is, “I mean isn’t that really up to you to say? Do you think I am your stalker?” Laura pushed back forcefully.
“No, no. I do not think you are a stalker…,” he said more gently as if he didn’t want to hurt the girl he had never asked for or cared to know but had still grown up with.
Everything in the courtroom froze in its place. The details of the faces and the room and her alleged crimes congealed in her mind. She imagined herself as her own lawyer, her own advocate standing there explaining to the judge, the room, the world how she had landed in the crosshairs of that moment.
She had the floor and the courtroom was now her center stage. She knew this was just the arraignment and she didn't yet even understand what part this played in any broader legal sense as no one had yet explained it other than it wasn’t yet at trial but she understood she fighting for her life.
She addressed the judge: “Yes, I know I had emailed Altheim over the last eight months when I was told specifically not to but in the grand scheme I felt at the surface my behavior was justified given their core betrayal of me and an overwhelming need for answers” ‘and or a genuine apology where she could actually feel like Altheim gave a shit.’
She would continue “Judge, underneath the hurt, I found couldn’t help myself. The anxiety of the botched relationships would become so great that I couldn’t prevent myself from pressing that send button. Like eating potato chips, it was hard for me to just send one. I could get stuck in a thought loop of all the things I wanted to say or could potentially have said but that that first or second email hadn’t done justice to. The typos even would eat away at me.
Altheim had responded one time. At least she acknowledged to me that she knew she had hurt me in that one solitary email. But that one email was in no way enough to satisfy the avalanche of emotions I had felt.”
She could not eat more than one small meal a day with minimal calories to keep her going and so she quickly shed twenty pounds without trying. She had a tendency to put on weight from being an emotional overeater but at times with just the right kind of trauma, the scale went the other way.
Still talking she would say “Yes, after all those years of ignoring her Altheim had finally met with Dr. Ferrari and me to make amends. But it was only after seeing that photo months after the meeting that it had dawned on me the depth of Altheim and Bender’s entanglement. They had forged some sort of alliance that must have dated back to the very last days of my and Altheim’s therapy.
In essence, they had betrayed me. As my therapists, they knew what I wanted. They knew I had wanted a friendship with both or either of them. Becoming friends in secret with each other and excluding me in that was the ultimate act of betrayal. It was as if they had used my own worst fears and insecurities against me to get back at me for being sick and needy. While I suffered alone with the deepest feelings of inadequacy, that their rejections of me had echoed in me, they had had each other to for comfort.”
She imagined private phone calls between them where they must have mocked her as she had begged them each individually for reconciliation. In Laura’s mind, their alliance had buffered them from their feelings and from ever having to question and face what they did.
“Like, duh isn’t that what therapy is supposed to be? To challenge your deepest held assumptions and unmask your darkest self? And if so then why could there be no reconciliation? I asked myself this many many times over the years always arriving at the same frustrations. I had, of course, asked them this too (separately) over and over again in various formats. Mostly it was a message left on their answering machine.
I know sometimes it was said through anger and through the very act of defiance in contacting them when they had asked her not to. Sometimes it was loud and angry and at other times it was a roaring whisper spoken with the vulnerability of a child or with an air of defeat.”
Why if therapy was about confronting shit had both of them essentially abandoned her? Accepting that they had abandoned her made her feel fundamentally unlovable. If the people that could and should know you best don’t like you what does that even say about you?
And in the depths of despair when their ignoring her was great and it felt hopeless she did quietly end up wondering why she even cared. But she knew why she cared. They had come to represent order, and reasonableness and adulthood to her. For so long she didn’t know how to quit them and to never get their friendship let alone their approval.
Altheim had outright acknowledged in the meeting with Ferrari that she had sided with Bender. She openly favored how Bender had felt over Laura’s feelings. This was despite Laura’s protestations that Bender was exaggerating. It was despite Laura telling Altheim that Bender’s characterization was untrue. She had sensed that there was something inappropriate between Bender and Altheim. Inappropriate in the sense that Altheim as Laura’s therapist was not behaving as Laura’s fiduciary. Altheim’s negative attitude towards Laura from the beginning had its impact such that it would lead Laura to question her own feelings if not reality.
The more Altheim made Laura feel like a criminal the more Laura could spend time wondering if she was one. Altheim and Bender’s ignoring her and gaslighting of her had made seeing the photo and what it confirmed that much more explosive. Now punched in the jaw with the truth it had still been almost unfathomable to her the depravity in the two of them that led them to do that.
Altheim’s line that “it had been for my daughter” that she had gone to that dinner honoring Bender made it all the more sickening to Laura. That she could step on “someone else’s daughter” to help her child to get a leg up. Just the idea that to Altheim this would seem like a justifiable explanation was disturbing to Laura. Laura saw it obviously completely in opposition to Altheim. Altheim going there to honor Bendheim was Altheim being a terrible leader and a terrible mother.
And Altheim bringing her daughter into the conversation paralleled the spirit of the quote that had been twisted. Amongst leaving a stream of voicemail messages Laura had said to Bender something to the effect of “how would you feel if your children felt the way that I do?”.
To Laura, it was a statement that got at the heart of what she was struggling with in terms of the tug and pull of empathy and othering within the bounds of therapy. Laura could feel dramatically like the equal of a homeless outsider because her parent's marriage was broken and her parents were if not at times abusive and manipulative then merely distracted with their own concerns to really see Laura for Laura. She had once told Altheim that she had this image in her head that she had probably seen in some movie of being alone and starving looking in at the window of the Bender’s having a fine dining experience at a five-star restaurant. To which Altheim replied, “That’s creepy”. What Laura heard was “you are creepy.”
She left the messages because Bender had lied to her. Altheim had organized a phone call between them. The call had gone well to the point where Bender had said it would be ok if Laura called her again in a month. When she did call a month later it was as if Bender had denied their entire conversation and it had felt like nothing for Bender to dismiss Laura.
Bender’s exact words were “why are you calling me?” Bender’s attitude had launched Laura into an emotional tizzy. Now Laura started to feel like almost nothing she could say mattered. She learned the hard way that that wasn’t true. The reality was that only the bad things she said mattered. Anything good at that point was ignored.
She understood all this intellectually but emotionally she was struggling. Her hope that she could be understood pushed past an intense and rising anxiety and instincts of self-preservation. The silence Bender and Altheim had perpetrated upon her had been so complete and literally dehumanizing that she yearned for the warmth of the hug of being understood.
It was Dr. Bender who once characterized to her that we all have a strange relationship to our troubles. “if everyone amongst a group of people had put their problems together and those troubles were represented as a pile of shoes and we were asked to take a pair we would each select our exact original pairs. Laura’s mother used to often say “for every problem, there is a gift. You have the problem because you need the gift.” There Laura was leaning-in to the situation and talking. Laura also wanted to believe. She was hurting and wanted to affirm there could be a world and within it a system that cared.
Laura saw the photo approximately six months after Altheim had agreed to a forty minute sit down three-way conversation with Dr. Ferrari after ignoring Laura for eight long years. Laura had to hard bargain for the forty minutes. Dr. Altheim had wanted to keep it to just twenty minutes. Laura balked at the initial offer of twenty minutes. What could ever be accomplished in twenty minutes after so long? They would just barely be seated and the interaction over before time was up. It had come out in Dr. Ferrari’s pre-talk with Altheim that she over the years consulted with no less than ten colleagues and all of them had told her not to re-engage with Laura.
It was clear Altheim had at least held some guilt over the decision to stonewall Laura. Altheim had been stingy with expressing any emotion inside the therapy room. To Laura, it had been a revelation to hear Altheim even so much as hint at her inner emotional experience. To get the meeting at all Laura had to promise to both Dr. Ferrari and Dr. Altheim that she would never again contact Dr. Altheim ever. The meeting was so wrought with emotion and bittersweet for Laura. It had delivered an elusive peace until she stumbled upon the photo.
“They betrayed me”. The words tasted metallic in her mouth. In explaining the little that had been revealed she knew the prosecution would never understand the contradiction that she had been used by the two women who had obsessed over her transgressing the boundaries of therapy. In the end, Bender and Altheim were just fine with using those boundaries not to protect the ‘patient’ as they had been historically constructed but rather to ‘otherize’ Laura. It was much like a husband must feel when his wife sleeps with his best friend. However, Laura appreciated that while people can relate to the hurt of adultery almost no one could relate to why her therapists had meant so much. She felt the sharp pangs of shame pierce her kidneys as she thought about why she cared.
Unless one had really delved into the thick culture of therapy this might just be hard to understand. She had a hard time explaining it sometimes even to herself. All she knew is it hurt like hell and made her feel like she couldn’t breathe and somewhat wanted to die. She was certain intellectually at the core of it, like everything else in this life, lay what she termed “mommy issues”. She had attached to the idea of having wanted a friendship with them. In more recent years it became wanting a sense of closure and for the therapists to admit simply that they were wrong and that they had been incompetent if not cruel with their actions.