Thursday, April 23, 2009


The rain started falling in a steady grey mist while I sat inside the courthouse at Livingston Street. We watched a video about the significance of jury duty, complete with no-name actors dressed up as Europeans, and then I cozied into my chair and typed. Once or twice, I checked email. It was nice to be inside, knowing no one around me, knowing no one would talk to me for a long time. Occasionally a woman entered the room and called the names of people who were going to be interviewed and, most likely, selected for a trial. My name wasn’t called.

Then, she said we could go. “Ladies and Gentleman, you may all leave; the judge doesn’t need you. You are done for eight years.” She gave a rueful smile and thumped a stack of papers on the desk in front of her to organize them into a perfect pile. We could leave! There was a satisfied murmuring throughout the room as folks started gathering their coats, stuffing paperbacks into pockets and purses.

Ben and I waved at each other. I opened my umbrella and crossed the street towards him, and we walked up Smith Street together. This place, or that place? We read menus and deliberated. We had nowhere to be and decided to drink beer. We stuffed ourselves on French fries and sandwiches, slurped cold beer, gossiped. It was delicious. When I stood up, I stumbled into him and then tripped on my way into the bathroom. I realized with some embarrassment that I was drunk – or if not drunk, then on my way. But I couldn’t stop giggling.

We decided to “do work.” We walked in the rain for long minutes, our toes getting damp, complaining about the chill in the air, until we found a nice coffee shop. Ben complained about the way the girl made my English Breakfast tea. There was no internet service. We discussed Ben’s book and I tinkered with the piece I’m writing, a maudlin account of how death is handled in offices. It was supposed to be funny, originally, but as is typical, I became too serious about everything. Now I don’t know what to do with it.

Our stomachs were starting to turn uneasily from the bulky combination of beer, grease, meat and caffeine. We found an ice cream parlor with internet access, and observed the groups of children and their mothers who were sitting in the back. It was very quiet. The rain kept falling and the children squealed while the mothers spoke in low, soft tones. The children pulled on rain boots and touched the flowers in vases that were sitting on the tables. Goodbye, said some of the women cheerfully, leading their children by the hands out the door; Goodbye, waved the others, who were still sitting at their tables, sipping chai lattes and helping their children spoon strawberry ice cream into their mouths.

The rain stopped and we had no more work to do or emails to send, or if we did, we had given up the pretense of caring about any of it, so we went for a walk. Back up Smith Street, past the apartment he and Mark shared, the bars they used to frequent, and as we walked we reminisced about those years, and I tried to think of happy memories from that time period with Mark but couldn’t. We thought that was funny, that I had no happy memories, and giggled about it. It felt nice to be able to joke about it without much of a twinge at all, no twinge really, a healthy handful of years later. We said goodbye to Smith Street and walked uphill.

We found a small bar, a tiny bar, with fresh local beers on tap and a row of flavored bitters for various whiskey drinks. A few people came in, settled into tables, and Ben and I sat at the bar. The door was open and the breeze was cold. We sat with our coats on and complimented the beer. It was very crisp and delicious. Everyone at my office thought I’d spent the entire day at jury duty, and that knowledge was deeply satisfying. It was getting later, darker, but I wasn’t very tired or drunk. I had plans and so I had to leave, but I could have stayed longer. It was one of those days that came out of nowhere and pulled me along. It was one of the best days I’d ever had.