“It’s spaghetti – fresh. Hot. Prepared like you like.” I handed him the box. He eyed me. “Is it good?”
“Why else would I give it to you?”
“True . . . did you taste it?” I was tired of holding the box out to him at arm’s length so I let it plop onto his desk. “Of course I tasted it. You always want me to taste things before I give them to you.” He smiled. “I have to go,” I told him, sensing the golden moment for an exit. I jingled my keys at him, winked, and left as he started to open the box of noodles.
Four days later I sat in his office telling him what I thought was a rather complicated story when I noticed he was pale and silent. He is a lawyer: silent is not one of their operating modes unless it’s a prelude to entrapment. “What’s wrong with you?” I asked, slightly worried but trained not to show any sort of genuine human emotion around him. “You look like your own corpse.” He shrugged, non-combative. “I told you I didn’t feel well, Lola. I have a headache and I just . . . where did my time go today?” He looked at me vaguely, as if I might answer him, but also as if I might be a llama. How could I know where he’d been – or what he’d been doing?
I recounted our meeting to the director and handed her the files, untouched. “He just sat there looking pale and not saying anything useful,” I told her, deciding that I would refrain from either anger or frustration until I was entirely sure what had occurred. “Pale?” she asked, head snapping up. “Yes, pale. Weird, right? I didn’t think ‘pale’ was a colour he achieved, but evidently it is. He kept rubbing his head and he couldn’t focus on anything and -” she stood up, and I stopped talking. “What is it?”
“Lola, you said he was pale?” her voice had a strained, uncanny sound. I nodded. She crossed the room and looked at the calendar, then turned around and faced me. “Did you give your attorney mono?” she asked, in the same tone.
“I’m fine, really,” I assured him. He eyed me. “Look, I have all the papers you requested. We can get to work right away. At least on a plan of action. Do you have the list of questions I told you to work on for me?” He was still eyeing me. “What’s wrong with your face, Lola? Your mouth looks weird.”
I was horrified before I even knew why I was horrified. I guess what’s wrong with your face is just something it’s never good to hear – I mean, it’s rather indicative of disaster, isn’t it? My brain immediately rushed through several possibilities – dry skin? a pimple! hives? not hives – a mosquito bite? Havana scratched me? I turned to his assistant. “What do I – do I have something?”
She narrowed her eyes at me, tilted her head, pursed her lips. “You kind of look like you just had a stroke.”
I could stay up all night writing just to not face the idea of him. The fact of him is unavoidable and once it – him – has presented itself I calm, suddenly, because I’m always calm in a storm. I’ve weathered all sorts of crises with an even pulse and a sane mind. Crazy doesn’t scare me. Scars don’t bother me. But the idea of him . . . pricks me, uncomfortably. I can’t define anything about either of us when we’re in the same room except that he is a heartless bastard, who is madly in love with me, and it isn’t glamorous and I never thought it would be.
His eyes are the wrong colour. I interrupted myself, my long discourse on the futility of my legal situation resulting from his incompetence but my unwillingness to either a) admit defeat or b) sue him for malpractice, to tell him “You look like shit.” He nodded, took it, didn’t disagree.
I sat down and just barely checked myself; I had been about to drop my head in my hands. Instead I folded them in my lap and looked at him.
A lawyer without fire is a wet log. I would rather do business with a lawyer that hated me – I would have more chance at success. A lawyer gazing at me with a heartbroken sort of resign will not, cannot, accomplish anything.
I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. I thought briefly of Scarlett O’Hara but dismissed the thought as engendering drama – or at least not being adverse to it.
I’m going to see him today. What does it mean? Well, I knew I would have to see him eventually – legally, at least. Before your thought-trains go past points which bear recalling, you probably haven’t been in this situation before. I never said, after all, that I would see him ‘in court’ – I only said legally.
Eventually I’ll get to the point that I won’t need him, but – golly gee whiz! – that seems like ages from now.
My voice doesn’t sound like my own voice when I speak and my writing doesn’t feel like me. I feel like the mocking turtle in Alice in Wonderland, infinitely disconnected and always at a loss.