Last night is a blur. The bars, the booze, the blow. No memory of last-call or the journey home.
My fingers feel swollen and clunky as I try to open the cellophane bag on the nightstand, ultimately tearing it, sending Xanax bars flying across the bed. I scoop one off of the down comforter like a shovel before my beagle takes an interest. I spy a half-full glass of shitty “Brian Cuban” label red wine I had made at some place downtown. After an eight-ball of cocaine and the need for sleep, it’s not a matter of taste; it’s a matter of necessity. It washes down for dream time. The phone. Why oh why do I answer it.
Mr. Cuban? It’s is the court clerk of the **** District. ; we have a plaintiff down here on case nuber****. A petition for a Temporary Restraining Order. He says he did not try to contact you first, so we want to make sure you are aware. Can you come down for a hearing? “
The words have the effect of stepping into a cold shower to sober up (as if that works). I am instantaneously more alert than ten seconds ago, even with the Xanax bar starting to work its magic. My mind searches its fragmented hard drive for the case.
“Can you tell me who the plaintiff is?” Shit, that guy, I mutter to myself as bytes of information coalesce. ‘’What time do you need me there?”
“The judge would like to hear this at 10 am”
Two Hours. My brain strains to its reduced limits. Need a good lie. I wasn’t given notice. Just tell the truth. I can’t make it. Reschedule.
“Yes, I will be there.
My stomach churns with a mixture of panic and nausea. I stagger to the shower with a quick veer to the toilet. I drop to my knees and using the skills of a long time bulimic, wretch the remnants of stale wine and cold pizza. I will never make it to the hearing. The only reasonable option to counteract the Xanax is more blow. The baggie with less than a gram sits on the marble bathroom counter amidst toothpaste stains and mold fragments.
Two lines and a shave instill confidence that I can bluff my way through the hearing with a pro-se plaintiff. A pressed custom suit, shined, one thousand dollars shoes, and a gargle of Scope close out the routine of masks. Masks for the courtroom Masks for the clients. Masks for relationships. Brian is no-where to be found. I can’t remember when I last saw him. Maybe it was years ago before the bullies beat me up and stripped me almost naked a mile from my house. What I see in the mirror is artificial, temporary, and necessary for the next few hours. Except these hours need to be functional on a different level — a very different mask of the high functioning lawyer. This morning I will settle for surviving.
The walk through the metal detector with cocaine is something I’ve done before. The difference this morning is that I’m sweating like Niagara Falls. Projection becomes a reality. They know. They can see it in my eyes. I’m done. The walk of shame and career implosion, handcuffed, out the front door of the courthouse for the quick ride to the basement of the criminal courthouse. I’ve been there before.
“You forgot your belt sir”. I made it.
It’s 9:30 — plenty of time for a bathroom stall stop. I need to up my confidence and further offset the Xanax, which mercifully has not incapacitated me. A high tolerance, maybe?
Check the nose and the grid for residue; head to the courtroom. I see my client and the plaintiff seated, chatting as if there is no animosity between them. I am the last hearing before lunch. I didn’t check my fax for a copy of the pleading before I left. My client gives me his. I am naked before the bench. The judicial gods take mercy once more.
Her honor scans the pleading and asks the plaintiff why he needs this type of relief. His answer is as incoherent as my drug-addled response would be. I don’t have to say a word.
My client shakes my hand for a job well done. The plaintiff is still arguing his case as I thank the judge and beeline out the double wooden doors, wondering when the last time these nights were actually fun. I can’t remember.