Despite an introductory evening that involves breaking into my apartment, police officers showing up and a proclamation that I’m still married, Wayne calls to ask me out to dinner. I’m happy because the only date I went on in the two years since I’m separated was a disaster.
My date and I are watching a band of nice guys who are my friends. My date is on beer number too many and a couple of shots. The band finishes the song Moondance by Van Morrison. My date yells out, “This is a bunch of hippy dipshit music. You guys suck.”
He’s asked to leave. He grabs my arm and pulls me towards the door. A few guys in the band jump off the stage and help me out. After that I decide I’m as interested in dating as I am designing corporate contracts with Salutatorian Nancy.
Wayne and I go to dinner. He majored in history in college. The degree is not serving him over and above the knowledge he has gained. He’s studying for a degree in computer programming – the statistics class is killing him. He plays bass in several bands- a jazzy singer-songwriter group and a trio inspired by the music of the Velvet Underground.
We talk about music, the genius of Salvador Dali, the delicious appetizer we order that we guess is tomato paste, chili powder and garlic – the rest of the ingredients are a mystery. Wayne tells me about the street vendor he visited when he studied in Beijing, China – the dumplings were like butter. The exchanges from Wayne are soft spoken. I wonder if he’s been through a tragic breakup and he’s protecting his vulnerable, broken heart.
I say, “How do you feel about children? I mean, not the two of us having children but children in general. I have one of those. Also, do you have any girlfriends? No big deal if you do but I’m hoping for an exclusive relationship. Not that we have a relationship. I mean it’s our first date. We’re mere acquaintances who have kissed, hahaha.” I’m so nervous.
Wayne reaches over and kisses me. The evening goes well.
I cannot take any more of the corporate law job. I peruse paralegal job ads. One catches my attention: “Paralegal for City Attorneys who represent the Department of Social Services.”
I apply and get the job. During the interview with the head honcho city attorney I ask what the job entails. He says, “You know, social service cases, that kind of thing.”
No shit, Sherlock that’s what the ad says. I hate corporate law so much I don’t care. I’m desperate for a different job away from Salutatorian Nancy. I want to salute Nancy goodbye.
I arrive on my first day at the job. The office is located in the juvenile court building where the cases are heard. The walk through the waiting area is a visual spectacle. The preconceived idea I have that court-attenders dress conservatively and try to make a good impression goes out the window. Honey, I can see the entirety of your boxer shorts like they are an accessory. They should be an accessory after the fact – like when you pull up your pants.
I walk into the office. An attorney comes running through the front door. “You’re the new paralegal? Hi, I’m Lyn.” She runs into her office and grabs some papers, hands them to me and says, “Here, answer these interrogatories. Gotta run back into court.” (To this day Lyn and I laugh that she literally handed me the worst case in the history of cases before I even got settled in.)
Lyn is a tall, blonde fifty-something year old badass lady. She was working in Alaska with a bunch of guys who said they didn’t think she could make it through law school. She went just to spite them. She got her law license when she was in her forties. She has a great sense of humor and she’s smart as a whip.
I make my way to my desk. I sit down and review the interrogatories. That’s the point that I realize the job is regarding people who do very bad things to children. On a scale of one to ten in bad the case is a twenty-five.
A speaker above my desk announces, “ALL PARTIES IN THE BROWN CASE REPORT TO COURTROOM TWO. ALL PARTIES IN THE BROWN CASE REPORT TO COURTROOM TWO.” Okay, that’s a little distracting. It goes on all day long.
Wayne comes to visit me to see how the first day went. I collapse into his arms and sob uncontrollably.
“Oh my god what happened?”
“Dead baby. That’s all I can say.” Then more sobbing.
I return the next day even though I want to run away screaming. It’s impossible to keep up with all of the work. Most of the cases are regarding child neglect. Not enough food, hygiene issues, single mother with multiple children, substance abuse and mental health issues. Then a case comes down the pike that throws me to my knees.
The photos I see of homes in deplorable condition make my house look like the uptight neat freak Felix Unger from the Odd Couple moved in.
I meet child protective service workers when they wait in our office for their case to be called.
“Hi I’m Katina.”
Katina looks like a lady of the night. She’s wearing a skirt so short I can almost see her bum, a top that shows her ample cleavage, leopard-print tights, four inch platform heels and one inch long fingernails. She’s wearing lots of bling, including her front tooth which is covered in gold.
If Katina came to my home to remove my children I would lock the door and call the police. Katina missed the memo about how to dress for court.
I worked on her case. The affidavit that states the facts of the case makes no sense. Katina is a girl who does not use punctuation.
“I removed the child the uncle was at the home after jail the mother’s cousin called a report that uncle is a sex offender lives in the home the uncle ran out the back door mother lied said it was a neighbor child said it was uncle removed child.”
I have piles of cases to work on. It’s a window into a world I’ve never seen before. Designing corporate contracts may not be such a bad gig after all.