Jury Duty

I’m so desperate to get out of the Jurors Assembly Room (1121 at 111 Centre Street) that I use Yelp to find the nearest bar, to which I will flee as soon as the clerk announces we’re free to go to lunch at 12:30. The Whiskey Tavern, two short blocks away.

I order an IPA and a bowl of chili, and start reading David Palumbo-Liu’s screed at Salon on the Laura Kipnis Melodrama. I begin composing a response when a guy comes in, sits down next to me, asks the bartender for a shot and a beer. I have to look over because who does that anymore? He’s 20-something for God’s sake. Where did he learn that?

Then he puts his reading on the bar. Celine. I can’t help myself, I say, “Jury duty sucks.”

He says, “How did you know?”

“That’s serious reading, you need that if you’re sitting all day in the courthouse.”

“Yeah, I’m on a jury already.”

“You didn’t postpone?”

“No,” he says, “I’m gonna spend my 40 dollars a day here.”

“Well, you only get that if you’re not employed.” I’m being diplomatic.

“Oh. Oh, well.” He orders another Rolling Rock.

“What’s the job?”

“Software engineer,” he says. “I work for Fact Set, I write code for financial planning, like if you’re a mutual fund manager or something.”

“Why Celine?’

He looks at me quizzically; he wants to know why I ask.

“The violence, and the whoring,” he says.

“There is that.”

“Yeah,” he says, “and there’s the fact that they come for you when they need you. I mean, only when they need you. He was a doctor. He got seriously fucked around.”

“Well, yeah, because he was a fascist, among other things.”

“Yeah, but not much of one,“ he says. “Pretty lame. Anyway, he’s visceral, like Bukowski. I like that.”

“Yeah, visceral. No doubt about that. He wrote like shit. Both of them, I mean.”

I turn back to my reading and composition.

“My father was a plumber,” he says. I realize he wants to tell his life story. I acknowledge, to myself, that somehow I’m good at eliciting this kind of utterance, the cryptically autobiographical kind that demands my response as verification.

I want to say, “I don’t care,” but I don’t, I just wait.

“They only called him when they needed him,” he says, “and they fucked him around, like he was a servant or something. I went to Columbia. Nobody’s gonna do that to me.”

I relax, I say, “We all do our time. Not much of a choice, you know? It’s when we’re not bound by the past that we say ‘anything is possible’ and do stupid shit. So be careful out there.”

I finish my chili and escape the Whiskey Tavern.

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