CLOSING THE BOOK ON SEVENTEEN

The jurors walked through the courtroom door and filed silently down the two rows, front row and back row of the jury box.  The rows were designated by cushioned wooden chairs.  The jurors each proceeded to his or her respective seat.

The Court Crier entered and spoke, “All rise the Court is in session.”  With that call the lawyers, the plaintiffs, the defendants and the jurors all stood. The Judge entered through his chambers’s door instructed all to be seated and asked if the jury had reached a verdict.  The jury foreman said it had.  The verdict form was handed to the Judge.  The Judge took a moment reviewed the form read the jury questions and answers aloud, a defense verdict.  I had won.

It had been a tough case, an oil spill that had occurred in one home and made its way into the basement of another home creating a major cleanup problem.  The defendant I represented, an nice, kind older gentleman, owned the property from where the spill originated.  His insurance company had denied coverage.  The coverage denial had been challenged.

While the jury was deliberating, I received a call from the coverage attorney representing the insurance company informing me that the appeal had been won by the insurance company.  My client had no insurance coverage for the loss.  I explained to my client that this meant that his life savings was at stake.  I was very worried he would lose his life savings, his retirement.  He told me not to worry; I had done a good job, and he would be okay with whatever happened.

I was very relieved when the jury decided in his favor.  His life savings remained in tact.  I was exhausted though and it was early afternoon.  I decided to take the rest of the day off and head home early.  On my way home I passed my first high school. I thought of Mr. DeSimon, my eleventh grade guidance counselor.  I pulled my car into the high school parking lot, time to visit Mr. DeSimon.

I walked in the front of the school.  I was wearing a navy blue suit, white shirt, cordovan shoes and a red tie with a small postage stamp design.  I looked like a defense attorney.  No one stopped me as I walked by the front office, no one stopped me and checked my identification anywhere in the school.  I walked through the memories of my life in these familiar halls towards the Guidance Office.

I entered Guidance.  Mr. DeSimon’s office same location.  It was seventeen years since I had walked through his office door.  I had been summoned by a note to visit Mr. DeSimon.  I had walked into his office with my  shoulder length blonde hair hanging loosely on my head, parted in the middle.  I’m sure I was stoned from smoking weed in the morning before school.  I may have been drinking whiskey during the day, and there is a good chance I was tripping on mescaline or acid when I entered his office seventeen years ago.  I was definitely fucked up.

I partied hard pretty much everyday all day in those years.  There were times when I couldn’t get into my school locker because I couldn’t read the numbers or see the white hashmarks which delineated the numbers because when I spun the dial, all the white hashmarks and numbers ran together and created a white circular line around the entire locking mechanism.  It was cool to look at so I used to spin that dial for fun.  However, on those days, I simply did not use my books.  They were inaccessible to me.

I routinely got kicked out of science class for disrupting experiments; I cut more classes than I attended, but somehow managed to stay on the basketball team and maintain a decent grade point average.

I walked into Mr. DeSimon’s office for the last time seventeen years ago whacked out of my skull on drugs.  This day I walked in dressed in a suit and tie, a regular haircut,  standing straight, looking alert, a trial lawyer who had just tried and won a difficult, risky case at trial.

“Mr. DeSimon,” I said, “You probably don’t remember me. My name is Jack Ryan. Seventeen years ago, I was in your office for the last time.  You were my guidance counselor.  You had summoned me from class to talk with me.”

He stood up from behind his desk walked around it and shook my hand. He acknowledged he didn’t remember me. But said I looked good and appeared successful.  He was glad for me.  I suppose he was viewing me as a triumph of some sort, a testament to his guiding abilities.

“Seventeen years ago when I last saw you I was doing a lot of drugs, had hair down to my shoulders and was generally struggling through adolescence.  Do you remember what you told me?” I asked.

He did not recall.

“You told me to get out of your office, to never come back, that I was a loser who would never amount to anything.”

He became less cheerful quickly.

“I’m here to tell you that I am trial lawyer now; I tried a case to a jury over the last week. The jury rendered a verdict  today and I won.  As an aside, I also have a Masters Degree in English.  I stopped to thank you for nothing.  I was also wondering how many other struggling teenagers you gave nothing to.  I am not going to tell you I was a good kid; I wasn’t, but I was a kid, and you closed the book on me at seventeen.”

Mr. DeSimon didn’t respond to me.  He just stood and stared at me.  I turned around, left his office and never saw him again.

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