I’ve arrived at a decision re: continuing to date Carson, notwithstanding his tainted marital and parental status. Unfortunately, an innocent party had to lose his life in the process.
Quick re-cap: Two weeks ago, my overwhelming desire for love, companionship, and eventual Monique Lhuillier fittings prevailed over doomsday predictions emanating from my brain’s left hemisphere. In other words, I accepted Carson’s offer to a third date of watching the BCS National Championship game over dinner and drinks.
Despite my ambivalence—or perhaps because of it—we had a great time. By the game’s end, the reality of our compatibility hit me with the same intensity as the Gatorade jug that practically decapitated Nick Saban. The evening resulted in our first work-night sleepover—a relationship milestone that I normally celebrate.
The following Friday evening, I invited my two best law school girlfriends over for drinks. My agenda: Continued discussion of The Situation. And by that, I’m not referring to Mike from Jersey Shore.
Rather than rehash the exhausting, overly analytical session that ensued, let’s just say the night ended with more concerns raised than resolved. In law school, they teach you how to think like a lawyer. Unfortunately, we females already think like women. Adding the two together often results in an extremely toxic mental environment, which helps explain the analysis paralysis brought on by my girls’ night.
Thankfully, the remainder of the weekend promised some necessary, albeit unpleasant, distraction. Plaintiff’s deposition in a messy fraud and quiet title case was noticed up for Monday morning. The case’s six-count complaint reads like a low-rent parody of The Sopranos—and its caption contains about as many Italian surnames as the cast list.
The allegations in the case go something like this: The plaintiff needed cash because the IRS had come knocking over several years’ worth of unpaid taxes on his auto transmission business. He went to his nephew (who testified at his own deposition that he has never held a paying job, lives off money “gifted” to him by family members, and hasn’t had a bank account in 15 years because he prefers to do his business “in cash”) for help.
The plaintiff revealed to his nephew that he wanted to refinance three commercial properties that he owned. The nephew responded by passing himself off as a mortgage broker. The plaintiff gave his nephew the files for the three properties, and a few weeks later, his nephew said he had found some interested investors. At some point thereafter, the deal unraveled and the plaintiff said he didn’t want to refinance. But rather than letting the files for the three properties burn a hole in his pocket, the nephew continued to hold himself out to the investors as acting on his uncle’s behalf, and he sold the three properties and pocketed the cash.
My role in the drama? The title insurer of one of the properties retained a partner I work for to protect its interests in the case. Which means that once every two weeks, I’m forced to appear in court with the bottom-feeding solo practitioners who represent the other parties. The nephew himself showed up for one of the early statuses wearing the pants from a Deion Sanders-style pinstriped suit and slicked down curly black hair, and I swear on my life that as I approached the bench, he gave me a once-over and mouthed, “How you doin’?”
The plaintiff’s lawyer apparently thinks that a worn leather bomber jacket counts as a suit coat, and two of the other lawyers have the kind of breath that smells like they’re exhaling cigarette smoke in your face—classy guys that make the legal profession proud.
In any event, the partner I work for on the case is the type that goes MIA the minute he hands an associate the file. So on Saturday, I had to bring him up to speed and show him the dep outline that I’d written for him. Then I had to spend Sunday making his edits and organizing his exhibits. Complicating things even further, my firm was the only one involved with a conference room large enough to accommodate its lengthy cast of haphazard characters, so we were hosting the deposition.
After a near-sleepless weekend, I dragged myself into the office at 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning to put out any last minute fires and get things set up. At that point, the prognosis for Carson looked dire, thanks to my stress and fatigue-induced negative state of mind.
By 9:30, our conference room—the largest one, with the sleek marble table and an expansive view of Lake Michigan—looked like an extras call for a Scorsese film. While the court reporter administered the oath, I noticed that the plaintiff looked a little pale and uncomfortable. But I chalked it up to the polyester auto mechanic jacket he was wearing—not to mention the fact that there were about ten lawyers waiting to question him over the course of the next few days.
Two hours later, counsel for a relatively uninvolved co-defendant was only halfway done fumbling through his outline. The only alert things in the room were the court reporter’s fingers. I kept myself awake by observing the plaintiff, whose visible agitation and discomfort continued to increase. I found it really odd, since the questions being asked at that point were totally routine. In fact, the plaintiff’s attorney had only objected once or twice. In the middle of an answer, the plaintiff started having a coughing fit and asked for a break. He weakly poured himself a glass of water and stepped out into the hall with his attorney.
Questioning resumed a few minutes later. Despite the break and the water, the plaintiff’s pallor had worsened. There was a brief silence while everyone looked over a new exhibit that had just been passed out. Suddenly, the plaintiff pushed back his chair and stood up. He looked so disoriented that no one said anything for a moment.
Then he collapsed on the floor.
All of the lawyers in the room stared at the plaintiff motionlessly (please refer to the aforementioned “analysis paralysis”), probably trying to figure out the legal ramifications of the situation. One guy shouted, “Let the record reflect that the plaintiff has collapsed.”
Thank god our paralegal was in the room at that moment (I don’t think I have ever said that before in my entire life) because she was the only one thinking like a human instead of like a lawyer. She grabbed the phone in the corner of the conference room and called 9-1-1.
The nephew was the first to rush out of the room. The plaintiff’s lawyer shouted, “Everybody else out!” He then ordered my partner to remain in the room with the plaintiff because he needed to call the plaintiff’s wife and his cell phone didn’t work in the conference room.
I returned back to my office in a bit of a daze. I was too keyed up to sit in there alone. Had there been no Carson, I would’ve had to call my mom. Gratefully, I called Carson’s extension, and he sat with me while I waited for an update.
Twenty minutes later, my partner entered. Without acknowledging Carson, he told me that the plaintiff had suffered a massive heart attack. When the paramedics arrived, he didn’t have a pulse. Right before leaving my office, he requested that I research the Illinois Dead Man’s Act, along with the oft chance there might be any published cases involving an analogous situation.
A man had just DIED. In our conference room. Right in front of our eyes—during his own deposition, no less—and he was able to think about legal research?!?
Carson announced that we were taking the rest of the day off. “I can tell that you need to decompress.”
Outside the office, he hailed a cab and asked the driver to take us to The Drake Hotel. My eyes lit up—I had recently told him about my excessive love for its old-fashioned, clubby piano bar with a French name that basically translates to “The Golden Cock.” He assumed without needing to ask that it was exactly where I wanted to go.
Over the course of the next three hours, we plowed through several of their enormous drinks (they serve about 6 ounces of liquor in a little carafe, a larger carafe of the mixer, and a highball glass full of ice). He listened and contributed as I aired all of the existential terror brought up by the morning’s events. It was tremendously wonderful.
The next morning, I awoke in his apartment—work-night sleepover #2!—and knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would be giving this relationship the green light.
Death comes knocking whenever it feels like it—even when you’re right in the middle of trying to clear up title to your earthly possessions, your wife isn’t there, you’re surrounded by god-awful lawyers, and you’re under oath in a deposition.
Time is precious, nobody’s perfect, and I’ve already learned that requited love and affection are rare. In short, I’m going to give this a try.