- Discussion (1)
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Coffee and a powdered doughnut sat on his desk, the morning offering. He might have thought to get something more substantial but he didn’t care to interrupt the flow of work. Night after night, he sat at this desk just as a sphere of oil sits suspended in dark vinegar – everything blotted out but his own source of light. To save on energy costs, Troyer, Barr and Atkins LLP had installed motion sensors on the overhead lights. From six in the morning until ten at night, the lights burned continuously; after ten, the sensors took over. He worked past ten most nights, and most nights found him sufficiently absorbed in something that required only the turn of a page or the click of a mouse – too little activity for the sensors to register. The lights frequently switched off on him. He’d look up, surprised again – not just by the darkened office. By his re-entry into the physical world. Self-awareness. Himself as something more than mind thinking. He’d have to stand, a little amused by the crude technology, and wave his arms around, jump up and down, walk over and fan the door, sometimes all three, before the lights would return.
That was happiness.
Twenty-five years ago he had decided to go to law school. It offered interesting study and good career prospects. He made it to Harvard and quickly learned how to chew up and spit out the huge green tomes on civil litigation and constitutional law. He summered at Troyer, Barr and they asked him to return after graduation. But first there was a clerkship with a judge on the Second Circuit. A year later he was married to Jane. He worked hard at Troyer. Document production for the first couple of years, boring as hell, but then junior status gave way to opportunity. He started taking depositions. He showed a gift for strategy in both civil and criminal cases, and a rare composure in the courtroom. He impressed the right people and when his seventh year came around they voted to make him partner. He sat in the best restaurants and ordered the best wines.
But that was never the point. The point was Houston, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Orlando, Charleston, Manhattan – wherever the trial was. The trial, that was the point. The clients. The casework. The war room. He took on a few pro bono causes. And he worked in midtown amid the electricity and the movement. And his view of Central Park was breathtaking. And he liked the people. And the money was great. And the success was addictive. And the pursuit was all-consuming. And the rightness of his place was never in doubt.
Now it was morning, and he was preparing for trial. The case involved a client named R. H. Hobbs who had been accused of stabbing his wife in a methodical way and dumping her body in a decommissioned landfill on Staten Island. The evidence against R. H. was entirely circumstantial. There was a blood-soaked bedsheet with no trace of a third party’s DNA, his thin alibi of being stuck in traffic at the time of the murder, and a sizeable life-insurance policy. The district attorney had managed to bring charges against him only by the skin of his teeth. Grand jury testimony revealed a case fraught with uncertainty, and the consensus among Tim and his team was that R. H., despite a loveless marriage, had not committed the crime he had been accused of. R. H.’s private equity firm generated an enormous amount of business for Troyer, Barr, and no one wanted a guilty verdict to interfere with that relationship.
Tim ate the doughnut over a napkin to catch the powdered sugar and recalled a time when he had watched what he ate. Not as a dieter, not with his daughter’s sad South Beach struggle, but with a fanatic’s vigilance for good health – for Bagdasarian had suggested that it might be dietary. Cut out the caffeine, he told him, the sugar and the nicotine, and consult a naturopath. And so he did. Because nothing had shown up, repeatedly, on the MRIs, because he was on his third psychiatrist, because the specialist in Switzerland had thrown up his hands, he saw a Trinidadian in Chelsea with golden tubes and magic roots for seven days of colonics and grass-and-carrot smoothies. Jane drove and waited in the naturopath’s living room among primitive wood carvings and bright tropical art. They took the highway home, and for the first couple of days there was this breathless, anxious hopefulness. Then he walked right out of the house. Jane picked him up six hours later behind a Starbucks in New Canaan. Nothing came of the marmalade fast or the orange juice cleansings except another possibility to cross off the list, though he could move his bowels again like a ten-year-old.
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