I stand in line for the courthouse, dark brown boy in front of me, menacing expression trying to cover up the braces glinting out from between his lips. His puffy coat squeaks as he moves. Behind me stands a woman, 6'8" if she's a foot. Elegant long clothes, turban, shining earrings, blue-black skin. She moves like an underwater creature, slow and graceful, granting every gesture the blessing of ceremony. High sharp cheekbones, almond eyes.
The guard at the metal detector is younger than me, smiling apologetically as he rifles through my purse. I'm reassembling bag and purse when the woman behind me sets off the detector.
"Is it my earrings?" she asks. Her voice is baritone, deeper than the guard's, and for the first time I notice an adam's apple. Suddenly, I love her even more.
I have high hopes for jury duty, filing expectantly into the jury waiting room. I'm happy to wait, and look at my fellow jurors. They try criminal cases in this building. I'm dazzled at the thought of years of material, coiled behind one of the courtroom doors.
There are signs posted on some of those doors. "No iPods." "No reading newspapers." "No gum chewing in courtroom."
Jurors become strangely still, waiting to be called. They are individuals outside, but here they disappear, becoming Citizens.
Finally called into a courtroom, rising as one for the Judge. He promises an exciting case, criminal. "Nobody'll be falling asleep for this one!"
Then we're dismissed to return the next day.
Day two, everybody looks the same. Faces blank, waiting. This Judge posts his rules inside the courtroom.
"No!!!listening to music
We aren't asked to rise when the Judge enters, this time. I wonder if the clerk knows he's back there. But then he starts to speak, his words illustrated by the sign language translator in front. She widens her eyes, her translation a performance, a dance.
"Some machinations have been going on," begins the Judge, "the case won't be going to trial today. So that's it, you're all dismissed."
Is that it? I wonder, people filing out of the courtroom around me, Is that all there is?