If you’ve been told life has meaning

I think I’m ready to say something meaningful. Not that I need something meaningful to say in order to speak. And I’m not saying that if I say something meaningless, I won’t matter. But I’ve been wondering how to make meaning of everything and talk about it. So what I mean to say is that I think I’m ready to talk.

  • I mean, talk about the gender-based violence case, I mean the asylum case, one of them, the first time I almost cried while prepping a witness, and I thought how strange it was to know so much so soon (the depth of knowing a person when they’re deep in the darkest hurts and worst wrongs and strongest pain, and they’re asking you for help, and all you want to say is, “I understand, I need help, too, just not like this, not like you” — but is that even true?);
  • I mean, talk about the day I had back-to-back-to-back meetings with a trafficking survivor, a domestic violence survivor, another trafficking survivor, an FGM survivor (and I think I’m good at planning), and I go home worrying I’m fragile: it’s only what I expect myself to be that is so hard. I keep asking myself why I’m fragile (I remember when the social workers tried to figure out if we’re just here to teach our clients how to survive the status quo; I want someone to teach me how to survive the status quo);
  • I mean, let’s talk about the trafficking survivor, the one I keep feeling like I will disappoint; the February day I cried hard on my bed after meeting her, thinking, “The world can’t be this cruel, it can’t be this cruel, and if it is I don’t want to live here,” but I know that I won’t know how cruel the world is until I lose her case, and this is the paradox: if I lose, I’ll still spare the world the judgment (after all, world, you cannot be cruel). I’ll keep internalizing the blame (the world isn’t bad; only I am: I didn’t work hard enough, didn’t get there, didn’t have the winnable case — it’s not that the system was rigged, and it always has been because it’s been built by men and tyrants and people like me) — I mean, what I’m coming to understand is that I may have winnable cases, and I may not win, and it may not be because I didn’t work hard enough;
  • I mean, talk about the weekend night last week when my immigrant client called me, terrified, because there were ICE raids in the morning; she’s begging me, “What do I do, what do I do, what do I do?” (I will never forgive the president, the officers breaking into the shelter). I’m calling my supervisor, asking, “What do I say, what do I say, what do I say?” (what do I do), until I’m answering my client’s calls with a confidence she thinks I came by on my own, “Do this and do this and do this and do this.” I don’t know how to solve my own inefficacy, watching lives burn down.

I’m standing up in court for the first time, standing by my mistakes, standing by my oversights, standing my stomachaches until I’ve made an uneasy friendship with all of them, standing by my client, saying, “Yes, your honor,” and swallowing my frustrations, and I still haven’t won a case, and it’s not because I haven’t tried but because the “wheels of justice turn slowly”: I haven’t seen a single case through yet (how long til I see one through?). I still wonder about all the winnable cases lost in the wheels. I still wake up in the middle of the night remembering a T that I didn’t cross, and I’m still scared of all the T’s I forgot to check. My civ pro professor used to say everything is procedure, and I’ve finally realized every T is a way to fuck with justice until everyone’s hands are tied by rules none of us made— but that’s why we went into law isn’t it? For the rules we didn’t make? Or was it to change the rules we didn’t make? I think it was that, no, it was that.

Here I am, looking at rules, learning them, learning how to lose cases in between sleepless nights and oversights, thinking perhaps I haven’t made meaning at all but I’m making an effort, and that’s the same.

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