Author's note: For your information, the second part of the title is reference to the year in school Edward is. First year students are "1Ls" or first years. There are three years generally in law school and each year is labeled accordingly.
Life is a Heavy Burden Sometimes: My Year as a 1L
Chapter 2: Changing Seasons
The last remnants of summer were fading away with each morning I walked into class. Sunrise came incrementally later and slowly but surely the scorching heat of August faded into the cooler temperatures of late September. Fall was just around the corner. And after fall came winter.
Time spent in law school has a funny way of moving at an accelerated pace while still feeling like it's going much too slow. Certain classes seemed to last hours while others flew by. Simmon's contract law class was invariably one of those that seemed to last centuries.
I'd found that he had a way of not just asking questions, but rather interrogating. I laughed to myself that he could make the Pope question his own Catholicism if he stared at him long enough. With one eyebrow raised just slightly and his first finger pointing at you, it felt like your blood froze cold in your veins.
Of course, I didn't avoid his nasty glare forever, but thankfully my turn wasn't as painful as it looked for some people. Sure I felt like I answered all his questions wrong as he was staring me in the face and felt more like a suspect than a student, but a couple other students came up to me after class and said I looked cool and composed.
I didn't mention the entire back of my dark t-shirt was practically glued to my back with the cold sweat I'd broken out into.
Sometimes it was best not to let them see you sweat, literally and metaphorically.
I had a few people I talked to occasionally, but nobody I'd really call a friend. Time between classes was spent with my nose in a book trying to catch up or get ahead, so I didn't have to spend all night reading. Sleep was much more important to me than it seemed to be for my classmates.
Their mindless chatter reminded me too much of high school. Gossiping away at who slept with whom and who got drunk at what bar last night. Honestly, it didn't really interest me. Maybe there was a time I'd be front and center, throwing my own two cents into the boiling pot of rumor and innuendo, but it all seemed too petty for me now.
I could feel a change happening in me like the seasons were changing outside our little confines.
I lost track of what was going on in the world, only hearing of news by word of mouth or when someone mentioned something on Facebook. I rarely used the thing before, but suddenly found myself enraptured with the damn website. Probably as a procrastination tool more than anything, I reasoned, but I found it was the best way to keep in touch with friend who'd graduated with jobs and friends who were still in college.
I wanted to shout from the mountain tops to enjoy college while they were still in it or treasure having a job and contributing to society for once. Longing to be like them, I sucked up my pride and falsely answered that law school was fantastic whenever anybody asked.
My father did frequently, or at least as frequently as I saw him. His firm had just taken on a huge class action suit and he was chomping at the bit for things to move along. Take depositions. Find experts. Sign non-disclosure agreements. Whatever he did. I may have been heading his way in a few short years, but I was still in the dark about a majority of what he did on a day to day basis. He rarely talked about work.
All he did was gossip just like my mother. Her gossip was about whose wife was having an affair. My father's was about who was getting sued and whose child was in jail.
I was getting the impression that lawyers were a bunch of high school girls, their noses in other people's businesses all the time. As Grandmother Masen would have said - they had nose troubles.
Thankfully I didn't see either of them much, thanks to the ever present and ever helpful excuse of reading I had to do.
I think what people don't realize about law school is that the material is not difficult; there just is a massive amount of it. Twenty pages of reading for a class may not sound that challenging, but the problem is that each sentence was like a legal landmine. One little word could make the difference in a whole paragraph's meaning and I found myself having to revise how I read. Where before I would graze over the words like a cow in the fields, picking and choosing what felt best for me, now I had to be very precise and detailed. Twenty pages felt more like forty.
Everybody around me developed a different system for how they did their work. Brown Hair took meticulous notes. She documented everything. Her fingers flew across the keyboard of her laptop and it felt more like she was a stenographer or a court reporter than a student. She rarely took her eyes off any given professor and personally it would have unnerved me to have a student so trained on every minute detail I was lecturing or questioning on.
She rarely said anything, almost never speaking unless spoken to. When professors would call on her ("Ms. Swan …") she blanched the color of death. Not just pale, but ashen. Bone white. She would mutter an answer and invariably the professor would have to ask her to speak up and repeat what she'd just said. Every time she spoke her cheeks would get redder and redder and I could feel the heat of them from where I sat.
Sometimes I wondered why she was there, why she was at law school. She always looked so nervous, so out of place. Of course, the rest of us didn't look much better I suspect.
There were some notable exceptions. There was this one guy who was cool under pressure no matter what. I think his name was Jasper something or other. Hell, I didn't pay much attention to names, just what the individual person said.
He wore motorcycle boots and some of the tightest pants I'd ever seen a man wearing. Long black t-shirts he pushed up to his elbows to reveal tattoos of eagles on his forearms. Someone made an offhand comment to me that he had a degree in fashion merchandising and it surprised the hell out of me. He looked more like he belonged on the back of Harley than he did sitting in front of a runway.
Everybody had their past, and everybody had their reasons for being here it seemed.
One thing I liked about Jasper was he rarely, if ever took notes. Unlike "Ms. Swan" who probably recorded the professor's facial expressions along with his or her words on her laptop with impressive speed and efficiency, Jasper wrote on a yellow legal pad of paper. A sentence here, a sentence there. He had a mind like a bear trap. Able to spit out the tiniest detail upon command.
I suspected he could be gay until I caught him unabashedly grinding his hips into the girl who sat next to him in all our classes in the corner of a hallway when they thought nobody was around.
She was a tiny thing, sprightly even, but a major spitfire. Someone jokingly called her a "pixie" and she gave the guy a look that probably shriveled his balls up to his sternum. On top of that, she was just as smart as Jasper was. Took more notes than he did, but could weave the analysis of a case like no other. She was almost late to every class, sliding in seconds before the professor and amazingly always composed whenever asked a question that would have left any other person quaking in his boots. I'd never even spoken to her and she already had my respect. I knew her as "Ms. Brandon." My own nickname for her was Spitfire.
I don't know why I didn't make friends with these people. They seemed cool enough, seemed like they were well adjusted and sane. Something was holding me back it felt like.
A part of me, an immensely large part of me, felt trapped there in school. Felt like I was just going through the motions. That any minute I would wake up from the dream and find myself still in college and still playing pool with my friends down at the bar instead of studying. Every night I went to bed, exhausted by the day though I'd done very little physical labor, only to sleep fitfully through the night.
Bad dreams and horrible nightmares became the new norm for me. I'd always slept dead out to the world, even once sleeping through an earthquake on a rare family vacation to Disneyland when I was 13 and my father scheduled a mere four days of vacation into his extraordinarily busy work schedule. He'd complained the entire trip that he had mountains of work to do back at the office, my mother shushing him and insisting he have fun even if he had to pretend.
The leaves on the trees were fading to a deep fiery orange when we were handed our first major legal writing assignment in writing class. I had always considered myself to be somewhat of a good writer and didn't feel like it would be too much of a problem. We had the opportunity to confer with the writing professor as we worked on the assignment and it seemed like every time I walked past her office that Brown Hair Swan was sitting outside waiting for her to be available.
She really was a nervous girl it seemed. Perpetually worried about how she was doing and if she was on the right path.
And yet she looked and seemingly felt so out of place.
Maybe it was because I felt like so much of an outsider myself that I noticed it more than the others. I kept myself purposefully detached, on the fringes. I felt like an outsider looking in at a great social experiment.
As the deadline for our writing assignment loomed closer and closer, I kept putting it off. I would do it the weekend before the Monday it was due, I'd decided. Otherwise my brain just didn't seem to concentrate whenever I attempted to do any work on it. Years of working close to deadlines and due dates had my brain trained to work that way and that way only.
Each hour that passed only seemed to make Brown Hair Swan more nervous. Her carefully groomed exterior was fraying at the ends and I was seeing her come more and more undone.
What concerned me was this wasn't even a big assignment. And definitely wasn't finals. What would happen to her then? Would she snap and be one of those 30 percent that dropped out?
Something about her made me feel very protective of her, like she was this innocent little bird like her namesake I needed to shelter from a raging storm.
We were sitting waiting for Simmon's class to start about four days before the assignment was due (no, I still hadn't started despite my best efforts to the contrary) and I was just watching her. She pounded away at her keyboard harder than normal, and this was a girl who practically punched the keys anyway. She wasn't wearing her standard dress pants and work type top she normally wore to school and that felt very out of the ordinary for her.
"Hey, Swan," I finally said when I could take no more of her pounding.
She was lost in thought though, too intensely concentrating on what she was doing to notice or hear me.
"Swan," I said a little louder.
No answer and not even an eye twitch my way.
"Okay that's it," I muttered.
I leaned in close to her and her perfume hit me like a ton of bricks. No, it wasn't perfume. It smelled too fresh and clean to be perfume. Girl's perfumes always smelled heavy to me, like the way a flower would smell if you sprayed it with air freshener.
Inhaling again, I pulled the smell of her all the way down to my toes. My eyes slide shut without me wanting them too and I probably had this sappy puppy dog look on my face.
"Excuse me?" her confused voice cut through my enjoyment like a hot knife through butter.
My eyes flew open and she was giving me what at best was a confused and at worst a disgusted look.
"Are you sniffing me?" she said and her eyebrows pulled together in the universal female sign of annoyance.
I straightened my body back up, pulling away from her though the smell still lingered inside my nostrils.
"Uh, no. I just wanted to get your attention." I was trying to cover my as and as best I could tell she was seeing right through me.
"Well, you have my attention now. And you wanted?" Brown Hair was clearly annoyed by now. I'd invaded her space, sniffed her like a bloodhound and broken her concentration. I could understand the second annoyance, but the other two were not warranted I felt.
"Just wanted to tell you that you need to let up on those keys before one goes flying up and hits me in the eye," I haphazardly smiled while giving the lamest version of a 'chill out' speech ever.
Her eyes narrowed on me and for a second I could see behind her eyes that she wasn't the scared, nervous birdie I thought she was. She had some real energy in her that I hadn't seen yet.
"I like to type with conviction," she said curtly.
I couldn't stop the snort that left my nose.
"There's conviction and then there's a life sentence," I chuckled.
Apparently my lame attempt at a joke wasn't flying with her either.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Brown Hair asked and crossed her arms over her chest.
I sighed and decided maybe the best route to take was the most direct one.
"Look, I just wanted to say that you seem really wound up tight. Maybe you should chill out a bit and not take this so seriously," I finally said trying to make it sound as good intentioned as possible.
Brown Hair Swan was silent for a moment and suddenly the fire in her eyes intensified into an all out inferno. She leaned in close to me and my pulse skyrocketed.
Her eyes, the entrance to her soul, spoke volumes. She didn't like what I'd just said for one second.
"Maybe you should take this more seriously. Not all of us can skate by on our good looks and Daddy's reputation," she said sharply and very pointedly.
I recoiled like she'd slapped me. Every nerve ending in my body was on fire and super sensitive.
I stared at her, slack jawed and in shock, as she resumed her frantic, intense typing like she'd never stopped. Like I was someone to be crushed or someone to be ignored.
It wasn't a feeling I much liked honestly.
I know I should have said something back, defended myself somehow. Hell, I should have told her she was wrong.
Problem was, I didn't have anything to counter her with.
And I knew it.
The question was though – how did she know it?