It’s 1:00 a.m.
I’m standing in front of a metal rolling bookcase. It stretches from the floor almost to the ceiling.
Always check in between the stacks before you turn the handle, I remember the librarian telling us. Otherwise you might crush someone by accident.
There’s no one here to crush. It’s just me. Yet for some reason, I still peer into the darkened stacks quickly before I turn the handle. There is a musty smell in this room, old paper and leather. The oil from the fingers of the ghosts of lawyers past, turning the pages of corporate minute books. Ancient students conducting due diligence by candlelight.
I wish that I had a candle, because I didn’t bother to find out the special code to turn on the lights in this part of the floor. I squint as I try to make out the writing on the spines of the leather-bound volumes.
This is crazy, I think, as I press my forehead against the cool metal of the bookshelf.
I sent the students home an hour ago. They had made a complete mess of the closing room, and had somehow lost three of the documents. But they don’t know any better, and one appeared to be on the verge of tears. After taking a deep breath, I told her what she had done wrong, and not to worry about the closing tomorrow. I would have everything fixed by then.
I gingerly touch my finger where I had gashed it open on a file folder during the three hours that I spent in a boardroom with another client. He spent the evening drinking red wine and signing hundreds of documents that I handed to him, one by one. I could have handed him a paper selling his company to me for a dollar, and he would have signed it. He was so agitated that I didn’t want to interrupt the signing session to get a band-aid for my finger. I tried to squeeze it, to put enough pressure on the deep, painful cut to stop the bleeding. No blood on the closing documents, please. Instead, I stealthily wiped the blood onto my black pants while the client wasn’t looking.
I remember the dinner sitting on my desk, uneaten. I had taken one bite when I retrieved the voicemail message, urgently bidding me to the boardroom, where I had found the nine-months pregnant associate, looking pale and tired. Please stay here with this client and get him to sign everything that has his name on it, she quietly pleaded. I couldn’t say no. She thanked me and rushed back to her office to draft more documents for him to sign.
On my way out to get that dinner, I bumped into the senior partner.
“Hello, X,” I said.
“Hello, A. This would be a very early time to be leaving the office, if that’s what you’re doing,” he responds coldly, before stalking off in the other direction.
I press my forehead against the cool metal of the bookshelf. It is dark. I am alone.
It’s 1:00 a.m. I will find the minute books I am seeking, and I will take them downstairs to my office. If I’m lucky, I can spend an hour drafting documents for another file, and I will catch a cab home at 2:00. I can get four hours sleep before I have to get up to come back and sort out the mess in that other closing room. Not bad.
As I trudge down the nearly silent hallway to my office, books in hand, I look into the pregnant associate’s office. She is still sitting at her computer.
“Please go home,” I practically beg her. It scares me to see her here, every night, this close to her due date. We have been repeating this little routine every day for a month, on the weekends, too. I know that this is not a weekend because I am wearing a suit.
She smiles weakly. “You should go home,” she says in return. We both know we won’t.
I finally drag myself into a cab after 2:00 a.m.
“Queen and Woodbine, in the Beaches,” I call out. My eyes are swimming.
“Oh, no worries, lady. I know where you live.”
I chuckle. Of course he does. Every taxi driver at this stand knows where I live.
“I drove you home on Tuesday, remember?”
“Yes, of course I remember,” I lie. “I thought today was Tuesday.”
“No, no, lady. Today is Thursday.” He laughs. “You lawyers, you work too hard.”
The cab drives off into the cold November night.