Now that I’ve actually spent some time in one, it is my conclusion that courthouses are thoroughly depressing. The whole decor is rather austere and you can almost sense Lady Justice’s presence as you scuttle about.
In courthouses, you only find people next to walls – they’re sitting next to them, standing next to them, they’re talking on their cell phones and walking next to them. Nobody wants to be center-stage, nobody wants you to know why they’re there. People reluctantly cross hallways to get to the bathroom or to push the button for the elevator. You can see them visibly speed up as they enter open water.
Everyone talks in a whisper – a whisper so hushed that only the conversing parties can hear one another. Not that this stops them from shutting up entirely when they think someone has gotten too close. They all get the same paranoid look – how much did you hear? Who will you tell? their bulging eyes and tense shoulders seem to ask.
It’s even worse once you get inside a courtroom. If you ever want to see a bunch of miserable people, hang out in a courtroom sometime. The lawyers and their clients sit stone-faced and silent trying not to give any of their secrets away. The court reporter shoots dirty looks at witnesses who are speaking too fast or mumbling. Sometimes she scrunches her face in disgust – what, exactly, are you trying to say, you dumb fuck? is what it says. She shakes out her hands, sits up straighter and continues to type. The judge and the court clerk pass notes and bored glances. The bailiff has turned off his hearing aid and there are 14 zombies sitting where the jury should be. Not a single smile in the room. Not a single lively, energetic face. Just a room full of people who you expect to get up and start feeding on each other at any second. Mmmmm…brains.
The jury room is small. There aren’t enough spaces around the table for everyone and nobody speaks. The only thing these 14 people have in common is the one this they’re not allowed to talk about. So they sit. And wait. They read their books and do their crosswords and don’t say a word. Not one single word.
Umiko – Ocean Child
I got an e-mail from Kim today, and even though it’s not a rare occurrence, I was amazed to be reminded of her uncanny ability to say exactly what I’m thinking. She was talking about my summer at OIMB and said, “it must be nice to be so connected to the ocean all the time.” Despite my bitching about the hours, the intensity, the work, the sea-sickness, the isolation, etc., I think that Charleston and this lifestyle are really growing on me. I’m usually wet and cold and dirty and my hair always smells like sea spray or campfire, but even that has become oddly comforting.
A while back I wrote an entry called “urourosuruhito” – wandering person. I’ve often felt out of place in the places I’ve lived – like I don’t quite belong in them. I’ve even said that I feel like I’m a foreigner in my own country. Kim said that she had always thought of me that way and to be truthful, I feel like a foreigner most everywhere. I can live and be comfortable in many different places, but I don’t feel a strong connection to any one of them. Until now. I hadn’t noticed, but I feel rooted here. And I know that it has everything to do with the ocean.
I’ve always been attracted to the ocean. I don’t miss it when I’m not near it, but every time I see it, I feel almost relieved. Something about the way it smells, the rhythmic lapping of the waves, the millions of secrets it seems to hold…Maybe it has something to do with water being a highly feminine element. Maybe it’s because a distant ancestor came from the sea. Or perhaps I have too much water in my personality, a la Sayuri in Memoirs of a Geisha. Water, being a fluid element, flows from place to place – Fremont, Portland, Sapporo, Charleston – existing there only for a short time before finally returning to the sea.