One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

On the top floor of one of the majestic buildings along Passeig de Gràcia, a mousy man in a brown suit enters a prestigious lawyer’s office. There is no warm welcome of a possible new client or even an acknowledgment of his arrival. The man raises a fist to his mouth and coughs. The lawyer licks a bejeweled finger and flips the page of a newspaper he reads by the afternoon sunlight, shining though the French doors behind him.
“Excuse me,” the man says, brushing the long strands of his comb-over from squinting eyes.
The lawyer burps and grumbles as he folds the thick daily along its creases before setting it down. “How can I help you?” he addresses the man in Catalan.
The kinship from speaking the same mother tongue lifts his spirits. “I’m your five o’clock appointment,” the man announces.
A moon face crinkles in a way that suggests both irritation and confusion at what seems to be an unexpected visit. The lawyer slaps his knees and rises from his wingback chair with the enthusiasm of a husband being summoned by his wife during the middle of a tense football match. The tailored suit on his bubbly figure is a shade darker than his wavy gray hair and he has the lazy waddle of person not accustomed to moving from the table to the sink with his dirty dishes.
The man forces a smile to stop a memory from flooding back and the severe indigestion the associated guilt brings. “I’m the one who attacked the state employee,” he says, through clenched teeth.
A gasp, which the distinguished lawyer tries to cover up with a cough. “Yes, um, er, well... I know who you are,” he mutters, waving a short arm at a small wooden chair on the other side of his imposing desk. “Been expecting you. Take a seat.”
The man says, “Thanks,” but wonders if the lawyer is lying or if he treats all potential clients with total indifference, like the employees of El Corte Inglés, the department store where the man purchased the faded mud brown blazer, which he hangs on the back of a wooden chair before he sits.
The lawyer wears a bemused smile, slanting up in the direction of mocking. His lips show no sign of moving to speak. The man breaks eye contact and looks at full bookshelves, framed diplomas and pictures of smiling local dignitaries.
The longer the silence the more uncomfortable the man feels and he is the first to speak. “You have to study a lot to be a lawyer, don’t you?”
The lawyer nods. “And take many, many exams,” opening a desk drawer. “Tell me—what on earth possessed you to attack someone? You don’t look the violent type.”
“It’s a long story.”
The lawyer tiffs to show his disappointment at the answer and sets down a leather folder in front of him. “Well, um,” he starts, pausing to stare into the man’s languid wood-colored eyes, “if you want me to represent you, you’ll have to tell what happened because right now you’re facing ten years in prison for attacking a state employee.

No comments:

Post a Comment