My relationship with The Lawyer began as all great romances of the 21st century have done: talking shit about co-workers and taking sarcastic jabs at each other via email.
The Lawyer was not what you might call
attractive classically handsome at first glance. He had nice eyes and a mischievous smile, but he was not swoonworthy and I was definitely more curious than infatuated when we first started coyly flirting. He was an adult with an adult job and a garden apartment in Cobble Hill. The Lawyer had grown up in Manhattan, name-dropped fancy restaurants and engaged me in wry banter when all the other lawyers I worked with only talked to me when they needed something. So, when it was clear he was paying a little extra attention to me, my interest was piqued. He made me laugh and Work Romance had Intrigue written all over it.
For most of the one year that I worked as a paralegal, all the
photocopies we were making important work we were doing was leading up to Court. As a part of the litigation arm of the Lehman liquidation I had been scouring batches of old emails between Lehman and Barclays looking for mention of the 1.9 BILLION FUCKING DOLLARS that someone had OOPS my bad lost or misplaced or like snorted up their nose or whatever. Finally Trial arrived and there we were fancy AF in US Bankruptcy Court with our ten thousand boxes of binders that yours truly had helped to make. Basically they won because of my photocopies, obvs.
The day trial ended the whole team went out to the firm’s go-to shitty Irish bar, The White Horse Tavern, for celebratory drinks. I remember drinking Guinness because um, who knows why, gross, and then switching to bourbon on the rocks, because duh. As the Big Deal partners began to leave and the crowd thinned, the younger associates and paralegals kept getting after it. Not surprising anyone, I was one of the last people still standing. Myself, and The Lawyer. Because we hadn’t already had enough to drink, The Lawyer suggest that we Go Out. It was a Friday night, still early enough since we had started drinking at like 3 and everyone makes good decisions after drinking 34 Guinnesses and not eating, so WHY NOT.
I’m not sure where we went first, but I do know that we ended the night at Horseshoe Bar, or 7B as I’ve known it. We sat at the sticky, wear and tear worn bar: him, in his suit, and me in my “work clothes” at total odds with the graffitied Alphabet City vibe around us. He had just gotten done calling me a badass or gorgeous or some other such make me feel like a living goddess term that every girl wants to hear when she’s tipsy, when he leaned in and kissed me. Even after weeks of low-key flirting, I think I never thought it would actually turn into Something. So when we were all of a sudden making out next to the jukebox, I was equal parts thrilled and Huh, so THIS is happening.
Yadda yadda yadda. Cut to: the next morning. We walked around Cobble Hill with coffee and bagels, well he scarfed a bagel and I just tried to keep the coffee down, each of us silently having the I Saw You Naked and I Will See You at Work Monday OMG What Does this Meannnn Embolism. Naturally, we didn’t at all talk about what it meant, which meant that that night with BF, over dinner at Pulino’s, I was in such a state of euphoria and nerves, I decided I needed to eat cheese pizza and no longer be a vegan bc we had to
analyze every possible detail of our interactions to date in the most granular way possible discuss me and The Lawyer and OMG what did it all meannnn properly. And yes, earlier that year, like every white girl in her late 20s, I had made a stab at getting healthy and like finding myself or whatever by becoming a vegan and doing a lot of yoga, thank you for asking.
That Monday I walked into work filled with anticipation and butterflies, which definitely had nothing to do with the venti-extra shot latte I drank every morning barf and everything to do with seeing The Lawyer for the First Time Post Tryst. Would he pretend that nothing had happened? Would he slam the door to his office and make out with me right there against the torts handbooks? (Haha, right.) Or, would it just be so awkward I’d rue the day I ever drank whiskey and unsuspectingly seduced nerdy corporate lawyers? In actuality, he sent me an email asking me to bring him such and such file or binder or whatever, and we had a halting and nervous conversation in his office in which there was passing innuendo at what had transpired and him asking me to go out or dinner or something that week. Swoon, yes, I am not tragic one-night stand rookie mistake office hook-up but am now about to be GF of fancy lawyer. We would have to keep it a secret at work, of course, and this added a layer of electricity that our relationship for sure would not have had otherwise.
Our courtship was mundane enough — movies, dinners, long walks — but in a very New York way. One night we went to see Exit Through the Giftshop and then the next day called out sick from work to hunt for the Banksys that had popped up overnight. We strolled through DUMBO, looking for the lone Brooklyn piece, drinking iced coffees, and discussing the authenticity of the film and the performativity of street art. Over cocktails and steaks at Frankie’s 457 we guardedly talked about our relationship and whether so-and-so at work had noticed anything. One night we went to see an off off Broadway play in the West Village and then to a late dinner at The Waverly Inn. When he ordered their infamous truffled macaroni and cheese as an appetizer, it had the effect he intended. BF and I were still pretty much mainlining cheap Pad See Ew so $55 macaroni and cheese seemed ludicrous, but of course I was impressed that he ordered it so cavalierly and even more impressed when they brought the truffle over to the table, weighed it, shaved a generous portion onto a steaming plate of macaroni and cheese, and then weighed it again, silently announcing the value of what we were about to casually consume.
The Lawyer was very much Wine and Dine Guy. Where The Hipster and I spent most of our time in dive bars, with the occasional foray into fancy (because in actuality The Hipster came from privilege, ran around with a lot of rich kids and was secretly fancy), The Lawyer was forever taking me to the Newest Place or the place with the Name. At Locanda Verde one night, as Liev Schrieber and Naomi Watts airily whisked past us, quietly confident in the manner that only the wealthy and powerful master, The Lawyer turned to me and said: You’re prettier than she is. Prettier. Than Naomi Fucking Watts. Lololol ok. In the moment, I remember thinking it was such a ridiculous compliment and being slightly needled by the comparative aspect of it. And also are you waiting for me to return the favor and tell you that you’re handsomer than Liev Schrieber because babe you really — wait, are you going to eat that last piece of burrata?
But, we were always doing something, and we did have fun. We went up to Woodstock one weekend for his friends’ engagement party. It was a hippietastic couple of days filled with camping, drinking and him introducing me to everyone as his Friend. But, then another weekend, The Lawyer took me out to The Hamptons — well, Hampton Bays, so like does it even really count — to meet his family. They were all nice enough but it was for sure that WASPy uber polite vibe even though I’m pretty sure The Lawyer was Jewish. So we were making our attempt at coupledom even though I was too busy trying to figure out
how to not make anymore effin photocopies my career to pay attention to the fact that it was largely all on his terms and that I, his FRIEND, was just along for the ride.
One thing we really had in common was a love of music and live shows. That summer we saw The Black Keys in Central Park and Heartless Bastards at The Bowery Ballroom, but by far the most memorable was Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes on Governors Island. I had been super excited to see them. We’d take the ferry, have a couple drinks, hear some fun ex-junkie commune folk rock — in short, a great summer evening. Narrator: It was not a great summer evening. It started while we were waiting for the ferry. I asked him how work was, he told me it had been a bad day and then he stopped talking. FOR THE REST OF THE NIGHT.
Never having been given the silent treatment for something entirely unrelated to me before, I was naturally confused and did not for a second believe he’d continue to not talk to me. So, I asked a few girlfriendy follow-up questions like: Do you still want to go? Can I help at all? Should I take you to the hospital because clearly you have had a stroke and lost the ability to communicate? Would you like a beer? To these I received monosyllabic responses or head movements. It was such a bewildering experience. I was equal parts bemused and infuriated and hurt. I could not understand why he couldn’t shake the day off and, at the very least, vent to me or complain or drink a beer or SOMETHING to at least make the evening somewhat ok for me.
But he stayed miserable and had no problem taking me down with him. I was still relatively inexperienced in real relationships at that point and always had a hard time finding my words. So when he shut down, I shut down, sure that he was mad at me somehow. I stayed quiet, not advocating for myself or intimating to him that he was acting like a real selfish POS. Alas, miracles abound, the next morning he had found the gift of speech once again. He did not apologize for his outrageous behavior, however, he did assure me that it had only been work related and nothing to do with me. So, like kewl to know how you
are a miserable human capable of freezing people out handle stress, but could you like give me a head’s up next time so I can bring a sweater?
That was my first experience with The Lawyer’s unfathomable coldness. He did make attempts at affection or intimacy, but his brand of affection was all show. Instead of cultivating a depth of character or the capacity for compassion, The Lawyer traded on his ability to drop half a grand on dinner. (I mean, same thing really, so what am I complaining about gawd WOMEN amirite.) Going out was always the impossible to get into restaurant or the hard to get concert ticket. When I eventually left the firm, The Lawyer made sure to tell me he had orchestrated which fancy bottle of bourbon the team bought me for my leaving gift. About this time I was also getting into what do you call it oh right Fitness and like Being Healthy and stuff. (I mean somewhat because like really have you heard of cheeseburgers.) When I decided to run a half marathon for charity, The Lawyer cut my fundraising goal by a quarter thirty seconds after I sent out the Any Amount Helps! email begging for donations. I was extremely appreciative, but it was the Truffle Effect all over again. Just when I’d start to feel unsure about our relationship, he’d send an endearing email or cavalierly take me somewhere impressive, giving me just enough to keep hanging on.
For the entirety of our relationship I felt beholden to his whims, his moods, never knowing where I stood or feeling like I was good enough. My own issues with impostor syndrome and feeling a little lost in the world at large at that time, absolutely contributed to this imbalance. But, I was never not going to feel insecure in that relationship because The Lawyer got off on Power.
When we began dating, he was my supervising attorney so all initial flirtation and subsequent infatuation was wrapped up in our work dynamic: stealing an illicit touch of fingertips under a table at a meeting, hiding from coworkers as we took the train from Brooklyn into Manhattan in the mornings, or him labeling me “exceptionally cooperative” on my performance review. (Gawd. Gross.) About halfway into our relationship, however, I quit the law firm to pursue academia once more. I had gotten hired as an adjunct professor, teaching online for a military university, and was applying aggressively to higher ed teaching positions in an effort to cobble together a living that way. After I left the firm, and had a job that was independent of him and what he could make me do, our dynamic began to shift.
We were never going to be together forever written in the stars in love, but it’s possible The Lawyer and I would have gone along half-assedly for a few more months or even a year — if it hadn’t been for The Silver Fox.