When Your #MeToo Abuser is Dead (Part I)
How do you come to grips with an assailant who has died?
Posted Dec 07, 2017
The name of the attorney is changed, as is the city where the trial took place. “Jim” is dead now, but my memories of our interaction live on.
In the 70s it wasn’t fashionable to challenge a law firm partner when you wanted him to hire you. Besides, I didn’t know how to stand up for myself; I was mute when it came to sexism. So I went to dinner with him for my “interview” at a restaurant over an hour from my home, which turned out to be near his house; his wife and kids were out of town. He groped and pawed with his freckled white hands. I got the job and each week we flew out of town for our trial.
The phone’s piercing ring jangled my dream. Large red-lit numbers on the clock radio flipped to 3 a.m. The only one who knew I was there was Jim, the senior partner who had brought me to Los Angeles to help him try a major antitrust case. Just two years out of law school, I felt lucky his prestigious firm had hired me and was eager to win both the case and his approval.
In slow slurred speech, he shocked me by saying, "You're so desirable."
I didn’t know how to respond. Drunks shouldn't use words with "s"s, I thought.
I tried to be tactful. "Thank you," I said with more calm than I felt and slammed the phone into its cradle.
Jim was a top-notch lawyer, but he wasn’t my cup of tea. In fact, he preferred Bombay gin to English Breakfast, and he smoked Pall Malls at every meal.
For the first two weeks of trial, we met at SFO on Sunday afternoons to shuttle south, returning Fridays at 9 p.m. I'd watch his short chubby figure walking to the gate in San Francisco, in a baby blue polyester leisure suit, lugging an oversized litigation briefcase. His thin rusty red hair was combed across his scalp, wild strands in disarray. His yellow golf shirt matched his smoke-tarred teeth and fingernails—not an intentional fashion statement. Clients who hired his brain overlooked form for content.
It was 1974, before the days of smoke-free flights and he'd insist I sit with him in the smoking section, so we could "discuss the case." He tapped the cigarettes, one after the next, from their bright red soft package, cellophane crackling, and washed the smoke down with gin. Refusing to drink alone, he ordered a drink for me each time he ordered one for himself. I whoozed nauseous from the smoke and alcohol, nursing a gin on ice, smiling my insecure underling smile. At the end of the flight, my airplane tray was covered with small unopened bottles of Beefeaters or Tanqueray, witnesses to my effort to be one of the boys.
Prompt: Write about a sexual encounter you had.
Copyright © 2017 by Laura Deutsch