Sense of Guilt....

Jury Duty
Extract from 11.08.08. 11.17. In the court buildings. Waiting.

The room is split in two. Both physically and by the characters within. To me it is noticeable the second I raise my head from my book. (Franz Kafka, The Trial. Fitting I know.) The room is dull, clinical, very ‘waiting room’. It has been made to appear more friendly, more comfortable, more homely through the use of accessories, cushions, curtains, coffee tables.

The split: the café and the ‘lounge’. Separated by a partition. Separated by personalities. Characters. Half in the café half in the lounge. The café filled with groups. Sat around tables. Attracting one another. Making judgements, who shall i sit by? Who will be most accommodating for me? They buy their coffee and gather round each other. Then what? Spill their lives out. Their secrets, loves, divorces, affairs, mortgages, jobs, friends, family, politics. Anything. They give everything to keep conversations from running dry. Some share too much. Then there is a loner. A table to herself. Unable to make an assessment of the others. Indecisive. An empty table. A rash decision. She takes it and is unable to attract any attention. In retrospect I should have sat with her. She looked strange enough. Gentle timid. It would have been impossible. Awkward. I could have just sat there, looking at her, then writing something down, then looking at her again, then back to my pad. She would have moved away to another table, one with other people sat at it. I would have succeeded in forcing her to make that leap from isolation to crowd pleaser. I would be an outcast’s (and outcasted) hero. But I didn’t. As it is. She glances around at the others. An escapee from the other side. Our side. My side. She joins us. We are sat in silence. Occasionally gaining insights to the lives of the people sat in the café. We are all sat with at least one chair separating us. We are immersed in activity. In books, newspapers, magazines and thoughts. Is this it? I think. Am I truly witnessing what I think I am witnessing. I grin. Am I seeing a very physical very obvious almost symbolic division of introverts and extroverts? I am sure of which title I fall under. My smile thickens. My God this is it. I can see it.

Over there they are all sat in groups prostituting themselves for whatever conversation. Asking questions when they do not care about the answers. Will forget the answers and the people they have met within two weeks. (Jury duty finished.) Then us over here. Chairs apart from each other. Islands on a flowery sea of carpet. The introverts. Us. A group but all separate. Confident in our own company. Quiet settled and composed in appearance. Actually the atmosphere over here is a little tense. Eye contact is broken as quickly as it is made. Conversation is anticipated. We all glance around suspiciously. Who will break the silence first? Who cares? Conversation is more informative over here. On a need to know basis. “How long must we wait?” “Is this an inconvenience to you?” and so on. That then breaks into small talk. Something which the introverts hate. It is pointless and we are useless at it. As talk breaks out I wonder if I have misjudged my introverts. Sure there are definite loners, the ones tapping their feet, head in hands, sighing, willing time away (wasteful bastards). Nothing to entertain themselves. Are they just shy. Or worse bored. (Who comes to jury duty unarmed, really?) Then there are the confident ones. A business looking man captures my interest. He is suited. Confident. This is a colossal inconvenience to him. He carries himself well, is proud. Has a life. A wife. A few kids now in their teens. Probably a mistress. Yes, she is probably his P.A. she is my age, 22, he is more than twice that, he approaches 60. Yes, the sex is good, I hear bald men are virile. (I immediately scrap that thought, my dad is bald. My sister mocks me, “Baldness is hereditary!” She mocks, she mocks. “Yes but females are carriers, it is only the men that bald, I will not go bald. When I am older (this was a reoccurring argument throughout youth and still continues today, sometimes at random. Silence then “Hey Mandi did you know that baldness is hereditary?” I roll my eyes and say “Yes, my hair falls out, it is like pulling candy floss from a stick. I will soon have none left!) I will only be with men who have strong hair. It will be fine.” Tongue out. So there!) He is a man. He has no time to waste with these people. A quick burst of chatter with the other side whilst he buys a coffee and then back over to our side to read the FTSE 100. He is a leader. I lose interest, business men are dull. Most here are over 50, are grey and thinning, are unattractive (no silver foxes), no body keeps my attention. No attractive older men to stare out, or they are women with kids and will not God damn shut up about them, that woman looks businessy, she is the opposite of the bald man, but she is boring, she is in her forties, men fear her, she is sensible, she hates sex, she was divorced on the grounds of boredom. She settled out of court.She has no intention of remarrying, business is too important. Her life is numbers. She is a broker. Her husband is numbers, her children are numbers, her dog is a number. She is cold but she is happy.

 This is not a reliable and healthy cross section of our country surely. There are no black people, no asian people there are no hippies, left wingers, liberals. Probably no gays either, but I will not delve into people’s private lives, I am not an extrovert. There is probably at least one gay in here. I look to the old men. They look sleepy. It is one of you. I know that one of the beige is gay. More than likely overtly so. Now it is disguised, it is disguised because he is in court. Underneath that grey cardigan, that beige generic coat, the pressed beige trousers, there are sailor tattoos, the left nipple is pierced, and there is a purple thong, his crinkled ass cheeks wrapped around it’s string. In between the creases of his face are memories, glitter, makeup, lost love and sperm. He grins at me. He knows I know. I nod to him. He winks. I have no overtly gay friends, an old beige like this would eat their baby faces alive, but they would run before he had the chance to.

 There is a boy. He is young. Young like I am. This excites me. Colour amongst the beige. We could be friends. He could be my jury duty friend. No one here wants to talk to me because 1. I am on the introvert’s side  2. I am young and what do I know about anything. He is wearing a Strokes t-shirt (this is what attracts my attention actually, he is wearing a strokes t shirt to court!) he has long hair, a short untamed fluffy beard and flares. He is attractive but short. He looks too young. He is probably only fifteen. He is probably pretending to be his dad or his brother or someone who couldn’t make it but didn’t want to incur the fine. He has fooled the court. I lose attention quickly. He has a copy of “The Sun” in his back pocket. He probably doesn’t even know who The Strokes are.

I look around. I am fine here, I have my entertainment. (Thank you Kafka.) I couldn’t possibly start a conversation. At least not without a rush of blood to my cheeks. (Fight or flight, I always chose flight, it is too embarrassing! My sister is a psychiatric nurse. I inform her about the redness. “How can I make it stop? Why does it happen? I am not embarrassed, I feel fine. It just sort of happens then I get embarrassed because I am red, not because of anything that happened before it. Of course this makes it worse. Then I worry that everyone is pitying me and they shouldn’t because I am fine, I am just a little redder than usual.” She says “It is fight or flight. It is related to anxieties and your heart pushes blood rapidly around your body, and to your face, preparing your body for fight or flight.” Similar I guess to adrenaline so when you are confronted you are ready to either punch someone and be punched, or run like a mother fucking Olympian. It is always flight, or avoid situations which cause the redness. I say that I think I have social anxiety disorder, we discuss this at great length. No conclusion is made.) It even happens at the checkout in supermarkets or whatever shop. It especially happens there. If the cashier pays me a compliment or says anything to me other than “Thats £4.50 then, thank you, here is your change, have a nice day,” or “Have you got any ID?” then I am taken by surprise. I do the red thing. And then Andrew says “You’ve gone red,” then I say “Yes thank you I am perfectly aware of the colour of my face, stop it you are making it worse.” Because once the red knows that other people are aware of it, it gains an ego, it glows, it gleams, I get hotter, and it begins to pulsate. “Look at me, Look at me,” it calls. Shhh, I beg desperate to hide my face under my hair, this worked great until I cut it all off. (“So how do I stop it Dani? What is the trick?” “Well you have to embrace it. Act like it isn’t happening, pretend you don’t care, deflate it’s ego, and be confident, or at least pretend to be confident.” So that is what I pretend to be. Only the cashiers get me every time.) For this reason groups are impossible, unless I am used to the company. When I am comfortable I talk. And I talk. Then I become exhausted, my mood swings back to quiet and contemplative. I flick between confident, talkative and in control, to shy, contemplative and difficult. And I apologise because it is nothing personal to you, as the friend or whoever. It mustn’t be taken as an offense.

No one else interests me. I look to the mothers. They failed to lose their baby weight. “Being part of a jury is like being part of Jeremy Kyle,” one of them is betting. If the judge turns out to be Jeremy Fucking Kyle the British judicial system is well and truly bent, there is not justice!  The builders keep their muscular arms folded, tattoos on show, mouths shut, impenetrable, skin heads, sunburnt, ugly. I am keeping my own company here. The extroverts happily share their lives with others. I keep mine to myself. Why would you want to know? What have you to gain? Are you really that interested? Being my own company, yes I am. So I share my life with myself. I carry with me a note book. I have had many of these over the years. Not exactly diaries, more of an outlet for thoughts. It reminds me of how much I have changed. Life constantly alters, much as you can never step into the same river twice, you can not remain the same person for too long, things happen, experiences infiltrate you, punch you, kiss you, fuck you, change you. And they are constant. I always feel as if my life has been a film, or a book (not a particularly interesting one) with many chapters, characters and parts. But I am not the protagonist, I am not the antagonist, I am no character within the book, I am it’s audience. It is as if I watch my life go by, and I remember the important things happening, but they didn’t happen to me. They happened to somebody else. That five year old, that seven year old, that twelve year old, that fourteen year old, that eighteen year old. She was a nervous eighteen year old. When she first moved to Sheffield she missed her first days of university because she was throwing up. She only left her room for the fire alarms at three in the morning. She couldn’t eat. (I always eat. I love eating!) She didn’t make friends with anyone. They knew as much as she knew she was not one of them. And like them she wasn’t sure who she was or who exactly they expected her to be. Her boyfriend had to make friends for her. That is how she got friends when in Sheffield, he gave his friends to her then went off and made some more for himself. But that was not me. It was a film I watched sometime. I vaguely remember now. Despite the eighteen year old’s anxieties she was fine really. She kept herself entertained. She can do that. She enjoys that. She is an introvert too. She did all kinds of reading and writing. Actually at the time she was pretty convinced that she was going to be a genius guitarist. She was going to be a rock star. Everything she wrote was amazing. It was new and fresh. Like nothing before. It was The Velvet Underground mixed with De La Soul. Actually, no it wasn’t. But it would have had that sort of impact. Actually, no, it wouldn’t. I am pretty sure that it was just shit. And since no body ever heard any of it and the eighteen year old had no confidence or intention of playing it to anyone, ever, it was probably one of the most pointless exercises she had ever indulged in, that I had ever witnessed. There you have it, the year and a bit I watched some familiar kid work intensely on becoming a rock star. It wasn’t really that intense. Most of the time was spent studying records. The crackle got to her, it made the sound more real. She wanted to crackle. Now she is different, but she still has the crackle. There you are extroverts has that enriched your lives somehow? Have you gained from me any information to further your self? Are you a better person now? Or are you just maybe a little bit bored? Why does anyone need to know that...

The group separates into two halves - different from the original intro/extro segregation - half are going to witness a trail, the other half are to sit and wait a little longer. Both extro/intros are happy to be chosen. The room quietens. The other half of us are left. An extrovert unable to cope now that his acquaintances have left, turns the TV on. The olympics. It annoys me. 1. because in an out of character political stance I decided to boycott all watching and news of the Olympics 2. because I am trying to read! Extroverts are the doers they do things like that. Turn on TVs because they do not like to be alone. Introverts are the big thinkers, but they struggle to do. So we don't do things like turn on the television for the sanity of extroverts. TV is a distraction. We are the thinkers. Thoughts can become so engrossing, but it is easy to become distracted. It is easy to become lazy. I try harder to read. The sound quality on the television is terrible. The speaker must be bust. It is too loud. It rattles and hisses with the cheers of the crowds, the excitement of the commentators. Don’t watch it. I can’t I am sat underneath it. This makes it louder. It is easy to wallow in your thoughts. Fear can take over. You can turn on the TV, it is loud my head hurts, it was hurting when I woke up, now it is irritated and angered. Turning on the TV will only postpone thought, it is still there only now it is waiting, becoming angered and irritated. Is it getting louder? My thoughts are shouting. We need outlets. Introverts need outlets. I write. Once the thought is tangible, physical, once your hand has followed the direction of your mind, once your hand has cramped and grown tired through words. There is nothing left to think. It is all there in front of you. In front of you and out of your head. An idea, a daemon, a desire, a creation. Do with it what you will. Destroy it, burn it, cherish it, share it, make it reality, read it over and over or never look at it again. I have read my past, my memories like a book, the chapters of my personality in flux (not the magazine). I used to avoid everyone. I am not that person today. I love human contact. I crave it. I like it best when people are strange, I seek out the strange. They are not strange. They are interesting. They are refreshing. They intoxicate me. Keep intoxicated. Nobody here is strange. But then I know nothing about them. I didn’t ask. What is even on the TV, is it... swimming?

Get out.

We are adjourned, no more court cases today. The extroverts stop mid sentence. The speaker cares not to finish, the listener cares not for an ending. The TV is turned off. Everyone races out. Through the metal detector. Security does not care if the alarm beeps on the way out. We all separate and disperse into the outside world. I will never recognise anybody again. I can’t remember the business man, or the boy with long hair, the overt gay, the mothers, I am not sure if they were even there in the first place. At least their faces were, but I have forgotten already. They cannot remember me. I cannot remember the flowery carpet and the curtains. We have made no lasting impression. We leave and go home. Lives unaltered by the interaction with in that room. Of course I have made some judgements here today. But I could be wrong. I probably am wrong. About all this. About the extroverts and introverts. About the divide in the room. About the personalities within. I know no truths, only what is imagined, only perceived reality. I will never see these people again. They are not the ones on trial here. I go to Waterstones with the intention of buying Lolita. Sean is working there. They do not have Lolita. He wants to know everything. I tell him that I am not allowed to discuss it until it is over, it will be over in two weeks, I will come back and tell you everything. And here it is. Everything, all from one little waiting room.

I never returned to that room.

(Ok so now you are at the end of my jury duty story and I bet you are disappointed. What happened in the court you are all thinking. Where was the story of the serial killer, the rapist, the shoplifter, the dealer, the kidnapper, the blackmailer, the law suit, the knicker nicker. Well I never got to sit in on a case. I got sent home after three days. It was the most disappointing two weeks of my life. I really thought I would get an interesting story out of it.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed reading this.

especially 'knicker nicker'