I’m standing in the supermarket checkout line, idly considering the Erie Doctrine the way people shopping for groceries generally do, when I spot a tabloid headline, something to the effect that Lisa Marie’s pals are predicting she’ll end up as fat as Elvis. It was just the kind of lowbrow literary heroin I used to blame for spoiling the public appetite for real news. But standing there months removed from the last time I read something just because I wanted to read it, from anything that didn’t contain passages like “the lower court’s reasoning is not wholly inconsistent with the conclusion with which we now decline to concur,” I am overcome with the need to know. Precisely what is Lisa Marie Presley eating and in what quantity is she eating it? Moreover, what do inside sources close to the couple make of the Ashton Kutcher cheating scandal? And what of that half-boy, half-bat born in Brazil? I want, no, need, to know, and yet I am precluded from knowing, which makes me need to know all the more. I can’t explain it, except to say that law school is all vegetable and no dessert and a girl craves a sugar fix now and again.
Back at the law school, we turned in our 3,000-word open memos, (2,933, to be precise), a project that accounts for 20 percent of one’s final grade in Basic Legal Skills and which occupied roughly 92 percent of my time in the days leading up to the deadline. In the meantime, we received the first scores of our law-school careers, returned along with mercilessly defaced copies of the closed memos we turned in last month. Talk of grades is generally discouraged in law school, and for good reason. It’s a form of locker-room preening that tends to pit the haves against the have-nots in a psychologically destructive way. Still, at a time when you have so few hooks on which to hang your self-worth, it’s tempting to compare one’s socks and underwear to another’s shiny new bike. That being said, we have, by and large, done a yeoman’s job of keeping that in perspective. In other words, we’ve moved from stoop-shouldered therapy sessions into a post-memo malaise. We can’t afford to linger here, though. Reading assignments are letting up. Professors are scheduling review sessions. We’re on the brink of a full-bore lurch toward final exams. We must collect ourselves, must reflect and review. We must grapple with half-absorbed concepts from three months ago.
A few of us are already showing the strain. One of my colleagues published a Facebook obituary for a destroyed pair of sunglasses. A second-year student with whom I have little more than a nodding acquaintance stopped me in the hallway to recount a dream in which I personally tried to poison him. It has happened to me as well. I have thought fleetingly that, were I to resort to slitting my own wrists, I would try to maintain consciousness long enough to smear the words “Erie Doctrine” in my own blood on the linoleum. Yes, these are trying times, my friends, but soldier on we must. Lisa Marie and the half-bat boy can wait until Christmas break.