You could say a law student on spring break is not unlike a firefighter who is momentarily without a fire and so collapses in full gear to nap in the bunkhouse. You could say it, but it wouldn’t necessarily be true. Whether you retreat to cerulean coastal waters or labor to recover ground lost to the all-consuming spring brief, the law-school blaze is never really extinguished.
Much of my break went to corralling notes that, upon review, reflect some early cohesion, but grow more fragmented as the deadline for the brief approaches. Scrolling through the pages, I recognized concepts I will be expected to apply with some authority in coming weeks, but which now trigger only a vague memory of fingers and keyboard thudding out words. Torts, for example: Should oysters be the same as fish, for legal purposes? Or, Contracts: Think of botched nose job. It once made perfect sense. In Criminal Law, rape is interrupted by spring break and presumably resumes on Monday. Otherwise, I found my thought process disrupted by the slightest stimulus, my brain a scratchy FM radio scan of Japanese nuclear reactors, Libyan air strikes, Charlie Sheen developments and, once, a brief consideration of just how many Walgreens stores one city needs before it reaches critical mass.
And yet I am possessed of an odd tranquility. It could be the milder climate and the reappearance of the sun. Just as possible is the notion that one can sustain a state of apprehension for only so long. At some point you cross into that realm Pink Floyd called comfortably numb.
The brief is done, but not really behind us. Behind are the research, the composition, the painstaking adherence to citation rules and the Machiavelian quirks of Microsoft Word, without which human communication by all accounts would come to a halt. What still lies ahead are the oral arguments we must make in support of our fictitious clients, who are embroiled in an all-too-plausible legal clash. The last time I spoke in a public setting, my audience was a classroom of 12-year-olds who were easily impressed and not at liberty to question my reasoning. Nevertheless, it remains my policy that, if you are to fail, you must fail spectacularly. There must be none of this tentative, what-will-they-think reticence. You must fail in such a way that the sheer magnitude of your failure becomes its own legacy and eclipses the boring deficiency of your performance.
Call it your parting shot at winter.