November 11th, 2010
Brand-new black pumps. When I put them on, I’m not a four-months-pregnant-mommy-of-a-toddler-with-a-stockpile-of-Preparation-H-and-Colase. No. I’m La Femme Nikita … if her cigarette skirt had an elastic panel over the belly. And if she had water retention. And didn’t have sinewy muscles. And wasn’t an assassin.
I have an excuse for buying the new shoes. I’ve got jury duty in downtown L.A. I’ve never done jury duty before, but am certain I’ll get a celebrity murder trial. It’ll go like this: The celebrity, who bears a passing resemblance to George Clooney, has a shoe fetish that has wiped out his finances. In desperation he breaks into his manager’s home to steal back his ten percent and things spiral out of control. The manager’s body, dressed in a chartreuse silk smoking jacket, is found bobbing face down in his infinity pool which overlooks the glittering lights of Chinatown. It’s up to me to convince the almost entirely female jury he’s guilty as charged.
Monday 7:45 a.m. I pull into the juror’s parking structure with not a moment to spare, spring from the car and follow the walking directions to the courthouse on my iphone map app. The little blue dot is me. The green dot, the courthouse.
After a bit I notice the little blue dot isn’t moving and why am I walking downhill when I should be headed north? Am I holding the iphone in the true north position? Or is it upside down? My bunions start to throb in my brand-new shoes. And my toes feel squeeze-y. My bunions and toes didn’t feel this way yesterday in Nordstrom when I tried on these eagerjuror/hiredassassin/femmefatal/wtfwasIthinkingI’mpregnant shoes.
I walk straight into a mailbox I didn’t see because I’m looking at the dots wondering why the distance from the parking lot to the courthouse is so much longer than it looks on the app.
Now I’m a little late. What if I miss the celebrity murder trial and get some anonymous teeth-missing, paint-sniffing burglar instead?
I notice a line of people moving in the opposite direction as me who seem like jurors. I decide to follow them, only I can’t keep up because now my feet feel like they’re in a vise and Joe Pesci from Casino is cranking the screw. I try not to put all my weight on my feet. Which is difficult when you’re walking.
The courthouse is dead ahead. I hobble in and limp to the spot where they scan you for shivs and screwdrivers with a metal detecting wand. I’m clean. All orifices empty. I’m desperate to shuck my shoes, but don’t dare as all prospective jurors should be dressed in “business casual” attire, according to my summons. Except why’s that guy wearing flip-flops and Dolphin shorts that barely cover his bulge? And that lady’s green bra straps are showing. A blood vessel in my middle toe bursts.
I’m on the elevator. I need to go to the eleventh floor. There will be chairs there and I’ll sit down. I notice the buttons inside the elevator only go up to the sixth floor. That’s weird.
I think I look glamorous standing tall in my brand-new shoes in the elevator mirror. Maybe even dangerous.
“Does anyone know if there’s another bank of elevators that lead to the eleventh floor?” I ask my fellow jurors. “You’re in the wrong courthouse,” says the woman with the bra straps.
I’m back on the mean streets in my torture heels click click clicking down the sidewalk staring at my treacherous iphone map app looking for the right courthouse. Now I’m really late and the judge is probably waiting for me, tapping his wrist watch while the celebrity who bears a passing resemblance to George Clooney scans the female jurors wondering who to seduce so he can get off and I’m not even there. I also have no feeling from my bunions to the ends of my toes and there’s a shooting pain in the arch of my left foot that seems connected to my cervix, which needs to remain long and closed for five more months.
I’m in the right courthouse now in the elevator ascending to the eleventh floor. I walk toward the juror waiting room in my brand-new black pumps like a villager on stilts weaving through a minefield. Step…step…step. Just get to a chair, just get to a chair.
Two hours later I’m still sitting in the juror waiting room. Waiting. My bare, swollen, outraged feet hiding beneath my chair, my stilettos shining dimly from their prone position on the floor. Vipers in a nest.
I’m summoned with several people to stand in the hallway outside a courtroom where we’ll soon meet the judge to be impaneled. I arrange my face to look like Mariska Hargitay’s no-nonsense, tough-bitch-with-a-heart-of-gold demeanor on CSI Special Crimes Unit. The spikes in my heels pierce my flesh like nails. I will not compare myself to Christ, because that would be in poor taste. When will they call us in, when will they call us in?
“Time for lunch,” says the Juror Ringmaster. “Be back at eleven.” Wait. We’re not going to be interviewed? Eleven? That’s two and a half hours from now.
I’m limping along Figuero Avenue in my shoes following the blue dot on my app, which should lead me to a lunch destination called, “Friscoe’s Fritters.” I arrive at the green dot. No Friscoe’s. I’m standing in front of a pawnshop that probably has a meth lab in the basement. I’m not La Femme Nikita or even Mariska Hargitay. I’m the vain woman in that fable who is condemned to dance an eternity in her red, dancing shoes (only mine are black). And she can never take them off.
I’m now speed-walking away from the pawnshop/meth lab in my nice blouse and skirt, hair flat-ironed, carrying my brand-new shoes in my hands. I’m as barefoot on the blacktop as Britney Spears coming out of a gas station toilet.
I’m eating Panda Express in a seedy courtyard, my shoes sitting next to me. Suddenly a swarthy woman with a headset appears, like KGB on Platform Nine. “You’re being watched,” she tells me cryptically. Watched? Apparently a lanky-haired, white guy with a backpack and a hunch has been walking past staring at me. The last time he did so he was perched on the stairs above me looking down. “Watch your back,” she whispers, leaving as suddenly as she came. I feel vulnerable. I am, after all, barefoot and pregnant.
Ouchouchouchouch. I’m flailing across the street toward the courthouse wearing my shoes again. I must suffer the pain in order to feel shod, thus less exposed. I keep looking over my shoulder scanning the street for any man with a backpack concealing a rope, masking tape and Chloroform.
I make it back to the courthouse unmolested to return to the hallway where I await the judge. Two hours pass. I sit splay-legged on the floor, all vestiges of dignity jettisoned, foul shoes in my purse. The Juror Ringmaster appears from the courtroom looking sheepish. The case won’t be going to trial.
I’m over it. To hell with the celebrity killer. He can go on a murderous rampage for all I care. And who cares about the post-trial interview I was going to have with Jon Stewart. He’s not that funny. I just want to go home.
Instead I’m sent back to the juror waiting room where I meet an attractive African American woman named Vanessa. She wears the most comfortable looking cowboy boots I’ve ever seen. I ask her foot size. She’s a six and a half. I’m an eight. My plot to swap shoes…vanquished.
Two hours later we’re released. No trial por moi. I’ve confessed my shoe debacle to Vanessa and admit I have no idea where the juror parking structure is because I was too busy looking at the dots on my phone. Vanessa leads me, shoes in hand, back to the structure. I realize I have no idea where I parked. Vanessa kindly offers to drive me through the structure in search of my car. I tell her I’m a lot smarter when I’m not pregnant, that all my brain cells have been siphoned off to help grow the baby’s bottom.
We inadvertently arrive at an exit and Vanessa has to leave me to my own devices. I wave farewell and spend the next twenty minutes accruing car oil to the bottom of my feet most likely toxicifying my womb as I walk through the parking structure click click clicking my remote until…BEEP! There’s my car, level 5, Row 10. It’s easy to spot because everyone else has left.
Spent, I lower myself into the car. Swinging my bare, begrimed feet inside I realize I will never see Vanessa again. And that she’s driven off with my brand-new black pumps on the floor of the front seat of her car.
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