I’m going to lose.
I wish I was told this before I invested four years in university and three years of law school in Maryland.
Time that could’ve been spent partying with raised champagne glasses, or discovering the motherland where my elders once roamed, or even falling in love with someone who I couldn’t fathom falling in love with— time that could’ve been spent doing so much!
Instead, I’m standing here in front of a courthouse, and I’m going to lose.
I thought law was a respectable career to pursue. I couldn’t handle the sight of blood, so my parents agreed that I could be a lawyer. I thought I was set for life; it was good pay, and all I had to do was write, listen, read, and write and write and write some more. It should have been easy. It should have been attainable.
And yet, there were two voicemails sitting in my inbox that had been playing on repeat over and over again in my head the entire week. I could still hear the nasally voice of my boss, an evident smoker whose disappointment dripped through the receiver:
“Mendoza, you lose this case, you’re cut.”
When you’re about to lose your job, there are multiple figures a person can imagine praying to: Shangti, Jesus, Buddha…
For me, I pray to Lady Justice.
I clutch tightly to my briefcase, fingernails pressing into the leather, marking tiny crescent indents. My hair was pinned up tightly with bobby-pins and hairspray, since a good appearance was the way to a good life.
Respected and non-respected people strut around the busy courthouse plaza, men with phones pressed to their cheeks, and women adjusting their pins and adding blush to their faces with nothing to assist them but a small mirror.
In the center of it all stood Lady Justice.
I collapse to my knees and clasp my hands in prayer, looking up at Lady Justice.
“Lady Justice,” I murmur under my breath.
I try to think of what to say to her, only to have an immediate sense of guilt wash over me. Poor deities, it must be exhausting to have people always beg things from you: Look out for me, Please let me win this, Give this to me, I deserve this, I promise!
I try to think about the most effective way of prayer, if there even was an effective way of such an act. I eyed the sword she adorned along with her heavy scales. I’ve always looked up to Lady Justice ever since I started studying law. She was a remarkable figure.
How could I get what I want from her? Perhaps I would study her first. The same way any lawyer sizes up their opponent before they rip them to shreds.
The scales she holds in one hand are supposed to emphasize the importance of evidence. Despite a weak foundation, the evidence should stand on its own.
Her sword represents her swiftness and the finality of her words. Swords back then were only entrusted to emperors, kings, and generals. She was one of the very few female figures who wielded a sword.
Then there was her blindfold, which had always irked me.
A quick Google search will tell you that the blindfold stands for impartiality. It’s so she won’t be swayed by wealth, power, or status. Without her blindfold, she’s nothing but an icon for interested judgement.
Here’s something a quick Google search won’t tell you.
Lady Justice is ugly.
She’s vicious. She’s wrathful. Nobody looks beautiful when they are angry, when they are rife and maimed. From the moment Lady Justice was carved from stone, her fate was set, her ugliness deemed eternal. Her presence was required in all courthouses, her being was multiplied and exported across the country.
Courthouses are a place of judgement.
A place where we determine who’s right and wrong. Where people crowd and peer curiously in their seats debating: Who’s the villain and who’s the innocent?
The root word villain stems from the term villainous, meaning a low class worker. A person who scurried and fed off scraps, who worked their fingers numb and their backs stiff until they couldn’t move. They were people who stole and lied until they croaked on the very foundation they built themselves, all so their children could lead better lives.
So then who were these self-proclaimed innocents that versed them in court? They were people who were no better. If anything, worse! They were nothing but rich men and complicit women who had been in power for far too long, who grinned slyly at each other with their handshakes and smuggled bills, trampling over everyone to get what they wanted before anyone else even had the chance to compete.
I look up at Lady Justice, who stands still and unnerved. I want to rip off the blindfold that has been carved on her. Poor Lady Justice, who is nothing but a young maiden forced to be dolled up in the finest robes, the sharpest daggers, and holiest scales. A young maiden who has screamed, and cried, and ached for the villains, but from the outside seems of nothing but stone. A poor woman who is enraged by how unjust her children are playing, but cannot act upon it because it is uncivilized, and the courts are for nobody but the civilized.
A good prayer, I was told, gives you peace of mind. It refocuses you.
I stand up from my knees, looking at Lady Justice. She seemed different now that I was standing. Not as tall.
“Lady Justice, I won’t lose. I’ll do this for you.”
Until the villains get their justice, I won’t let them win.