Coffee…and a defense (Part I)

“To be honest, I don’t remember that evening much. There are some things crystal clear in my mind, but most of it is kinda murky.”

“That’s a good thing. Witness memories tend to get murky too. That’s why their credibility drops exponentially with time. Delay and stall is a good tactic for you.”

“That would be true if I were guilty. I’m telling you there’s no way I would’ve touched her like that without permission. This is why I need this thing to be wrapped up as soon as possible.”

“Look pal, like it or not, this is a game of he said, she said. Circumstantial evidence has been enough to convict in many cases. Your DNA in her house is not a good thing. In fact—”

“I was in her house. I went there to pick her up. My DNA is bound to be there. What does that prove?”

“Nothing so far, but it does make it difficult for us to make this a clean sweep. If there wasn’t enough to link you to her apartment, this thing would’ve been open and shut.”

“In my opinion, the more I stall, the guiltier I look to people.”

“If your opinion was worth a rat’s ass, you wouldn’t be paying me $400 an hour for mine. So just listen—I don’t care how guilty you look to the public if you don’t get convicted. No one, I mean no one has emerged from a rape trial spotlessly clean. There will always be some people who think you did it, and others who’ll talk about it. Your image will improve over time, and nothing else.”

“I thought she was a good person. Why would she accuse me of such a terrible thing?”

“Good. At least you’re approaching this kinda rationally. Remember, the burden of proof is on them. They have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you did it. Based on the evidence they’re going to present, they don’t have it. While it might be tough, I think we can beat this if we keep our heads. Just tell me exactly what you remember, starting from when you picked her up.”

“I remember taking a cab from the corner of 95th and Amsterdam, and getting off near 34th and 1st. I buzzed her apartment, and got the wrong one as a sleepy Latina brusquely told me. I called her cell phone, and she buzzed me up. She told me to help myself to a drink while she got dressed. I did.”

“Sharp as a tack. Details are good. Remember, we can call the Latina to establish your credibility. Keep going, and avoid using words like brusquely.

“It had started to rain. She waited under the awning of her building while I spent five minutes trying to get a cab. We reached Bleecker and MacDougal around 12:30.”

“Do you have a credit card receipt for that cab ride?”

“I dry-cleaned those pants. Who knows where that receipt is.”

“Alright. How was her demeanor during all this? Had she already had a drink or two?”

“No. Not as far as I can remember. We entered some club. I ordered our drinks and took them to her. This was interesting. I was gonna have a Glenlivet neat, but she told the bartender to make two usuals.”

“What the hell’s her usual?”

“Something with white rum and mint and some other stuff. No, it didn’t taste like a mojito, but it was strong like hell.”

“And then?”

“We were chatting about how cold it had gotten recently, and how it was very unlike last October. She said something about the pool in her apartment complex, and how much she missed…”

“Missed what?”

“Well, it wasn’t really clear. We were in a club, you know. After asking her to pardon me a couple of times, I was too embarrassed to admit I still wasn’t sure what I heard. So, I just kept nodding and tried to furrow my eyebrows like I was considering what she was saying very deeply.”

“I bet she knew you were bullshitting too…anyway, did you order a second drink?”

“No. I think she refilled our glasses. It was the same thing. And then we danced.”

“Sure, how long was that?”

“Two or three songs. Then we left to go to another bar.”

“How were you feeling around this time?”

“Heavily buzzed. I remember I wasn’t walking perfectly straight. She seemed worse.”

“Yet, you went to another bar. This might be a problem.”

“How is it a problem? A man and a woman meet for drinks; it is in the best interest of the guy to get the woman as sozzled as possible. You can’t blame me for that.”

“Look, if she can find 12 jurors to think that you knew how drunk she was while making her drink even more, anything that happened between you could be construed as rape.”

“That is a god-awful law. And what if she had gotten into a car and driven over a bunch of homeless people? Would you still blame me for it?”

“Interesting question. But in this case, irrelevant. It’s good you’re getting indignant now. Get it over with here, so you’ll stay calm in court.”

“The remaining is a blur. I think we went to some after-hours place in Chelsea, I kinda remember sitting in a cab…”

“But you did wake up in her house. Did you slip out like a cat burglar or did you make conversation?”

“Well, she woke up as I was getting dressed. She seemed a little irritated as I was making morning-after small talk. She got up, and made scrambled eggs with toast. We spoke a little about the previous night. She said something to the tune of We really shouldn’t have…I’ve never done this before…looks like I had had too much to drink last night…

“And you left. That was Sunday morning right?”

“Wow, you catch on fast. Is my eye-rolling too quick for you?”

“I would get rid of all that sarcasm before I go to court dude, juries hate smug. Sarcastic righteous indignation often looks smug. Don’t forget that even though you’re chances are pretty good here, this might not be the end of the road.”

“What do you mean? I can’t be tried again if I’m acquitted right?”

“Yes…those hours of watching The Practice reruns have drummed some sense into you, but what you might’ve missed presumably while channel-surfing is that she can sue you in a civil court and inflict serious damage.”

“Civil rape trial? Does that even exist?”

“Yes. She can sue you in a civil court for sexual assault, and the smart money says she will. This whole criminal shakedown might just be a way to collect discovery for her civil case. A lot of people take this approach because the burden of proof on the accuser is a lot less than criminal trials. She can get you for a lot of money.”

“I don’t have a lot of money. No really, my profits are largely plowed back into the business and I take a small salary for myself. I’m looking to expand right now, and rolling in it is not the way to go.”

“Yeah whatever. I don’t mean liquid cash. If the jury finds for her in a civil case, they might ask you to pay a large sum, which you’ll end up paying in small parts for a long long time. Kinda like buying a boat, but without all the sailing and the tan and the obvious affluence.”

“So you’re saying that in spite of being innocent, I actually need to worry about losing everything I have and will work for?”

“Not really, right now I’m saying that you should worry about going to prison. If we successfully get you acquitted, I’ll refer you to a very capable friend of mine, who specializes in civil sexual assault defense.”

“It still doesn’t feel right. How could she do this?”

“I know you’re still on the clock but lemme venture an adverse opinion. Imagine her side of the story. She meets a guy who buys her drinks, and wakes up next to him not remembering exactly what happened. A lot of women take time to realize that their sexual encounters need not have been voluntary. Many still don’t pursue the matter. You just got unlucky.”

“You say it in such a cold way.”

“Come on man, at the last reunion you decided to regale us with the minutiae of a pancreaticduodenectomy…while stabbing hungrily at your steak…it’s just all in a day’s work. You get desensitized after some time. And for me it’s been 13 years. Anyway, let’s grab a bite to eat and we will hash it out further.”

“No you go ahead. I’m gonna go home. I’m not in the mood. We can do this some other time.”

“You’re sure? Hope you’re not too depressed. Do I have to follow you home and hide your razors or something?”

Café speak

“A grande latte please, no cinnamon…”

“Boy! You’ve not changed a bit I see…”

“Hey, if old habits are allowed to die hard, I think coffee preferences deserve immortality”

“Double cappuccino, just a hint of cinnamon, less foam…”

“Wow…living on the wild side, I’ve never seen you order cinnamon…speaking of old spices I hate, there’s Sam…”

“Sam…surely you mean Sameer, don’t tell me he has Americanized his name too…he is just in his second semester…”

“I know, it is presumptuous of an international PhD student to become red, white & blue before he clears his comprehensives.”

“Ah! What the hell…I heard the NMR machine in his lab is a 600MHz! Is he using it now?”

“Not unless you count the new Taiwanese MS student being spread-eagled on it succumbing to his lecherous advances as research!”

“Well…chemistry manifests itself in weird ways!”

“That stab at humor was passé even for you”

“Hey…you should have ordered a decaf I guess…the last thing you need is more caffeine at your crabbiest best…I take it your animal protocol was turned down again?”

“I will never understand how a person who regularly endorses the slaughter of cows and pigs by sauntering into Burger King can cry like a baby if the protocol has a lower quantity of anesthesia than regarded as appropriate…for god’s sake I am researching pain management, how can I do that without causing the animals some pain…”

“Calm down, they are doing their job…we can’t have people being callous about animal handling in the name of research…so tell me do you get time to spend with your girlfriend at all?”

“Not really, between her trips to the polytechnic department for the gel filtrations and my constant bickering with the animal department and numerous protocol addenda…we manage to squeeze a phone call in every 3-4 days or so…”

“She lives three blocks away…her lab is three buildings away from yours…I think one or both of you might be consciously avoiding the other…”

“I need a refill…what about you?”

“Yeah…tell the waitress to repeat mine too…so I got lucky last night”

“God! I noticed that grin on your face ever since we sat down…I knew if I did not ask you, you would certainly rub in my face all the action you’ve been getting…so who is she?”

“Remember that cute ABCD biomed student of mine…well…she is not my student anymore, so I asked her out and she came in if you know what I mean”

“Your innuendoes never cease, do they?”

“Yeah whatever, while you spend your nights playing pocket-billiards mulling over doses of propofol, I am playing the game…did I mention I am up for an NIH grant?”

“F#$% you…all the fun and yet you get the laurels too…you cell culture waalahs get your own way on everything!”

“Well, not to sound too churlish, but animal research is like having a girl friend- lots of work and negotiation and not much scoring…cell culture is like my life…scoring all the time and no adjustment!”

“Hey…I have a lab meeting in half an hour…need to shave, shower and order pizza…”

“You are proving my point!”

“Same time, same place, next week?”

“Until then!”

“Bye bro…bye Sam (a little louder)”

“Bye…Hey Sam…guess who I banged last night…”

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy The Precipice

Weird events

Here is a list of weird things that happen or have happened in my life, which might overlap with some of the events in your lives too.

  • I went to the restroom in the college library that day to wash my hands and face as I was working tirelessly on this term paper (which means I was watching youtube and chatting while on invisible mode). I was scrupulously washing my hands and was done drying them when the urge for a constitutional came over me and I went into one of the booths. The other occupants of the restroom looked at me as though I was the poster boy for OCD who washes his hands before the act.
  • This happens to me too many times. I am waiting for someone, and I look at my watch for no reason really. The next moment, someone asks me the time, and I need to look again!
  • I have nice interesting conversations with pretty girls which peak with them telling me that my shoelaces are untied. The sad part then is that I never then find a low stump to rest my foot on whilst tying the lace (Murphy is my constant companion), so I need to go the full monty, bend all the way and tie them up, by which time any girl would excuse herself from the conversation.
  • Waking up early is that much easier when you have nothing to wake up for.
  • Dreams seem to become less Sooraj Barjatya and more Alfred Hitchcock every night. (That is a comfort, trust me)
  • Eating food has become one of the events to look forward to these days
  • An ex-roommate of mine once stared philosophically at a roll of toilet paper and said, “This is one of the added expenses in the USA, which we never had in India”
  • I saw this girl I knew while walking down the street. I did not know what magnitude of smile intensity would be considered appropriate. What if she gives me a small smile merely acknowledging my existence while I floor her with 32/32 teeth. She will consider me a creep. However, if I give her the dignified smile and she flashes the pearly gates, I look like a snob. Also, I lose any chance of another of those smiles. I took the conservative route, and gave a small nondescript smile. Would you believe it, she gave me one of the sweetest, broadest smiles ever, and now I feel like an idiot. (Damn that Murphy never takes a break!)
  • I felt very good one day. I had purchased a packet of bite sized peeled carrots. Great! Now I could guiltlessly munch on these during those long movies etc. Before I realized it, I was having those lovely red denizens of fitness Elysium with potato chips and mountain dew!
  • I went into this quaint pub near Kew gardens with a buddy, and ordered an Absolut vodka straight up. The bartender was impressed as she asked, “Straight up? No ice?” I said, “No ice!” and pondered that for one moment in my life, I actually looked macho. Then she shattered it with, “May I see your ID please?”
  • There are many more like these, but they probably make for duller reading than the above.