Up early because I don't know anything about this part of being a bad adult, but I'm sure they don't like it if you're late. Gather paperwork. Spring to Atlanta, L, dead-end into the courthouse.

Inside is a marbled lobby and giant heavy doors opening into a courtroom, just like on TV, and I immediately know that I am dumb for thinking that. Surely I don't have to go into that scary imposing room. The receptionist says I do.

I sit on the end of a pew. Glad I'm not the only one in jeans. Denim Hard Rock jacket in front of me. Disheveled whitebearded hightop man to my left. Everyone here is quiet. Sent to our rooms to think about what we've done. I am all heartthump and panic. Authority does that to me and this place reeks of it. A building full of officials who would claim to be on my side, but I couldn't say "pot" in front of any of them. I sit here guarding my secrets and worrying and praying for someone else to have to go first.

Man in awful tie comes in and says gmorning to everyone. There's no one interesting to watch. Where are the damn kneelers? My feet need something to do. I am exhausted, my eyes like being shut but I am afraid I will fall asleep and embarrass myself. Stop rearranging the paperwork in your purse or you won't be able to find anything. Hopefully I will be granted enough boredom to kill the fear.

American flag in one corner, rebel flag in the other. Gigantic camera watching us from the wall. A plaque says Smyrna is the Jonquil city. Nu uh.

Big blue suit lady next to me looks like my mother from peripheral vision. I like the guy I'm watching - a bailiff or something - he smiles, holds the door for the pretty interpreter. As soon as the solicitor starts yapping I remember it's not authority I hate, but the way it's carried out. Misdemeanor offense! Thousand dollar fine! Five years in jail! What is this job for him - what is it a reaction to? I would love to know how he was in high school. He runs through the names like lightning. Speak up, people. People who don't answer when their name's called, go straight into the contempt file.

Surfer boy is a W last name. He has Will McGhee's hair, which I didn't know I still remembered. Everything about him is obligatory - while polo shirt, Dockers, loafers, clip tag on his belt saying he is allowed to work somewhere important. The couple beside me have suddenly become talkative and shove their candy wrappers under the seat cushion.

Two hours here and still nowhere near my part of the alphabet. The kind bailiff's job is to walk people out. Mr. Israel is a cute lawyerboy with a good green tie.

I am not so terrified now but my pulse still hops when Meanass Solicitor throws a P in with the Ss. This is like the dentist's office my whole childhood, chanting to myself please call someone else's name please. When the cop pulled me over last month my hands went all ridiculous, palsy, fluttering.

I like people that you have to say "seedy" about. This slick suit man with greased hair and ratface sits with his sniffy pale longhaired girl looking at me, I can tell, I feel it, and when I check, I'm right. He is not ashamed to be caught.

Ugly bailiff drinks Diet Coke and is too old to attempt a flattop. Bulldog.

What the fuck drives a man to cultivate a mustache but no beard, to wear an orange shirt and a baseball cap? We have the same shoes and this troubles me.

Finally P. I am jumpy again. Paulo Priori is cute but his friend is better. Shining hair and he belongs on a motorcycle, seducing everyone.

My time with Meanass is brief - 45 seconds and the kind bailliff is escorting me down the aisle like a bride. He smiles briefly when I thank him. He points me toward a Do Not Enter room, and I think of floggings. But this is the room for paying off my sins, where I cramp my hand to write a check with a pen with a too-short chain. Someone says hello to the kind bailliff, and I find out his name is Bob, which is as it should be. Paulo and his handsome friend are there too, laughing in Italian. If I spoke it I would say We are both minor criminals, Paulo. Let's go do something worth chasing us down for.

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