Role Play


Our Daily Correspondent

Photo: Georgie Pauwels

“I guess we’re all going to the same place,” said one of the women, as we all entered the elevator and hit twenty-three. “Are you a lawyer?” she asked, turning to me. I privately congratulated myself on the authenticity of my costume. “No, witness for the plaintiff,” I said. “You?”

“Court reporter,” said the other woman. 

After loading up on coffee and quartered bagels, we all traveled another ten stories and were directed to our respective courtrooms. I was assigned to wait in a nearby office with a few other witnesses. “Who are you?” asked a man already sitting at a desk.

“Number thirty-six, mother of two, work in tech,” I said. “You?” 

“I’m the other surgeon,” said a woman. “But we just got our depositions and I’m afraid I’m going to forget my name or something.” 

“Maybe we shouldn’t be talking to you, because we’re witnesses for the defense,” said the man. “I’m Ted Smith, thirty-four, character witness. What brings you here?” 

“One of the attorneys is an old friend of mine. How about you guys?”

“Oh, we’re getting overtime,” said the doctor. “I’m a paralegal here.”

“I work in maintenance,” Ted Smith said. “We’re not getting time and a half?”

There was a long discussion of what constituted overtime and what time and a half, and the number of hours counted towards each. Also the fact that we were there at eight in the morning on a Sunday. 

The doctor got up and peered into the office that served as a courtroom. “That doctor looks really young,” she said. “To have been practicing thirty years.”

“Yeah, apparently he’s eighteen,” I said. 

We all studied our depositions intently. 

“Are you scared?” said the doctor. 

“No,” said Ted Smith.

“I am!” I said. “I’m scared of the cross-examination.”

“Yeah, it’s hard when it’s pretend,” she agreed. “You don’t want to look stupid.” 

My palms were clammy. I reminded myself I was the CFO of a successful company, with an M.B.A. 

“Nice shoes,” said the doctor.

“Thanks!” I said. “I was trying to find my most conservative clothes, for court.” 

“I love shoes,” she said wistfully. “But I’m a five, so it’s hard to find them in my size.”

“I bet you can wear vintage shoes, though,” I said. “They’re really small a lot of the time.”

There seemed to be some kind of break; the jurors, lawyers, and court reporter filed out. I went into an office with my attorney, who also happened to be my college boyfriend. He closed the door; next door, opposing counsel was doing the same thing. “They’re going to try to hit you hard on bias,” he said in a low voice. “So be prepared. You know, they may suggest you have ulterior motives for testifying.”

“Can I get indignant?” I said. “Should I be really angry? I mean, I do resent that implication.”

“If he’s accusatory you can respond in kind, but try to go in even-keeled.”

“Got it. Hey! The other witnesses are making overtime, or maybe time and a half. Do I get paid for this?”

“I’m not sure.”

“I mean, I’m happy to do it either way.”

“Thanks. Don’t be nervous; it’ll be just like we ran through. Did you get some coffee?”


“Good. Headache?”

“No, I’m fine, I just don’t want to let you down.”

“It’s going to be fine.”

“Do I get to leave after I testify?”

“Yes. And it won’t take long—about five minutes each, plus any redirects.”

Someone stuck his head in. “We’re just waiting on juror five,” he said.

“Want to go to the ladies’ room and see if she’s there?” asked my attorney.

“No,” I said. “I don’t.” 


“Do you watch TV?” the doctor asked me, when we were back in the witness room. 

“Love it,” I said. 

“Oh my god. Game of Thrones.”

“I know. It’s completely out of control.”

“I can’t handle it.”

“Me neither. I’m obsessed.”

“You mark my words,” she said intensely. “That midget’s gonna ride a dragon.”

“Oh, I agree.”

“It’s going to be Dany, Jon Snow, and Tyrion Lannister. On those dragons. Do you watch Game of Thrones?” she asked Ted Smith.

“No. Is that the one with all the magic? That’s not my kind of thing.”

“That’s how my husband feels,” I said. “He just thinks it’s too silly, and too fake.”

“Anne Biehl?” called a woman in the hall.

“That’s me!” I said, and hurried in to testify. 

Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.