FENNO WAS TAKING a ten minute break from his hectic, first week schedule. Between claiming, in one class, that he couldn’t have known the assignment yet and asserting, in another, that the textbook had been sold out, it had been a stressful shopping week. Rushing back from the Hark with enough candy to fuel him through his next course preview – the whole week was like the movies! – Fenno sighed with relief when he remembered that, signing onto his courses late, he could, at the very least, conveniently “forget” to place his old 1L mugshot on the seating chart.
Only one thing was really bothering Fenno that afternoon: 1Ls. Make that two things, he thought, recalling his morning experience: 1Ls and the fixed-place chairs that predominated in the second floor classrooms of accursed, monumentally ugly Pound. Momentarily untethered from the bland, institutional carpeting beneath those seats, and the distressingly impersonal distance between them and the table he rested his laptop on, Fenno settled into his first-floor Pound armchair and focused his ire on the flock of first years clustered around him.
“Jenna, David, Audrey, Sasha!” one shrieked, as one clique of former section-mates approached another. There were grins and mutual merriment all around, Fenno noticed: the tribe had finally reunited after braving the frustratingly anonymous surrounds of their elective. This was, of course, the problem – the reason why Fenno was subjected to 1Ls encountering each other in the hallways, at the Hark, and in class, always with the same deeply grateful grins of recognition, joyous to be delivered from the plight of not being intimately acquainted with each and every one of their classmates.
Fenno pretended to bury his head in the Federal Courts casebook he was intending to return that afternoon. Long since having graduated to 2Ldom – back, he believed, to adulthood – he could neither stomach the high school gossip circle quality of it all (“they were LRW partners and now they’re hooking up? No way!”) nor the college freshman enthusiasm for local watering holes. “zOMG!” one shrieked. “I haven’t checked out Tommy Doyle’s yet! We totally have to go!” Fenno was certain that she and her cast of intrepid explorers would be intrigued by how the consistency of its sticky floors diverged from the Kong’s.
The agony of it had almost succeeded in uprooting Fenno from his beloved armchair, when one of the louder girls began to recount her less than feverishly social evening activities. “Did you read contracts!?” one asked her excitedly, with all the innocent enthusiasm of someone who had either pined for parole evidence theory since prekindergarten, or was, at least, so lost in life that he could not see past excitement over another day of a required 1L class. “No,” came the sheepish reply. “To be honest, I’ve become obsessed with Jonah Tweedman. I spent all night googling him – his beautiful house, his beautiful wife…”She was not ironically quoting the lyrics of that Talking Heads song. “Oh, you mean Jenny Suk!” one responded, instinctively.
At that very moment, Tweedman himself came striding down the hall with all the self confidence of a feudal lord come to collect a tithe of wheat from his recalcitrant peasants. Upon hearing the slight but grating mispronunciation of his wife’s name, he stopped, pivoted, and focused his steely gaze on the 1L horde. He lifted his chin and his eyebrows. All were silent. Clearing his throat, Tweedman returned his gaze to the floor, shifted his seating chart into the hand closest the flock, and went on his way.
The message was clear: the law school was a small place, a private place, and they had crossed a line. Political futures – forget it, in this economy, even the corporate futures once guaranteed to HLS’ most ferocious fuckups – had been momentarily imperiled, achievements suspended in midstream.
The 1Ls only began chatting again when Duncan Kennedy accosted Tweedman somewhere down the hall, yelling “no, no, you’ve got it all wrong. It’s not just a Marxist argument, it’s a neo-Althusserian Marxist argument. There’s a critical difference!” The rush, the enthusiasm of the 1Ls had dimmed noticeably, and they were well on their way back to the cowed cynicism that had allowed them to step on their college peers and excel in college to the point at which they wound up here.
For the first and last time while holding a Federal Courts casebook, it was Fenno’s turn to smile.