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Confessions of an Asian Male Adoptee

     A big-firm lawyer, no matter how seemingly insignificant in professional stature or standing, is never out of the view or earshot of someone connected to your firm. In addition to hundreds of lawyers, a big firm employs three times that number in secretaries, paralegals, investigators, document processors, accountants and other support staff. Even a whitebread big-firm lawyer will be spotted if he is doing anything interesting in a public place, no matter how secluded- or intimate-seeming. That goes double for an Asian big-firm lawyer. If that Asian big-firm lawyer does something interesting with another big-firm lawyer over a period of several weeks, they may as well go on the six-o-clock news. But at the time, I was oblivious of this variant of the six-degrees-of-separation rule.

     Claudia was representing a co-defendant manufacturer in a mass-tort. I had noticed her at several depositions and appearances. So did everyone else, I am sure. She was beautiful. My interest in her was piqued because she looked Asian, at least part Asian, with glossy black hair, distinctive cheekbones and full lips. She added to the interest by rarely speaking. I was determined to find an opportunity to talk to her but was entirely lacking in confidence that she would find me interesting. She was wrapped in an aura of aloof self-sufficiency, the kind rarely seen in young big-firm lawyers.

     My opportunity didn't come until several weeks after I had begun mooning about her. I sensed zero interest from her, though she did catch me looking at her a couple times at depositions. For one deposition I decided to leave my car parked at the office and enjoy the fine spring weather by walking the dozen or so blocks. By the time the deposition let out in the late afternoon, a thunderstorm had rolled in, forcing several of us to call for taxies. As I dashed out from the shelter of the lobby toward mine, she ran alongside and got in with me -- something I would never have tried with her.

     "You're over at Blankety-Blank & Blank, aren't you?" she said, naming my firm. All of us had exchanged business cards at the first deposition, but I was flattered she had bothered to remember. Of course I knew very well where she worked -- another major downtown firm that happened to be located less than a block from mine.

     Normally, the taxi ride would have taken a few minutes. In storm-snarled traffic, we were together long enough for us to have a real conversation. Rather than regal and mysterious, she turned out to be shy and a little subversive, qualities that I found even more appealing. She had attended college near mine. We spent most of the ride giggling about the quirks and pretensions of the other lawyers on the case. The opportunity was too good to waste. When we were nearly at her firm, I steeled myself and asked her if she'd like to have dinner.

     She shook her head. When I persisted, she looked me in the eye and said, "I can't have dinner with you, Gus." Then she added, "Especially you."

     "What's the matter, don't you believe in dating inside the race?" I was offended.

     Her eyes widened. "You're Cherokee too?" she asked.


     I had been so sure that she was half Asian, I was flabbergasted. She turned out to be a quarter Cherokee on her father's side.

     "What do you mean by "especially" me?" I demanded.

     "Better you don't know," she said and started to get out of the taxi. Out of desperation, I grabbed her by the wrist. "How about a drink. Just one drink. After that you can treat me like a stranger."

     There was a long tortured moment of indecision before she looked shyly at me and nodded. Our first beers unleashed a torrent of emotions that had been damned up behind her aloof, mysterious manners. I learned that she was trapped in an unhappy relationship with another lawyer who was almost ten years her senior. She wanted to leave him but was afraid of his reaction. He was possessive, jealous, childish and self-destructive, she said. She had tried leaving him a few years earlier but had returned after he threatened to commit suicide. She felt responsible for him. The one thing she never told me was that her husband was a partner at my firm -- not that it would have changed anything. By then, I no love for the grey ogres who ran the firm.

     It took less than three weeks for word of our affair to reach the firm. I learned later that another associate at my firm had spotted us in a back corner of a little suburban bistro we had chosen for being so out of the way. Word had spread so quickly that by lunch the next day, I and Claudia's husband were the only people at the firm who didn't know what the buzz was about. I found out before he did when the managing partner called me into his office the next morning. PAGE 5

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"Word had spread so quickly that by lunch the next day, I and Claudia's husband were the only people at the firm who didn't know what the buzz was about."