This trial still has weeks to go, but I am already at my breaking point. I narrowed down my career options to court stenographer and dental hygienist. Clearly, I made the wrong choice for my mental and emotional wellbeing.
When I received my certification from the National Verbatim Reporters Association, working on infamous murder trials was not what I had in mind. In fact, I was assured that my first-year assignments would be low-stakes civil matters, particularly arbitration hearings. But I had the fastest typing speed in my graduating class at court reporting school, so they assigned me to this trial. Aren’t I lucky?
I have already had to replace my stenography machine eight times. I am banging these keys with a fury that I have never known. I hope someone in the courtroom is taking extensive notes because I can’t be held responsible for what ends up on this transcript.
Every time the defense attorney speaks, my face and body leak puddles of sweat onto the floor. The area all around my seat has become a bona fide slip and fall hazard. And if he forces me to type “cardiac arrhythmia,” “hypertension,” or “adrenaline” one more time, I am going to fully spiral out. Apparently, flop sweat is a natural reaction to suppressed rage. On bathroom breaks, I stuff my armpits with paper towels.
Everyone thinks that I am silent, especially since they can’t see my mouth moving under my mask. But trust me, I am screaming. I have timed my screams to match the pattern of my keystrokes. Listen closely and you can hear my muffled outbursts in a well-timed staccato.
I am a wild banshee.
It’s all so absurd. I mean, why do we even need a trial? This can’t be necessary. It feels like a strange and sadistic form of theater. The whole world has already watched George Floyd’s murder. Yet, the court insists on retraumatizing us by not only showing the video repeatedly, but showing it from all different angles. If I, the court stenographer, am mentally and emotionally exhausted, I can’t imagine all the pain the witnesses are experiencing.
Whenever we wait for a new witness to testify, I channel my frustration by writing on little scraps of paper. It looks like scribbles, but it’s actually “Excessive force, duh” written over and over again in shorthand. Unfortunately, the janitor throws the scraps away every evening. I also take advantage of the time in between witnesses to communicate with the judge through Morse Code. I tap my table, using dots and dashes, to slowly spell out “Murder. Not manslaughter.” But the judge just keeps reviewing documents and never looks in my direction.
In the morning, before the trial starts, I sneak into the jury room and leave homemade cupcakes of all flavors (vanilla, coconut, chocolate, and red velvet). They are hand-frosted, and I use black icing to write GUILTY on each cupcake. When we are in the courtroom and a juror looks in my direction, I wink and rub my tummy as a subtle reminder.
At home, I watch the news coverage of the trial. I hardly ever appear on screen. The cameras certainly have not zoomed in close enough to show my hands. Oh, but if they did, you would notice that my nails spell out LOCK HIM UP! I hope someone will notice soon. If not, I may just have to get the phrase tattooed on my forehead.
Or maybe I’ll just quit and become a dental hygienist. Scraping plaque is better than dealing with this nonsense.