I know of John, while we have never been formally introduced to each other, I often see John at court’s car park, in the courtroom itself, and I once saw John nursing a few glasses of Rosé at La Bodega during office hours (no judgment).
I know few things about John: he is a lawyer with one of largest law firms in Malaysia, he must be in his early forties and he drives an Italian car. Oh, he’s a litigation lawyer since I have been seeing him in court.
Last Wednesday, on a drizzly afternoon, fate sat us next to each other in the same courtroom while waiting for the judge to begin his session. I flipped open a book to avoid making an idle chat with anyone I don’t fancy. John, seated right next to me, was furiously writing clever stuff on his journal. I don’t carry those boring journals; I have a Moleskine. *Smirk*
But everything about John spelt luxury: the gleaming Bell & Ross watch on his wrist, silver Mont Blanc pen clasped firmly between his thumb and index fingers and the crisp, freshly laundered and pressed court robe – while mine looked like Ronald Weasley’s hand-me-down.
A bit too fancy for Malaysian court, John.
But just like me, he was also throwing few inquisitive glances along my way. Not so long after, John gave in to his curiosity. He said to me:
“What is that you are reading? You look so engrossed with it.”
“Really? Oh, I am just pretending to read so that I don’t have to chat with anyone.” I jokingly answered.
“I am so sorry, I don’t mean to intrude… I apologise.” John replied sheepishly.
“It’s a joke, dear…” I cracked a smile to his direction.
“What is it then?” John probed further.
“Element of Style by Strunk & White” I answered as a matter of fact.
“You love fashion?” John questioned me as to the contents of the book. I swear I heard a tinge of sarcasm in his voice, if not, of disdain.
“Yes, I love fashion all right, but that’s not what this book is about.” My annoyance, at this point, was thinly veiled.
“Oh? What is about then?” He raised his eyebrows in confusion.
“It’s about writing.”
“If you are a lawyer, why do you need to learn about writing? All lawyers can write.” He said smugly.
“That is a serious misconception, my friend. This is a different kind of writing, not the one that you need to write a submission to court.” I replied to John even though I could sense that this conversation was not going anywhere I like.
“What kind of writing is that?”
Someone please shut this person up!
I relented and handed John the book. Half an hour passed, the judge was nowhere to be found, and John was still reading my book.
“Err, can I have my book back?” I politely asked John.
“My god, this book is awesome!” John exclaimed, “How did you know about this book?”
“An author friend of mine introduced it to me, but he pretends that he is a manager somewhere else”
“Oh? Why is that – ”
“I don’t know, my friend, people are weird sometimes.” I gave a dead one-liner answer but John was not done.
“Where did you get it?”
“At Borders… Kinokuniya stocked some, too, but they are in hardcover.”
Element of Style is a must-have for all aspiring authors, however, if you rigidly adhere to the instructions, you’ll risk writing a flawless but stale piece – just my point of view.