Don't judge me. You wanna judge me, put on a black gown and get a gavel. - Lil' Wayne
Marriage is the chief cause of divorce. - Groucho Marx
(Divorce: AKA "The Big D" or "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" [mouthed silently so as to avoid shaming either the person getting a divorce or making the person talking about it feel indelicate. Also, if you say it three times in a row, a Johnny Cochran-style divorce lawyer magically appears and rips out your genitalia.)
Of course, I had to take off my hat and my red sweater, and I had to leave my cell phone and my blue ruck sack -- full of littrature I'm trying to hock -- outside. I took my copy of the paper work in and found a seat in the empty gallery. I didn't like the idea of leaving my hat; I've grown fond of the oil cloth hat. It's traveled with me since January, is smashable so it can fit easily in my pack, and is perfectly worn in. I was sure if I left it on the coat rack, that someone would walk by and take it -- because it's a cool hat. More than one person has offered to buy it off me. It's a hat with a lot of personality... though not too much*, at least for me. And while it may sound vain to say so, I don't think most people have sufficient character to wear it. Which is to say, most people are not enough of a character to wear it. Nez Pa?
I sat and waited. The docket was posted out in the hall, and Parsons v Parsons was listed pretty high on the list. So I don't know if it's fair to say I felt optimistic -- one doesn't typically feel optimistic about divorce proceedings, even he is the one who filed and even though there is nothing left to contest.
The State's Attorney, Scott Brinkmeier, walked in and up to the prosecutor's table. He took notice of me and remembered my face from the many times that he's dodged making any comments regarding some article or another I'm working on. He smiled his political poster smile and, after getting my name wrong, asked why I was there.
"Ah." He pursed his lipless lips and lowered his tone. "Sorry to hear that."
This has become my response whenever someone expresses sympathy, empathy, shock, or judgement. It's easier than saying anything else, and people expect you to say something as a way to acknowledge their concern or to feed their need to butt into your private life. For me, it's an all purpose response:
Someone: Sorry to hear about your divorce.
Me: It happens.
Someone: Sorry to hear about your dog getting run over.
Me: It happens.
Someone: My condolences on the passing of your father.
Me: It happens.**
Someone: Sorry, the bar it closed.
Me: The hell you say. (I mean: It happens.)
Brinkmeier's semi-uncomfortable silence was broken by the Bailiff, who called court into session, bid us all rise. The Robe walked in and waived us back into our seats, and then another bailiff escorted in a stringy redheaded girl wearing orange jail scrubs.
This is Emily F___. According to what followed, she was supposed to show up for a court date on September 12th and did. She was picked up on the bench warrant and given a bail of $15,000. There was no mention of the charges, since it was a bench warrant hearing. In other words, she was brought in so the Robe could chastise her.
"Why didn't you make it to your court date?" asked the Robe.
"I was... uh... asleep," stammered Emily, probably in an attempt not to incriminate herself further.
"You slept for 3 days?"
"Uh, no," she replied. "I was going to turn myself in and then... I just didn't."
The Robe set a new court date, asked if she could pay 10% of the bail, and moved her on out. Then he called me up.
Approximately 10 minutes later -- after going over the paperwork, answering questions for the record such as "Did you attempt to reconcile and find this useless?" the Robe ruled. I still had to pay $30 for the transcript, and once that was paid, he would sign the order thusly.
And that was it.
I walked outside after, and down the metal steps leading directly from the 2nd floor where the court rooms are located. The first thing I did was call Melissa. My call went straight voice mail. She had wanted me to text her when it was done; but I thought it too casual a communication method for something as serious as a civil divorce. I left her a brief message, and then sent her a text as well.
The cigar was nice, for a cheap gas station cigar. It helped me remember to breathe, which I had been trouble having most of the morning. Although I have been waiting for it, ready for it to not be hanging over my head for months, the weight of it... of the finality... was hitting me square in the chest. And even though I am quite happy with the direction my life is taking, it's difficult to know where to put it all, even still. The memories. The good and the bad of the years with her washed through me. Part of me wanted to cry, I won't lie. But I still have that old school admonition about men crying rolling around in my head. I'll save that for a more appropriate time, for a story or a poem.
Because really, that's where it all goes. Not catharsis. I don't believe in catharsis. For me, it's always about the story, the poem, the song. That was one of the things, I think, that maybe Melissa loved and hated the most about me. At some point, even the most intimate aspects of our lives became fodder for the work. I'm not enough of a hypocrite to apologize for it; but I am smart enough to recognize the part my need to play with words has in ordering -- or disordering -- the rest of my life.
*"Never wear a hat that has more character than you." - Utah Phillips
** Part of the reason I have adopted the sometimes sardonic "It happens" response is because, when my father died 22 years ago, I became keenly aware of just how incompetent people are in the face of death and tragedy. Canned advice, promises of prayer, and admonishments not to question "the will of God." Meh.