The day I got divorced
I got up at 6 to make eggs for the eighth grader, who usually gets himself up and out of the house without waking me. Today, though, I fixed him breakfast, and then drove our car fifty yards to the corner where we sat together waiting for his bus, because it was pouring, and he’d been out sick for a week. We didn’t talk much. We’re not morning people. The bus came, I drove the half block home and found my grammar school son in my bed, sound asleep. I crawled in beside him and set the alarm for 8.
When it rang, the baby, who IS a morning person (and isn’t, I guess, a baby any more) climbed over me, kissing my face on the way, and went to get dressed. Ten minutes later I realized I had only been dreaming I was awake. We made the 8:30 bus, though. Seven-year-old boys don’t take long to get ready. I eyed the coffee maker, thought better of it, and went back to bed.
Downstairs, the phone rang in the distance. I could barely make out the voices leaving messages on the machine–boyfriend, best friend, boyfriend again. As long as it’s not the school saying someone’s broken with H1N1 and needs to be picked up, I’m safe, I thought. I slept. When I looked at the clock, it was one in the afternoon.
Christ, I’ve got flu, I thought. No one sleeps this late unless she’s sick.
Thinking you’re getting sick is its own kind of self-conscious fun. Oh, the fragility. The certainty that your head is ABOUT to hurt, your fever ABOUT to spike. You drag yourself around heroically, sneaking glances at your pale face in the mirror. You’re a good sport, is what you are. Determined to keep going till you drop in your tracks.
The day seemed short, as days when you get out of bed at one tend to seem. I drove to get the older, recently sick son at his school as a special treat. I picked the younger one up after art class. It kept raining. The mail, forgotten in its box, was damp when I fished it out. And there it was–the thick envelope containing the document releasing me, in its own words, from the bonds of marriage.
In our state, you don’t have to appear in court to obtain a divorce. The document goes in your stead, and is signed, sealed and redelivered when the court has a spare moment. I had known, vaguely, that it was on its way. The documents had been filed for months, and my husband had been referring to me as his “ex” for longer than that. But even after we’d agreed and signed and initialed and signed again, even after we’d paid the lawyers, there were state-imposed mandatory “cooling off” periods, and then more delays as papers were filed with various departments in various locations. Once or twice I called the lawyer to ask her when she thought it would all be final, but she was vague. Eventually she sent me a link so that I could check the status of our case on line. I looked at it a couple of times–nothing ever changed–and then forgot how to log on.
Not having to appear in court still seems a mercy, though retrieving a soggy envelope from the mailbox hours after its delivery is significantly less impressive than being rent asunder by an august, robed person with a gavel. Had my ex, whom I had been referring to as my husband, out of some notion it wouldn’t be quite fair to call him anything else while we were still legally entwined, gotten his set of documents today as well? I toyed with the idea of calling him after the children were asleep. “I’m divorced,” I whispered. I waited for the feeling to hit. I looked at myself in the mirror by the front door: a pallid forty-one year old woman, clutching a limp envelope.
There were a few gaily colored smears from the Boden catalog, which it had apparently cozied up to in the mailbox, on the divorce decree’s envelope. It fell apart when I opened it. I stared at the first page, at our names, one of us versus the other, and fought the same feelings I always fight when my own divorce stares me in the face–the clichéd sadness and horror, the ridiculous knowledge that I both wanted this more than anything and didn’t want it at all. I wanted to go back. I would never, could never, go back.
I hid the papers under the rest of the mail and made supper. I put my children to bed. I made a few phone calls, told a few people, casually. I did not drink myself into a stupor, which was progress. I did not weep. I had been legally divorced for two days without knowing it.