Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Someone To Talk To--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, April 10

     I’m getting divorced today! I set my alarm for five-thirty but woke at five. I let the dogs out, fed them, meditated, scanned the Zohar, showered, and put on a happy outfit. I’d selected it last night: black sweater, bright pink tulip skirt, black stiletto ankle boots, and black leather jacket. Pia was meeting me downtown for tea service at The Drake to celebrate afterward. Then I was going to the "Trends in Publishing" talk.
     It was cold and rainy. I parked my car in the commuter lot and ran to the train. I hopped on the 7:22 and arrived downtown at 8:30. I took a cab to the Dailey Center and found a Starbucks before going to court. Tina, Katherine’s assistant, was waiting for me. She was going to handle the proceeding. She showed me the questions she’d be asking me.
     The judge called his first case. A husband and wife stood in front of the judge with their shared lawyer. The wife had been awarded an injury settlement in an earlier case and was giving part of it to her husband in the divorce.
     “You want to do that?” the judge asked.
     “Yes,” the woman said.
     “You’re okay with that?” the judge asked.
     “Yeah, I’m okay with it.”
     “This is what you want to do?”
     “You’re sure?”
     “Yes, I’m sure.”
      “When’s the last time you had sex with your husband?”
     The woman stared at the judge.
     “Have you had sex with your husband since the separation?”
     The judge granted their divorce. He grilled the second couple on money issues before divorcing them, too.
     A short, swarthy, middle eastern man appearing alone told the judge he and his wife separated a couple of months after they were married and had been living apart for two years. After grilling him about money, the man said his wife was living on disability checks.
     “What’s wrong with her?” the judge asked.
     “She’s mentally ill.”
     “How do I know your wife knew what she was signing?” the judge asked. “Bring her in here. I need to see her.”
     I was called next. The judge had a calculator sitting in front of him. He flipped through my settlement agreement and started tapping away on his calculator.
     “I need to see this guy,” he said. “Bring him in here.”
     “But we’ve gone over this extensively,” Tina argued. “He signed these papers.”
     “Bring him in here,” the judge repeated.
     I walked out of the courtroom stunned. I sat on a bench. Katherine said the judge would ask a few routine questions and I’d be divorced in ten or fifteen minutes. Katherine hadn’t even bothered to show up. While Tina shuffled papers at the front of the courtroom, I emailed Katherine.

     “I am very upset. The divorce did not go through and you were not here to argue on my behalf. If JB had been present, we would be divorced right now.”

     “Its’ (sic) not required that he appear!” Katherine emailed. “I will speak with Tina.”

     I emailed JB.

     “The judge wants you to be present. The divorce didn’t go through. I wish you had been here today. Tina will be contacting you.”

     “I’m pissed!” I told Tina angrily.
     “I’m shocked,” Tina said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. The way he handled everyone. He’s a new judge. I can’t believe it. He’s creating litigation.”
     I walked away from her, climbed the stairs to the main floor of the Dailey Center and sat on a bench staring out the glass wall at the Picasso sculpture outside. My friends were calling and texting congratulations. I texted everyone the same: “Upset. Judge didn’t let divorce go through without JB present.”
     Jason called. “Are you okay?”
     “I’ll be okay.”
     “There has to be a good reason things happened this way,” he said.
     “The universe has reasons, but I don’t feel like picking through what they might be at the moment.”
     I took a cab to Water Tower Place where I’d arranged to meet Pia. I bought a cup of tea and sat at a little table on the mezzanine.
     “There you are,” Pia said and sat down. “Wow. You look like you just walked off a page in a fashion magazine.”
     “I wanted to look good scraping JB off my shoe. Maybe I looked too good.”
     Forty-mile-an-hour wind gusts blasted as we walked to The Drake.
     “What a shit day,” I grumbled.
     A hostess sat us at a lovely table by the fountain and our waiter brought us a three-tiered china plate holder brimming with scones, banana bread, finger sandwiches, dessert cakes, and tarts. I ate a small scone and three tiny sandwiches.
     “I’m sorry,” I told Pia. “I’m the worst company today.”
     “I just wish I could cheer you up,” she said, looking sad.
     “I wish you could, too. I just feel like crying.”
     “Why don’t you go to the bathroom and just let it go?”
     “I’m going to a panel discussion and don’t want to look like a wreck.”
     We sat at the Drake for a couple of hours sipping tea.
     “Let’s go to the Museum of Contemporary Art,” I said. “I know I’ll feel better there. You can tell your friends back home I dance like a weirdo and make you look at whacky art.”
     Pia snickered.
     I was right, the art—especially the dark disturbing stuff—made me feel better and I was myself by the time we left. We caught a cab and the driver pulled in front of the building where the publishing talk was being held. I handed Pia money for the taxi.
     “Thanks for spending the day with me,” I said. “When I got out of court, I wished you weren’t coming. But I’m glad you did.”
     “That’s what friends are for.”
     I hopped the train after the talk and slid my ticket under the clip on top of the seat back. The conductor stopped and punched it.
     “I love your clothes," he said. "You have great fashion sense. Girls today don’t know how to dress. I appreciate a woman who dresses well. You look beautiful.”
     “You just made my day," I said, beaming. "And let me tell you, it’s been a rough one.”
     He tipped his hat, walked on, and I began scrolling through email.

     “I just spoke with Tina,” JB wrote. “We'll find a date soon. I'm feeling very sad, lonely, and frightened right now, and I could use someone to talk to. I want to see someone and promised Blake I would, but I can't afford it. I hope you are feeling hopeful about what's ahead for you. I know money will be tight for you, too, but I firmly believe you are going to thrive on your own. And I really do wish nothing but the best for you.”

     I jogged through the wind and rain, stilettos clicking, to my car. I sat for a while shivering, exhausted.

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