It didn't seem that hard. Nerve-racking, yes, but emotional? Not really. That is, until I walked back to the courthouse on my lunch break the following day to file the next round of papers, and the clerk informed me with head-shaking dismay that I clearly didn't know what I was doing. (Usually lawyers handle this part of things, and since I didn't use a lawyer, I was dependent on my own research and the advice of marginally knowledgeable friends.)
"On what grounds did the magistrate grant the divorce?" the clerk asked.
"Under these," I said, pointing to the line I had circled on another form: Irreconcilable differences which has caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.
"That's the grounds you filed under. What grounds did she grant it under?" I looked at him quizzically, realizing, as I absorbed the question, that this could be different. "See," he responded, before I could answer, "you don't even know that."
I almost cried then, kept my head down, staring at his hands - he had bony fingers, and a bright gold wedding band made of hearts stacked end to end. Married, I thought, and with bad taste. That did it. I got angry. And snapped my gaze up to his face. "Listen, asshole," I said -- okay, so I didn't say that in words, but I said it with my eyes -- "What do you suggest I do?" He told me to order a tape of the proceedings and transcribe what the magistrate said at the end of the trial. He gave me the requisition form. I mumbled thank you, and fled.
I managed to hold back the tears until I got to the street.
I survived the trial day dry-eyed, thanks to adrenaline and deep breaths and reminders to myself that it was almost over, that this was what I wanted, that I had J~ and he is so much better than A~ ever was. But now that I was going to have to re-experience the whole humiliating episode, it wasn't so easy-breezy anymore. Suddenly it sucked to be divorcing. As great as J~ is, this was not my wish in life. I would give him back in a heartbeat if I could roll back time and transform A~ into the person I once thought he was. But, as it turns out, time travel isn't possible (yet?) and A~ is not that person. I'm glad I know it, but it's hard.
"Thanks," A~ had said to me as we were leaving the courthouse the previous day, "for everything."
I nodded, but I didn't reply. What he was saying was heartfelt. For me, however, it was like the mugger saying to the muggee, "Thanks for the cash." You're welcome? I don't think so.
"Call me sometime," he went on. "Or email. I'd like to know how you're doing."
Again I nodded, speechless.
It seems like such a pathetic end to twelve years of love and commitment. Thanks for everything. Keep in touch. But then again, "pathetic" is par for the course. And "end" is absolutely fitting.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got my period, and my happily ever after to attend to.