Friday, April 07, 2006

How it was

I'm sure both of us were the same clusters of apprehension.

From the conference room, she must have seen me as I walked in.

I went to the desk, told them who I was.

I had seen what used to be our car, now hers, parked on the street, so I knew she was there.

The receptionist directed me to the conference room.

I braced myself, walked in. Managed a timid "hi" as I tried not to look directly at her, for fear of what feelings it would trigger.

She had placed herself along the long side of the conference table, so I took a seat at the end. Allowing space, leaving room for the mediator. Busied myself with my things. Papers, etc. Arranged my space. Settled in. Didn't look too hard.

I sat down and was facing her from the side. She stared straight ahead. Neither of us spoke.

I thought about asking after her parents, or her brother. But I thought maybe she was trying to hold it together, too. Maybe I shouldn't say anything.

I closed my eyes, and tried to center myself. What's the most compassionate thing I can do right now? When the outside world gets overwhelming, it's ok to turn inward.

I opened my eyes after I heard her moving around. I think the initial shock of seeing me had passed, or maybe seeing me with my eyes closed revealed that I, too, was struggling.

She was her old self. I saw her little half smile that comes when she's not being her chest-thumping business woman self, but her sweet little girl self. I watched her comb through her hair -- now the longest I'd ever seen it-- with her fingers, as always. She found a stray, and then did the little finger dance she always did when trying to drop a single hair from her fingers.

It was the girl I knew and loved and had married.

The mediator was helpful, we made good progress, once she got set straight about a few points of law, and once it became clear that neither of us was trying to be cruel to the other.

We passed some papers back and forth. At one point, she handed me an envelope with a piece of corrugated cardboard in it. I knew it contained a photo. I knew that no matter what was on the photo, I'd cry. I chose not to look at it.

Signing the mediation agreement contract with the mediator, while he was out of the room, she noted that it was going to cost as much to get un-married as it was to get married.

So sad.

The mediator joked that we were close to done, and that my wife and I could take off and go have lunch. The way he phrased it implied lunching together.

She and I both noticed that a home across the street from the lawyer's office which we had looked at moving into several years back had recently had a bad fire.

I walked to my car, but looked back at her. She saw me looking and smiled.

I've never stopped loving her. Maybe it was the insane stress of our combined lives that killed us. That stress is over now. I couldn't help but wonder.

Half of me knew it's over and doomed and flawed and can never work. Half of me wanted to ask her out, to try to save this, to not let it die.

In that instant, I knew what it is I've wanted and needed. And we had almost all of it. If only I could have held on for a few years while she was in school. If only I hadn't needed so much from her.

I knew it would kill me not to know what was in the envelope. I stopped my car before getting on the highway to work. It was a black and white photo from our wedding: us in our receiving line in church, greeting my grandmothers.

The part of me that hasn't let go wants to turn that into some kind of sign. She wants me to remember that day. She wants me to tell her I still feel that. But part of me realizes that she's just giving me something she doesn't want. Or maybe it's because my grandpa just passed away.
She didn't tell the mediator her address out loud. She wrote it on a piece of paper for him. She doesn't want me to know where she lives. Could be many reasons for this. But none of them are a cause for hope.

I cried on the highway. How could so much love for someone lead to such terrible things?

And now I'm at work.