On the night before BlogHer, Sophia and I filled out the paperwork. There were four forms to complete. It was more complicated than I thought, forgetting for a moment that filing for divorce is a serious legal matter and not an episode of “The Marriage Ref.” The moment was friendly, but tense, not unlike the times we attempted to complete the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle together.
Filing for divorce. We peeked into my blog archives and discovered that we have been “separated” for six years, coming back and leaving each other more times than Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. It was time.
We enjoyed a quick nice laugh when we came across the options you could choose as the reason for the divorce —
A) Irreconsolible differences.
B) Reasons of insanity.
Yes, I want a divorce because my SPOUSE IS CRAZY!
The next day, I put my luggage in the car, ready to go to San Diego. But before I left LA, I drove to the courthouse. I stood in a long line outside the court, hanging with my peers, the gang members and rapists of the City of Los Angeles. Apparently, getting a divorce puts you in the same line as an armed robber. I got patted down by a burly police officer after going through the metal detective, proving that ending a marriage requires a symbolic ceremony as traditional as breaking the glass under the chuppah in the beginning.
The clerk at civil court clerk’s office was an androgynous woman with short blonde hair in the style of Annie Lenox, circa 1985. Filing for divorce is as glamorous as going to CVS pharmacy to pick up some Q-tips. I handed the clerk the forms and paid my $390.
The only setback was that I couldn’t hand in Sophia’s papers on the same day as I did mine. She had to be “served” by a third party, much as they do on “Law and Order.” Oh yeah, and another $390. You would think with such a high divorce rate in California, the state wouldn’t be bankrupt.
I left the court feeling good. The process was only half completed, so the full impact of the action hadn’t yet hit. Why worry? I wasn’t officially filed yet. Or divorced. If a meteor slammed into earth that day, I would die a married man.
I enjoyed BlogHer, only mentioning the filing for divorce with a few close friends. It didn’t seem appropriate to make a public announcement during the Keynote Speech.
When I returned from San Diego, we asked a friend to “serve” Sophia, so the process would all be official. It was felt rather silly, as if we were playing Charades. So “legal.” The legal divorce was less a concern than the emotional fallout. We had gone through a lot during our marriage — happiness, sex, laughter, anger, stress, illness, and the death of three of our parents. Clearly there was a bond. We gave it a good shot — six years after the initial separation — but we had changed over the years. We didn’t fit together anymore. We had become brother and sister, not husband and wife. And that is no way to live your life.
On Monday morning, we had breakfast. Sophia asked me to go to recycling center on the way back from the court, proving that a husband’s chores never end, even to the final moment. There was a huge collection of soda and beer bottles sitting in the garage. My first instinct was to ask her why she didn’t do this herself, but I shut myself up. Why go there? It was the petty little snips that had done the most harm over the years.
“Sure,” I said to my wife, the person I shared so much with for so many years. “I’ll bring in the recycling stuff after I go to the court.”
I returned to court, waiting in line with a new set of gang-bangers. The androgynous court clerk was absent, which made me sad. I was hoping for the comfort of repetition.
The new clerk was a smiling black woman in a bright red dress. She smiled as she took Sophia’s response form and charged me another $390 dollars.
She stamped the form, and it was done. I hoped for an uplifting good-bye, something like, “That’s it! Have a great rest of your life filled with love and happiness.”
“Next!” she announced.
I went to the car. I was feeling pretty good, even relieved. I could now go on with the rest my life. Even date other women!
It was time.
And then I threw up on the parking lot floor.
After that, I drove over to deliver the cans and bottles to the recycling center.