When my husband and I divorced, we went the DIY route. He ordered legal templates from a website, filled in the blanks, and sent it to the court. A date was set, and we agreed to meet at the courthouse for our appointment with the judge.
Technically, we filed for dissolution, but in any event, we’d already agreed how to split up our property when I’d moved out months earlier—and there wasn’t much to split up, no children to worry about.
The divorce was scheduled on a cold January morning, and since I lived near the courthouse, I walked over. I arrived early and stood at the entrance by the metal detectors.
When he arrived, we proceeded through security together, an echo of our many travels through airports. He’d organized the legal paperwork in sleeve protectors, just the way he’d always prepared our travel documents. We walked from office to office for final paperwork sign-offs before seeing the judge.
I think courts must batch their divorce proceedings. The judge’s waiting area was filled with men and their lawyers sitting on one side, women and their lawyers on the other.
We sat somewhere in the middle, next to each other, and waited. I don’t remember what we talked about, except that he said I looked nice. I had lost weight.
Our names were called, and we entered the courtroom. Within a few minutes—and after confirming to the judge I was not pregnant—it was over. We went to a basement office to pay the bill.
Afterward, he offered to drive me back to my apartment. It was a work day for both of us.
In the car, I noticed a piece of lint on his cheek. I stared at it, in that awkwardness of distant intimacy, wondering if it was okay to touch him. Finally I said, “There is something on your face,” and brushed the lint away.
“A tear,” he said, deadpan.
We saw each other again when it was time for taxes, when he sold the house to a young couple, when he moved out in summertime. He had set aside some things for me, and called to see if I wanted them.
In the bare rooms of the second floor he had left boxes filled with photos from our years together, old mementoes going back to our earliest days, a letterpress wedding announcement.
Not things he wanted to keep.
I picked through the jumble, but took little. I already had my share. I didn’t want to be the sole owner of these memories. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to throw it all out if I left some of it.