by Malaena Nahmias

          They drove there in separate cars, although each one had the desire to drive there together, and each discarded the idea as ludicrous. As usual, he was there earlier than she, and he paced around stiffly at the entrance. His head was getting wet in the rain, while he remembered how much waiting for her annoyed him.

          How will this change things, he wondered? Could he stop worrying about her now?  Would the smothering guilt and confusion finally leave him? Would he find space to breathe?

          She arrives looking scared and small, but brave. Her chin is tilted up as if that angle steadies her courage. She blinks often to keep the tears back as she rushes to her destination and destiny.

          They enter the large hall of the courthouse. Voices bounce off the cold marble surfaces of the walls and high ceiling. The lawyers are easy to recognize in the crush of people. They are the only ones who are smiling. Moving swiftly, twittering like blackbirds on a wire, the lawyers greet each other gaily and speak of busyness and business. Others who are there in the echoing chamber speak and move with dark sluggishness; perhaps trying to slow time, or hoping to cheat fate.

          She is having trouble breathing. The air is too heavy with pain, not only hers, but with the multitude of misguided pasts and disheveled futures weighed and measured in these blind halls. She thinks about how he has been part of her life since they were teens. What would life be like without him? He was the one who had always made the big life decisions for them. Now she wanted a voice, even if it was ragged and angry! Her path diverged from his, rising toward faith and spirit; his path bent toward ground and rock solid logic. She needed more- more connection, understanding and acknowledgement. He needed less- less monitoring of where and who he was with and when he was coming home.

          They enter the courtroom where the public admission of “irreconcilable differences” is necessary before penance is given. Her lawyer whispers to her that the presiding judge has a bad stutter. It is prudent, he advises, to pretend not to notice it when called before him, for the judge is known for his quick temper.

          Sitting next to each other on the hard wooden bench, they watch other couples who wear veiled eyes and carry slumped, defeated shoulders step up in turn to confess their sins for all to hear. How they both wish they could reach out to each other, grasp hands, cry and laugh, rush away into the clean rain and go home to hug their waiting small, sweet-natured son.

          An hour later, he quietly walks her to her car. The rain is still falling. Then, he slowly turns away and walks to his car. Turning back to say goodbye, he calls out, “I love you” and she says, “I love you, too”.

© 2022 Malaena Nahmias  All rights reserved.

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