It’s Worse Than a Death

“It’s worse than a death in some ways because it is a death of love, a life imagined, hopes, and dreams…” Mom

Pop!  Thump.

Pop!  Thump.

The rhythm of the sound reminded me of the intro to “Cell Block Tango/He Had it Comin’” from the Chicago soundtrack.  That was the second movie musical we saw together—the first, Moulin Rogue.  I felt the familiar tightening of my throat as I tried to swallow away the tears that were welling up in my eyes.  I immediately looked up at the ceiling as if looking for an escape hatch.  Surely there is some relief from this gripping grief?

Pop!  Thump.

Pop!  Thump.

I looked to my left trying to distract myself and noticed two other clerks going about their business as if it was a normal day.  In fact, it was normal for them.  I was the one having the abnormal day.  As I looked in their direction, I was transported to a cold December day almost three years earlier and I was standing just two clerks down from where I currently stood.  You were with me.  We were smiling and joking with the clerk behind the counter then and picking up paperwork.  Today, I was alone and dropping off paperwork.  There was no joking and very little chatting.  Just that rhythm…

Pop!  Thump.

Pop!  Thump.

I looked through the saloon-style doors on the counter that were wide open and watched as the clerk took one of my completed forms and placed it inside a small stamping machine.  Pop!  The form was now stamped with “Filed”, the date, and the county clerk’s name.  She then picked up a hand-held stamp and placed it firmly on the top of the form.  Thump.  The form now had a case number.  I felt a sudden wave of nausea sweep over me and I again tried to swallow but there wasn’t any saliva in my mouth.  Those damn tears!  I exhaled probably too loudly in an effort to maintain “deep yoga breathing”.  The rhythm stopped just briefly as the clerk looked my direction and then quickly averted making complete eye contact with me.  The beat returned, but it was slower now as if in reverence to my grief.

Pop!

Thump.

Pop!

Thump.

I drifted back to just minutes before.  Having just pulled $200.00 from the ATM, I counted it to ensure it was the correct amount.  I was just three blocks from the courthouse and knew there would be parking closer than my current location.  I went around the block and began scanning the one-way street for parking spots on both sides.  Bingo!  There were a couple and I didn’t have to parallel because they were both together.  “Thank, God.  I don’t have the focus to parallel park right now,” I silently breathed.  Quickly, I grabbed my phone and then remembered that I couldn’t take it into the courthouse, so I stowed it away in the arm rest compartment.  I climbed out of my Jeep and slipped an hour’s worth of quarters into the parking meter.  “That should be enough, right?  Surely, this won’t take more than an hour.”  I slowly made my way down the block towards the Allen County Courthouse.

When I arrived at the corner of the courthouse, I looked at the open green space and took note of the perfectly manicured lawn.  The industrial pulse of the city filled my ears.  There are multiple walkways to choose from and I decided to take the diagonal one towards the doors.  With each step, the sidewalk seemed to become longer and by the time I had reached the entrance I was completely winded.  I pulled on the door prepared to empty my pockets and move through the metal detector.  The security guard motioned for me to come through once I had placed all personal effects onto the scanning belt.  Of course, the detector started beeping and I had to have the wand waved around me.  Once they were certain I had no weapons, they motioned me on.

“If I remember correctly,” I mused to myself, “the clerk’s office is just up the stairs.”  I made my way up the stairs and towards the area where I thought the office was.  I paused outside the door and read the sign:  Please wait here for next available clerk.  I stood back far enough for a few seconds so that no one inside the office could see me.  There was a deafening silence that reminded me of some of the cathedrals I have visited while in Europe.  My feet suddenly felt like lead while a sea of emotion churned inside my head.  I inched closer to the door and heard a voice say, “Next.”  I made my way towards the clerk.  She was friendly enough and asked how she could help me.  I stumbled around with my words, but eventually managed to say, “I’m here to file divorce paperwork.”  My throat caught and I quickly looked down at the folder I had with me.

“Let me see what paperwork you have,” she responded. I handed the prepared paperwork over the counter to her.  “Do you know there’s a $177.00 filing fee?”

“Yes.”

Pop!

Thump.

Pop!

Thump.

She was counting back the three dollars in change to me and saying, “You do know that 60 days from now, you will have to bring the additional paperwork in?”

“Yes.  The website directions are really clear and helpful.”

“They are aren’t they?”  Her voice had seemed to carry on with the previous rhythm.  She made eye contact with me and suddenly realized that her light voice didn’t match my somber emotions.  Her smile faded into a sympathetic “it will be okay” position.  I thanked her and headed out of the office.  I needed to find a bathroom so that I could just let the tears flow.  I rushed down the steps to the first floor and quickly found the men’s room.  I went into a stall and just placed my face in my hands until I regained my composure.  I made my way to the sink, washed my hands, and confirmed in the mirror that my eyes were no longer red.

As I was leaving the courthouse, I noticed another rhythm.

Clack.

Clack.

Clack.

Clack.

The hard heals of my wing-tip dress shoes were echoing through the halls.  I stepped outside of the building and my ears were filled with a choir of downtown noises—cars idling at a stop light, other vehicle sounds as they drove past, and one impatient driver honking.  And suddenly:

Bam!

The heavy door to the courthouse closed behind me just before I moved forward.

Clack.

Clack.

Clack.

Clack.

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