Nobody tells you that when it's over, it's not done.
The table is big and oak and could likely tell quite the tales of what it's seen. The pens are new, and the papers are crisp and official. The judge is old and he talks and talks and talks. He goes on and on. Only after do you realize that while you can't even speak or look up for fear of the tears, the judge does this every week. It's not the end of his chapter that he is signing, witnessing and notarizing; it's yours. It's not his partner, his family, his hopes or his dreams that he is declaring legally null and void, it's yours. So you decide not to hate him and instead to focus on breathing while he passes the papers around the room. You reply with the requested "yes" or "no" at the questions you are required to answer. You breathe evenly to keep your voice from cracking. And then, while you are focused on the inhale and exhale, on how the knot in the table looks like the knot in your stomach, everyone rises and shakes hands. And that's...it.
You knew that it wouldn't be easy and that you did not want what happened in this room to define the day. So in advance you asked if you could have lunch together. Eating and drinking were always something you were so good at doing together. So you go and you eat and you drink. You eat off of each other's plates because old habits die hard. You taste his drink because he insists and you've never been able to say no to him. You talk and you laugh and there are a few jabs but mostly it's OK because you pretend that it's not what it is, that it's just lunch. Then it's over and you stand on the street realizing that it's the most bizarre goodbye ever. You hug and congratulate each other for getting through it without killing each other. Then when you climb in your car, alone, you finally realize that the foreign feeling you couldn't place is numb. You've moved past angry, past heartbroken, past remorse. You feel completely and utterly numb.
So you drive and you walk in the cold, waiting for feeling to return to your fingertips, your feet and your brain. You breathe and try to connect with the relief you thought you'd feel. You cry and try to reach the bottom you thought you'd already hit. None of that comes.
So you go home and you move on. You live and laugh and work and parent and love and only when it's quiet do you allow yourself to know that there's no such thing as over. You have mounds of paperwork and finances to wade through. You have calendars to plan and holidays to coordinate and children who want their "family" to be as present as before. You have friends who expect you to show up. You have new relationships that fill you with hope but need to be introduced and explained with care and sensitivity.
So you go on and everything has changed, but a few things have not. You still can't seem to communicate well, you still seem to argue and hurt each other as much as you help and need each other. You still seem to see everything differently and feel everything differently. But most of all for you, you still love and miss and cry sometimes, too. And he still seems to hate all of that about you.
You realize it will never be done. Instead, you start to try to figure out what the next part will look like. And you hope that you two can do this part better. That you'll get there with practice, with patience that neither of you own, with faith that is tested daily, with compassion you've never given each other, with humility you will both need, and, most of all, with a reminder that there was love there once, and maybe for you, always.
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