April 15, 1983: Poetic Apprentice
April 15th: He got out of work at 7 a.m. The Court date was at 9 a.m. He went home, showered, and put on his black suit and mauve shirt. She’d think his hair was too long, he knew, but he liked it that way. He ran his fingers through it, trying to bring out the curls, and then stopped to look at himself in the front mirror.
He rushed to his car and drove to the Courthouse, circling the block for fifteen minutes until he found a parking space. Then he ran up the marble stairs, found their names on the schedule and continued running up to the third floor. As he ran past the last corner of the stairwell he was suddenly on the landing and their eyes met. They both took a deep breath and he inadvertantly took a step back. They stared blankly at each other. She turned silently away from him and looked into Mary’s face. He walked slowly past them into the waiting room and took the bench directly across from them and leaned forward. They had turned awkwardly away from him to face each other. Then she turned to him and snapped “What are you doing here?” “It’s my divorce, too.” She rolled her eyes and met Mary’s uncomfortable look. For a minute all three were silent and then the two women began to whisper to each other, their foreheads inches apart. As they continued to ignore him he began to lean away from them, feeling himself grow angry.
There was a crushing silence in the waiting room. People rushed in and out of the elevator behind him, lawyers with briefcases followed by men and women in suits. The light came in the floor-to-ceiling windows and fell across the side of her face. He gradually settled back onto the plastic bench until his head sagged and he looked towards his hands which he folded in his lap.
Fifteen minutes late, a woman opened the Courthouse door and called their names. Beth quickly stood up and, without looking back at him, fled quickly from the room. The door closed and Mary and he sat across from each other. He looked into her face until finally she looked up. “Tell Beth I said goodbye” he said. She gave a thin smile and nodded. He stood up and walked quickly down the stairs and into the early morning air.
Later that afternoon she called. “I was nervous,” she said. “I didn’t expect you to be there. I didn’t know what to say. It was terrible. I was upset. I didn’t know what I was saying. I’ve been crying all afternoon,” she said.
“Goodbye, Beth,” he said, “Goodbye.” And he hung up the phone.