Maelstrom

Visited the notary this morning. Then another notary at lunch, because some other form I had to do was missing a page. Then I went to the courthouse, the one I screwed up going to many years ago, when I was supposed to witness a close relative’s marriage. Which is ending, concurrent with the (legal) end of mine. I went to the wrong courthouse that day; there are too many big, gray, stately buildings, and I wasn’t familiar with downtown Cleveland yet; I didn’t even live here. And there were no cell phones; that long ago. I drove around in a panic, and missed it. Some strangers had to witness. No matter. These things proceed, as they do in courthouses. And now, some almost twenty years later, that couple will untie the knot, but in their own courthouse, in another state. Things proceed. Divorce is the new black. Or something.

After all the months of work, and I do mean work – I’m starting to get why lawyers take so long to do case work – I found a cherry parking spot at a meter only steps from the courthouse. I parked close up adjacent to the car in immediately front of the empty space, waving people around me, preparing to practice my ninja parallel parking skills and shift into the sole, inviting, open space quickly, when some bitch whore fuckface with a car full of kids pulled into it from behind me. Crooked, of course, because the spot wasn’t big enough to pull into that way, but she did it anyway. I glared at her and she pretended not to notice, giving me a glance through her smeary windshield, then ignoring me.

It was really the last straw for me. All these months of work. Me with limited time left on my lunch hour, which I was already way over on to begin with. I screeched away and did an illegal u-turn as her and her brood poured out of their rusty clown car and headed over to the criminal building. “NICE SENSE OF JUSTICE YOU’RE TEACHING YOUR KIDS THERE, LADY,” I screamed at her out my car window. She flipped me off. Classy.

This is why I don’t carry a gun. Well, not anymore. I carried one when I lived in LA, but that was because I was terrified the whole time, not to harass people. It crossed my mind that she might be carrying and I shouldn’t have screamed at her. But then I thought, probably not into the building housing the jail.

I found somewhere else to park, several freezing, windy blocks away, and got out, the strap on my large tote bag snapping off, like the wife’s pathetic, symbolic broken heel in the Out of Towners. I hurried down to the giant building, holding the big monster bag under my arm. Into the cavernous, cold marble open square, where the only thing I saw was the sign pointing you down the hall to marriage licenses. I remember that sign. Oof, a punch in the gut. Not that way.

I was bewildered and in a hurry, which is no way to be. There’s no directory, not that there should be, it isn’t a mall, for goodness’ sake. I hadn’t worn my distance glasses and couldn’t see anything. It was like a beige and mauve sea and I was drowning. I went back to the security guard and he told me where to go – the basement of course, the descent into hell, where you belong.

The man told me I needed to make copies of some things, and I was missing a page, and I could go down the hall to make copies. They won’t charge you if it’s less than 30 pages. But the copier was all fucked up, it’s doors open and a guy messing with it. “I’m just putting in new paper,” he said, and offered to help me run the copies. But the machine was angry, and off, like everyone in the basement. It printed the copies sideways, with the tops and bottoms cut off. He ran it again, same thing. We’re now getting upwards of 30 pages and the lady comes over from the counter, talking on the phone and answering questions, telling him to clear it out and try again, no, clear it, not interrupt, you have to clear it. YES, CLEAR IT THE FUCK OUT, PLEASE, JUST CLEAR IT, I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE. I felt like I was choking. Everything was dark and it smelled like fast food french fries. While Copy Man was finally running the right copies for me, I found a blank of the form I needed, and quickly filled it out. Now I had everything. Most of it probably wrong, because I am not a fucking lawyer. But I had it all, and they didn’t charge me for the copies. I scurried back down the hall. A Jimmy John’s delivery guy in a rainbow colored, uber-glittery CAVS jacket came in with me and was babbling and babbling, I think he was insane. I couldn’t quit looking at his coat. I have never seen anything like that before. It was stark, in the dark, tan basement.

The guy behind the cage had some kind of vision problem and had to hold his head about an inch from the papers to see them. Maybe half an inch. He flipped an flipped through. “Ok, so you have this, ok, this is your copy here, you take this one back, you’ll need that for your court appearance.” I was texting my best friend and sweating. “Ok do you have…ok, this is it here, I see.” Sweat jumping off me like a porcupine, my armpits soaking. I started crying. “Ok, I’m, it’s ok, he said, obviously used to seeing people upset at his cage window.” He looked again, and a third time, and said everything was there.

THUNK. THUNK. THUNK. THUNK. THUNK. THUNK. Time stamping. It’s official, and they’ll mail you something about the date, he said. Here’s this one back, you’ll need this. Mindlessly shoved into my folder, crumpled, really, I don’t even … Really choking now, like sweating and choking and not able to breathe at all. Like a deer who heard a bad twig snap and knows something bad is going on. The guy behind me saw, and he gave me a little half hug from behind around my shoulders, as much as you could on a stranger without them being weirded out. “Nobody down here is in a good mood, a good place,” he said, “Mmm hmm,” a big guy behind him said, and everyone in the long line nodded. The long, long line.

I tried to smile, tried not to look like my face was melting. The guy ran my credit card and had to call after me to wait for my receipt. “I can’t breathe” I texted my friend. “I can’t breathe.” “Just get OUT OF THERE” she said.

I ran back to my car, trying to hold on to my bag, choking, the cold, cold wind creating even more tears than what was already there. The meter was flashing, red, red. But no ticket.

Back to work. Press releases to write. About protective gear, new dishes, a package of new all-terrain cranes. A sell sheet. An ad to proof. Order.

I picked up Bones tonight and used all my acting skills to act like it was a typical, normal night. C’mon, kid, no karate moves, Mom’s tired. We have to get all the homework done tonight. Do you want tacos or pizza…

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