The arbitration is rescheduled, but since I’ve already got an appointment with my attorney to assemble all the paperwork, we decide to go ahead with that.
We’re assembling a letter that explains everything to the arbitrator: Who I am, what I think the asset division should be and why, and what the other issues are and my proposed resolutions. It shouldn’t be hard, and in fact, it isn’t: I had put together a spreadsheet within days after The Departed left – you keep this, I keep that.
I’m in the fortunate position of having enough to go around – we can each walk away with a certain amount of money and stuff, and we don’t have any custody or child support issues to be resolved. It’s really just math – basic addition and division. It should have been a very simple matter to resolve and we should have been finished months ago.
I sit with my attorney in his office, where I’ve always been completely at ease. There are long silences while he types and summarizes; I listen to the ticking of a small antique wall clock and I realize, it’s just like the clock my grandmother had. I used to lie in bed in the morning and listen to it tick.
It’s a safe sound. Soothing. Comforting.
He walks me through my life story. Born and raised in New York City. Attended a prestigious high school; admission only for the few who pass a highly-competitive entrance exam. Started working at a prestigious Wall Street firm before I had my college degree; finished at night with a 3.9 GPA. Vice President. Prestigious, accomplished. I’m great on paper.
Then I get married the first time and it all starts to become muddy – the timeline more complex. Three moves in three years; urgent job-hopping when his whims took us in a different direction. I simplify things; the attorney simplifies further.
I walk him through the second marriage. The words tumble out and he cannot keep up anymore – the chaos is too immense. I have to keep stopping, circling back, re-explaining. I am trying to convey things – very personal things leading to the one unforgivable betrayal – and I can’t get them across.
It’s not that I’m a poor communicator, or he’s a bad listener. It’s just that none of it makes any sense.
Gradually, he forms it into a kind of narrative for the mediator.
I sit quietly and listen to the ticking and wonder how all those things can add up to the same person.
There’s a box of tissues on his desk, and I feel like I should want to reach for them, but all the emotion just lingers oh-so-slightly below the surface.
We get through that and get to the easy stuff. Math. I clarify all the assets and we assemble a proposed division of assets. I can do this. Math is nothing personal.
At the end, I look at it all and I ask, it seems like the money works out so that I can stay in the house. Do you think I can keep my house?
I’m thinking, The Child can walk to her friends’ houses. She likes our neighbors and has fun teaching their kids how to ride their bikes. The Dog doesn’t have much time left and he likes sleeping in that familiar yard. Please don’t let someone take these things away from me.
Yes, he says. You have a child in the house. It’s very, very unlikely you will have to move. Anything is possible, I can’t promise, but I think you can plan on staying.
I’m exquisitely happy.
He starts asking me about my car. I had traded in my marital Suburban Assault Vehicle for a zippy little used Mini a few months back, to cut costs. I’m thinking he wants to know something else about the transaction for the papers, but I’m not sure what.
No, no, says the Lawyer. What I’m asking is, do you like it?
Oh. I’m confused. Yes, I like it, I tell him. Easy to park in the city, easy to maneuver in traffic.
I’m thinking of getting one, he tells me. Can you take me for a ride in it?
Oh. Do you want to drive it? I ask.
If you don’t mind, he says. That would be great. He starts asking me questions about engine size, transmission, and so on.
I don’t know, I tell him. Drive it and then you tell me.
There are three cars outside his office: A Honda (his paralegal), a Mini (me), and a Porsche, which I must assume is his, except that I’ve also seen a little electric car that he once mentioned he drove. We get in and drive around the neighborhood.
Lots of power, he says. Sweet.
Doesn’t that Porsche have a lot of power? I ask. Don’t you like it?
I love it, he says. I love cars.
How many cars do you have? I ask.
Five, he tells me. Different cars for different things.
The first thought I have is, you’re welcome – since by now I think I’ve bought and paid for one of those cars. But I don’t mind. I used to mind other people having things that I didn’t, but today I don’t.
The sun is shining, and I can probably keep my house.