The Arbitrator returns; we’re almost done but still not quite. It’s okay, he says, we can go a bit longer. He hands back the list of items, and there’s an indignant scrawl next to the master bed, adding it back to his list of items. I almost chuckle but I’m tired now; I’ve been making regular trips to the ladies’ room and need to make another one but don’t want to hold up the proceedings any further.
The lawyer and I huddle and come up with some numbers. The Arbitrator drafts up yet another counter, but this time it’s in final form: lots of legal language accompanies this offer. If we can get him to agree to this, we both sign it and we’re, for all intents and purposes, done. They want me to sign this first, before The Departed, so I read it and make sure it’s correct.
I read the standard language too.
When I get to section 4, paragraph 2, I stop, because air is knocked out of me and I feel an agonizing pain pierce my abdomen like a rusty bayonet. “The Wife acknowledges that she is not pregnant.”
Everyone is chattering around me, not rudely, but not seeing me either. Or maybe they do; I don’t know. I stop and read it again, and then recompose myself and finish reading.
It’s just standard legal language, it’s nothing personal; nothing we’ve talked about here today is anything personal.
The Arbitrator goes off into the other room, and I look at the paralegal and say, That was the hardest part of the whole year. The Wife acknowledges she is not pregnant.
The paralegal winces and says, I’m so sorry. I can see she is struggling for the right thing to say, but there isn’t anything, so I help her out.
It’s just standard, I know that, I tell her.
The Arbitrator returns with a signed paper: We are done except for filing the documents with the court.
Also, we have to leave, because our time has run over and the room is needed for other things. Other people’s problems.
I didn’t expect to feel happy. I thought I would feel relieved, but that’s not how I feel either. I feel overwhelmed by loss, and not the loss I expected to feel: I feel like I am going to miss The Lawyer and The Paralegal immensely, more than I can bear. I’m confused by this, and they’re both standing near me; he’s standing back a bit, away from me, but she reaches out and hugs me.
Thank you, I will miss you, I say to both of them. Thank you.
The paralegal says, you won’t miss us, we’ll see you.
Oh, I think, and before I can figure out what she’s saying we’re out the door and I’m headed for the bathroom again, finally.
Just as the door closes behind me, I hear The Lawyer ask my father, Is she okay?
Yes, says my father. She will be.