Tuesday, May 1, 2007



Backtrack


The divorce had been decided about four months ago.
After three years of riding elevators, filling out forms, standing in lines, filing papers, annoying the hell out of clerks, wearing out judges and asking stupid questions in every single office I walked into, I’d finally managed to get a Judge (who was running late for her weekend) to sign the decision. I was her very last case of a long day. When I left the courtroom I saw the Judge as she was hustling out of her office and we made eye contact. She said,

“Good luck.”
Wary and glad to see me go. I was all smiles.

“Thank you your honor.” I’d never meant those words more sincerely.

After that it was three more clerks, two more offices, one official stamp and it was all over. At least I thought it was.


I happened to be surfing through the county website looking for some forms and decided, for the hell of it, to look up my four month old case. Maybe treat myself to a pat on the back. I didn’t know of any other human being who’d ever tried their own divorce case and, not being anything resembling a lawyer, I was somewhat proud of my “accomplishment” in a backwards sort of way.
Ever since the day I came home early from work on our first anniversary to give her a surprise gift (I was the one who got the real surprise) my life had pretty much been moving in reverse anyway and the “accomplishment” of the divorce seemed par for my course.
A lot of life can slide by in three years while you wait in limbo for a decision and jog back and forth between courtrooms. Our son was now four (he was three the last time I’d managed to see him) and had no real concept of who I was, the Ex was on her second boyfriend (that I knew about) and I was living with my first girl since the anniversary surprise. If you wanted to listen to the Ex or the Girlfriend it seemed distressingly clear that everyone had been waiting for the finish line. I had little choice but to listen and the wait got old and tired fast, real fast. My heart skipped a rope in my chest when I logged on and discovered that the Ex had shown up to court sometime after the final ruling and was currently trying to get the Judgment overturned. I couldn’t imagine why and I didn’t want to try.


Most of her motivation had to do with drugs. I’d say all but that might not be entirely fair since I didn’t really have any clue as to her current daily habits.
This much (and only this much) I knew for fact: Louise didn’t return phone calls or correspond, she’d moved at least three times in the last three years that I was aware of, she lived two hundred fifty miles away, her family was sick and tired of her and completely uninterested in her whereabouts, her only lawyer gave up on her, her second boyfriend was dumber than the first which I didn’t think possible, our son was a little bit odd, she’d lied compulsively and convincingly about drugs while we were together, she was the most skilled manipulative liar I’d ever met, she was one gloriously fantastic fuck.


Everything else was an educated guess or a prayer.


Louise hadn’t bothered to come to court since her lawyer had called it quits two and a half years into the proceedings, she’d never bothered before that. The lawyer worked out of a free legal clinic that Louise had somehow persuaded to come to her desperate aid, ride to her rescue. I’d met and talked and wrote and faxed with that lawyer (another woman) off and on throughout the entire two and a half year period while she held on by her fingernails, trying her best to be Louise’ advocate and defender. As the months rolled by and Louise failed to show or even return her calls and then provided her with false information and led her down blind alleys, I watched her lawyers’ eyes begin to grasp the unpleasant reality of her sticky situation. Every time I saw her in court she seemed more exhausted and exasperated than the previous. She was catching on to Louise’ games just as I had and everyone did, slowly but surely Louise was burning her bridges to the waterline. I almost sympathized with that shyster.

We found ourselves alone in the elevator after one court date near her end and I told her,
“You know… You seem like a good woman, I mean….you must be if you’re working for a free service and all, just trying to help women who really need it, I mean… That’s commendable, but……” and I leaned in for emphasis, “don’t you think you could be much more effective if you help the people who really need your help? You know? Instead of people who are just kinda using you… taking advantage.. Know what I mean?”
“I think you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going on with Louise by now… I think you know what she’s up to.”

Her face was set like drying plaster as she cocked her head in defiance, jaw tight.
"Oh I get paid no matter who I work for so don’t worry about me….. I’m not going anywhere, one case is the same as the next and I get paid either way.”

Two months later she asked the Judge for permission to resign from the case and the Judge granted it. I successfully fought back my smile as I stood in front of the bench. In the hallway outside the courtroom I told the lawyer,

“Hey, don’t feel bad. At least you’re done with her forever. I still got to play along with this farce.”
Then I winked. She didn’t have anything to say to that and it was the last time I ever saw her or spoke to her. As an opponent she wasn’t much but she didn’t have much to work with and I guess you get what you pay for.


Louise had since disappeared off the face of the earth for the last ten months so it was more than a little disturbing to discover, quite accidentally, that she’d decided to finally resurface and contest the divorce. Then again, Louise was nothing if not inexplicable.

We’d both attended a one day court ordered mediation session somewhere in the beginning of the divorce proceedings. It was the only time she’d shown up. They have you sit down and watch a film (just like high school) with a roomful of other grim divorce victims and then the two of you get together with your mediator to work out an agreement. The mediator, a woman, decided to see us one at a time to get our individual backgrounds and then afterwards we’d all sit in her office together and, theoretically, straighten out details like custody and visitation. That’s the theory anyway but like all divorce proceedings, I was just then beginning to find out, it’s wrapped in barb wire. I was up first.

I guess I talked with that woman for a good ten minutes. She listened intently, answered empathetically and gave every appearance of deep, abiding concern.

“What is your greatest worry?”
“Do you fear for your son’s safety?”
“Is there anything else I should be aware of?”
“How long has she been using drugs?”

She was calm and intelligent. We shook hands when I walked out and then Louise walked in.

Five minutes later the mediator called me back into her office to begin. When I entered she gave me a look like I was the guy who one nighted her six months ago, borrowed her car, stole her money and then never called back. Whatever story Louise had sold her in that five minute stretch must’ve been a classic because that mediating expert had ate it up like chocolate ice cream. Louise just sat there demurely like an innocent girl on the verge of maiden tears but determined to carry on stoically, fight back her grief, despite all the odds against her. My day went straight downhill from there.


Louise wore black fish net stockings and a knee length skirt for the meeting. Strappy high heeled sandals showed off her brand new pedicure and still perfect feet to delightful effect. Her top was black and tight. As the hours passed she never stopped fiddling with that skirt, crossing and uncrossing those long lean legs like cream tightly wrapped to near bursting from that fetish gear. The skirt would somehow rise up giving me a flash of luscious thigh and then she’d carefully adjust it back to its former position, only to have it slide up again. And over and over again. I don’t think I missed a single flash and my concentration suffered accordingly.
Louise was always masterful as a solo act but she was even better working with her brand new mediating ally and confidant. The two of them would’ve been good partners in cards; they kept throwing each other every lead the other one needed. By the middle of the session, three and one half hours in, they were communicating with nods and knowing glances, in perfect synchronized rhythms of emotional sisterhood. When we were finished at the end of a marathon day I thought they were going to hug like on Oprah and share a good cry. I left the office first so maybe I missed it. I didn’t see my son that day either. He was with her boyfriend.


Now two years later, Louise was trying to prolong the finality, dispute the decision. I was terrified. I stared at that computer screen and felt, well, sick.
Louise had shown up on three consecutive dates, the screen indicated, and was due in court the very next day. What she had planned for that Judge I didn’t know and only painfully and excruciatingly decided to find out. For three years it’d taken every last ounce of my strength, money, will and time to fight for the decision and now, because of her, I was returning to the lion’s den to claw my way back to zero. Thanks baby.

The court call was for late afternoon. I dressed carefully and studied the mirror frequently. I checked my paperwork and checked it again. I looked at my watch. I was determined to be cool and until I walked into the court building I was achieving it.
What is it about uniforms milling around with guns strapped to their hips that makes me uneasy? Is it the monotonous routine of being forced to empty your pockets and walk through metal detectors while fat, sullen county cops give you the fish eye that makes me so uncomfortable? Or is it the impending pleasure of realizing that whatever happens in that courtroom will decide everyone’s fate and the people in control of that decision don’t know you or care and you don’t have a clue as to what’s happening either way? Is it the inevitability of getting sucked into the machine like so much cheap meat for the grinder? After three years and countless appearances I still didn’t know.


Every time I walked into that courthouse I was amazed at how easy it had been to get married. Amazed and appalled. Why hadn’t somebody stopped me before I shot myself in the foot?

Louise had gotten released from rehab a few months previous to our wedding day at City Hall. I’d first met her at a coffee shop she’d been working at and we wound up in her bed on our very first date. When she was naked and in my arms I couldn’t imagine a better place to be and I never needed any more pleasure than her legs around me while I sunk in deep. We started off fast and hit the gas the entire run, no seatbelts, no brakes; reveling wildly and suffering madly through a rollicking relationship rollercoaster of making up and breaking up until the day I found out about her drug use during one of our breakups. She’d crashed her car and ended up in the emergency room. Her roommate called me and I took her to rehab the next day. I was determined to say goodbye to Louise forever at the hospital doors and so I did.
But her drug was heroin and mine was her flesh.
Two weeks later we were back in her bed, naked and kissing and making sweet serious promises to each other, holding on tight. Three months after that she was knocked up and convinced we should marry, it sounded all good to me. I wasn’t about to give up on a body like hers.
The whole ceremony took about 35 dollars and 60 minutes. A sleepwalking Judge pronounced us married in his mean little basement office and we went off to our honeymoon the very next day.
Louise made it through the entire pregnancy (doctors’ visits, Lamaze classes, hospital tours), labor, birth and seven months of our sons’ life before I found out, again by accident, that she’d been using methadone and heroin the whole time. I’d thought she was clean and healthy. I later found out that her doctor knew about the drugs, the hospital staff knew, the methadone clinic knew, her junkie boyfriend knew, but somehow I was the last to discover it; everyone had known but no one saw fit to inform me. I guess I didn’t factor into their equations but years later it was still tough to swallow when I thought of all the times her doctor had looked me in the eyes and solemnly addressed my concerns, cleverly avoiding any information that I might really need to know.

It took me until our first anniversary to find out about the junkie boyfriend. SUPRISE! I showed the junkie to the door and that, eventually, started a separate court case for me.

I was working 60 hours a week and no matter how hard I tried to keep up with all the lies, she spit them out faster than I could swallow them. It was an assembly line I couldn’t keep pace with so I filed for divorce and she moved downstate with the junkie and my son. I couldn’t figure any way of stopping her from taking my son short of violence but I didn’t think that would work out too well in my favor (the law had never been on my side before and I knew once she turned on the tears only one of us would be ending up in jail) so I just let them go.
The night before her planned departure we made our bed rock for a good half hour, took a break, then made it shake some more. She gave it to me as if she never wanted me to forget it. I haven’t yet.
The next morning I changed my son’s diaper, made him laugh, then handed him off to her and went to work, by the time I came back that night she was gone with our baby and the apartment was desert empty. So was I.

I talked to three different lawyers and the prices they’d given me to even begin a custody battle were so far out of my range it was laughable, if one was in the mood to laugh. Each lawyer made it perfectly clear to me, however, that even if I fought for custody there weren’t any guarantees as to the outcome, no matter the circumstances of the case, state custody conventions being what they are. I called my bank, my Credit Union and a Loan Company about the five grand I’d been quoted to begin the agony. They didn’t completely laugh in my face or anything but I got the message. So two twisted junkies had my son and I had our empty apartment. For the first time in my life I understood why they put metal detectors in courthouses. Those Judges and lawyers certainly wouldn’t be safe without them, poor bastards. After a number of phone calls and some hours of research I gave up the idea of custody and handled everything myself. I started rolling the boulder up the hill. All it had taken was time, energy, all my money and every last drop of whatever was left of me.


Now I was back to the original courtroom, again, waiting for her arrival. Waking up to a recurring nightmare. I’d arrived early and was pacing the lobby outside the courtroom when the elevator dinged and she stepped back into my world.

Louise was holding my son’s hand as she walked into the hall, they both had their backs to me. He appeared to be almost the same size as when I’d seen him last, over a year ago. She looked unrecognizable.
I couldn’t count the nights I’d laid in bed and dreamt of her slender ripe body and her lush milky flesh, the way she’d tasted, the scent of her skin, the curve of her hips, her fine long legs, the swell of her beautiful ass, the sway of her sweet breasts. I couldn’t calculate the amount of time I’d spent remembering those legs wrapped around me and those cheeks in my hands, her lips on me, coming inside her and holding her tight, breathing her in, tasting her, all of her.

The woman now holding my son’s hand was fat. Sloppy fat.
The kind of fat a woman of a certain age becomes when she’s thrown in the towel, settled for less, given up any real notion of being attractive, being sexual, being desired and desirable; given up being a girl and aimed squarely at somebody’s mother. Given up on sex and taken up with food, or something worse. But Louise wasn’t of a certain age. She was only thirty but had evidently decided, to my pained dismay, to quit the dance. There is no standard to measure what happened to her body. And I don’t mean to suggest that she gained a few or ten or twenty pounds or that she was no longer wonderfully fit. No. From the neck down she was completely unrecognizable, absolutely foreign to the body I remembered and so fondly wanted to cling to like a wonderful dream during a satisfying slumber. There was no relation between the beautiful, sexy, sassy girl I’d married and the bulging, slovenly, gone-to-hell matron standing in front of me. She could’ve traded bodies with a 50 year old woman and it would’ve been a good trade, for Louise.
When she turned to face me as I approached I managed my last ounce of strength to hide the shock stabbed into my eyes, my heart.

Her lovely skin had always reminded me of full moonlight. A sensuous glow of pale nocturnal pleasure, moonlight promising taboo treasures of earthy delight.

As she turned her head and I looked into her once lustrous profile, I flinched at a different skin. Her face resembled the surface of the moon and every square inch was vandalized by red angry blotchy pocks and zits. Whatever drug combinations she was currently using were doing their devil’s work on her flesh, rapidly, and the work was frightening to witness. It was some hideous mask fixed to her beauty, a mundane narcotic horror. Her jowls sagged into an unnatural frown and her neck was bloated and ample, the chin doubling.

“So. What brings you all the way to the big bad city lady?” It was difficult to look at her. ”Don’t you know this rodeo’s over already?”

“Oh, you’ll find out why I’m here soon enough...… smart ass.” She was none too happy to see me or maybe none too happy to be seen.

Only her eyes remained untouched from before. They were still clear, penetrating and the deepest bluest blue. As I peered into those aqua depths I recalled holding her and staring into them late in the night, falling in them, waiting for a moment to kiss her, living for the moment to touch her lips.
Now I couldn’t imagine wanting to kiss her or even be near her. I only ever wanted to kiss beautiful lips.

I turned to our son and tried a smile.

“And who’s this tough guy with you?”
He blushed and ducked his head into his mothers legs. He was beginning to look a little like me and not so much her, at last.

“Yea, that’s right………you wouldn’t know, would you?” The drugs hadn’t affected her venomous tongue one bit. At least some things stayed the same.

“Hey boy. Howzabout a handshake. Show me what ya’ got.”
I stuck my hand towards him and he looked at me shyly, reaching his tiny paw towards mine. When we shook I made a show of pain and dropped to one knee, hanging onto his soft hand softly.
“AAAARRRRRGGGHHHH! Lemme go. Lemme go.”
A sparkling grin erupted across his face and he laughed out loud. I remembered the smile from the time his was in his crib. I could’ve flown through the air.

“Tom should be here in a minute. He’s going to watch him while I’m in the courtroom.”
Tom was the second boyfriend, Louise was the only one who seemed to know the whereabouts of the junkie boyfriend. I was still staring at our son. He was beaming.

“Good old Tom still hangin’ in there? Well…. Well…..Well….. Wonder’s never cease,” I was pouring it on, “Why didn’t he just come up with you?”

I was still smiling and realized that nothing she could say or do mattered for that one moment, wallowing in my baby’s bright eyes.

“He forgot he had his knife on him and he couldn’t get through the metal detectors.” Her tired splotchy face sagged all over, beat.
“He’s downstairs straightening it out.”

I looked into her baby blues and looked away quick but she caught it. I was never adept at hiding my distaste for ugliness.

“I’m going in as soon as he gets here.” She was trying a rally.

“You can go in right now, I don’t give a damn.” I was peering into her eyes again and she didn’t like it, that made two of us.


I didn’t want to see her like that, ever. I wanted the beauty that once was mine, the hunger that once was real. Instead of the pounding pure rush of excitement at the sight of her, the thought of her, now I was left with nothing but a sick wave of distaste and cruel reminder of avenging time. I would’ve never expected it from her if I wasn’t forced to look at the, perhaps, inevitable. She’d always been so proud of her body and had so jealously guarded her bold sexuality. She used to be proud.
Once, while we were lying in bed, she’d been trying to explain to me the everyday travails of a hot girl in the big city.

“I mean… I’m not being conceited or anything but….. What makes some guys think that they can even talk to me?”
Rolling her eyes, showing me the whole package. Confident and cool.

She’d been demanding in bed and worth every demand, in the nude she was endless bliss with a vast reserve of inventive intuitive favors. Whenever I left her I’d burn until I saw her again. Now she didn’t look worth a coin toss. I was embarrassed to be next to her, even close to her, a disgusted spectator to her shocking disintegration. Life mustn’t be like this, I thought, not for her, not for me and not for our boy.

“Don’t worry... you can go on in…I’ll watch him until your doggy gets here.” We used to get sexy with the banter, now there was no pleasure left. None. Just a sour lousy taste in my mouth.

“I don’t need you to watch him or for anything else. I told you….. Tom’ll be here any second and he’s gonna take care of him… he’s more of a father then you’ll ever be anyway.” She snatched our child into her arms and everything in me cracked.


This was the way it was. Our son glanced back at me all hopeful smiles and innocent curiosity. I stood there useless, unimportant, unresolved. Lost.

The ugly fat woman stalked off towards the elevators holding him in her arms, kissing him gently. He looked back at me but seemed comfortable in his position. He was happy and unaware. His mother had accomplished that much. I hoped it would be enough.

When the boyfriend showed she handed our boy over to him and walked directly into the courtroom. Tom stood unsteadily in the hall, wrapped in a plaster cast from fingertips to shoulder with the whole sad mess in a sling. What the hell? He looked worried, nervous, like he’d had too much of the day already. He was tentatively holding onto my son with his remaining good hand. I considered walking over and treating him to a friendly punch in the arm but decided it would’ve been too easy, he was just too pathetic. Instead I came up on him and peppered him with questions, hard and fast. He answered promptly and politely, he wanted to make friends. He claimed he’d been in a car accident and broke his arm and collarbone, he didn’t seem too comfortable.

“Tell you what.” I drilled my eyes into his. “Take a break Tommy boy. I’m gonna walk this little guy over to the fountain for a drink.” I fixed my son with a look.
“C’mon.”

His little hand fit right into mine and we strolled over to a drinking fountain around a corner. I lifted him up to the water and he got a sip. I wanted to squeeze his tiny warm body to mine and never let go. I wanted to run with him in my arms holding tight. Run and never come back. Instead we sauntered back to her boyfriend, holding hands; court was waiting. I took a knee and tousled his still baby soft hair.

“Hey boy. Lemme ask you something.” I had his fullest four year old attention. “You like this funny looking guy over here?” I jerked a thumb at the boyfriend.

“Yeah.” He was a shy one, I remembered being one too.

“A-OKAY.”
I winked.
“Listen, I gotta go now but I’m gonna see you soon. O.K. ?”
“Yeah.”
Four year old conversation but who knew what he really felt or what really mattered to him. I kissed his head and walked into the courtroom before the tears started.


The court call took about forty minutes and went exactly nowhere (they eventually sent her back to another Judge on a different day) so I left quick, sick, and sure to do it all over again. We all met up at the elevators, waiting.

“Gosh. This’ll be fun. Maybe we can all share a ride down together. C’mon kids, whattya say?” I was wearing my evil grin, sharing it, spreading it around.

“Yea. Right. I don’t think so. Asshole.”
It was her answer, of course. I don’t believe she gave Tom permission to speak too often.
The elevator doors opened and I stepped in alone, looking back at them.


A broken nervous man clinging to more than he could handle- A lost memory of feminine loveliness and desire, now a bitter old troll too close to her end and too far from her beginning- And our boy, smiling and happy, oblivious to the storms of the world swirling around us all. My heart lifted toward his smile as the doors closed in my face. Going down. Alone.


When I made it to the ground floor the place was swarming. It was a late afternoon Friday and everyone was rushing to get things done quick, quick, quick and get the hell out so they could jumpstart the weekend. Hundreds of people, a tornado of activity. That lobby felt like the inside of my head. I stumbled through there in a coma feeling the full weight of my mistakes, dragging behind me the dread of my future, my mind collapsing, my heart exploding, body as brittle as burnt toast. Wasted and worthless.

I saw her before she saw me. I could’ve spotted her in any crowd. Everything changed instantly, I noticed nothing but her, cared nothing but her, wanted nothing but her. She was young and radiant, slender and sensuous. Her skirt was short and her raven hair long and straight, glowing. She was standing still as everything whirled around her, a bright light in a dark cave, a beacon guiding me in. Into what I didn’t know or care. She appeared lost, I could sympathize. I was guessing she was twenty one or two, dressed up for sex and not yet fully aware of her magnetic effect, on her way to interview for maybe her first real job. She didn’t appear all that professional but she was definitely about to make somebody’s day one way or another. My heart surged wildly and I cut in fast, no hesitation.

“You need some help finding something?”
I felt suddenly like a genius with all the answers, or at least one.

“You work here?”
Her voice was vibrant and sassy, sly and unafraid. Her moist lips twisted provocatively as she eyed me.
“No. I’m just trying to be of some assistance to you in your hour of need.” I presented my most insinuating grin and she smiled a little bit sexy, lit me up with some almond eyes. It worked.

“You a lawyer or something?”
She put her hand on her hip and cocked her tight body into a bikini pose. I could feel that body in my hands already, juicy flesh poised to burst out of her clothes.

“No way, beautiful, I just play one on TV.”
She got the joke, smacked me with a killer smile and got down to business.

“Well…. I’m not sure but I think I’m at the wrong address, see?” She pointed at something in her hands, “And I’m really running late…. So…. if you can help?”

I caught an unmistakable lilt of promise in her question as she trailed off flirtatiously, and then peered down into a piece of paper as I leaned over her shoulder. Her blouse was unbuttoned enough to allow me the slightest peek at her upright breasts and just a hint of frilly black bra against the tan luster of taut skin. She brushed against me subtlety, carelessly, and I felt my cock bounce in my pants.
Her scent was fresh and heavenly.

“Yea….. You are.”
I was breathing her in and our eyes locked.
“This address is an office building over on the next block. C’mon, let’s you and me take a quick stroll and I’ll show you.”
I wanted to take charge so I started to walk away but she didn’t move. I stopped and turned.

She fixed me with a simmering grin, all lips and eyes, curious and naughty, sizing me up; looking for all the world, and especially for me, exactly like delicious tempting trouble. I was heading straight into it pedal to the metal. She spoke.

“You sure you got the time?”

I wanted to get out of that courthouse, out of that lobby, out of my life fast, and into her even faster.

“I got all the time in the world, slim.”


END

1 comment:

Josie said...

Your story, most compelling and impactfull.
Being a mother myself, my initial reaction was questioning Louise's moral responsability, weakness of will, and self interest. However, I was too quick to judge. Unfortunately, drug use does handicap a person both physically & emotionally. Being a former addict myself (surprise!), I can relate to the deterioration it can have on one's life. You do feel helpless. It takes a strong will and support to overcome this "convenient crutch" of self medication that compensates for lack of confidence and will. I hope Louise finds this for the sake of her child.
Your story also arises questions such as: What was the catalyst that drove Louise to this stage? Where did the self worth and confidence go? and why?
Regardless, there is clearly one victim here, and that is the young child. A young, innocent soul that doesn't have a choice but to continue trusting. A good thing is, children have the wonderful gift of being resilient. If he resembles anything like his fathers tenacity, will, and determination (as he demonstrated by handling his own case), he will certainly "Rise like the Phoenix".



Thanks for the story..I look forward to reading the next chapter.