I was scared, I was ashamed, I was in a fog that Tuesday. I had never been to court, never had to swear on a bible, never had to so publicly face my marriage was over and out loud. My attorney prepared me ahead of time for the questions I must swear to: “Do you live in the County of… Do you go into this freely; are you of sound body and mind?”. All the questions becoming a blur. Knowing this she said, “Answer everything ‘yes’ except the one about whether you are pregnant. By the way, you aren’t, are you?” I’m almost 50, feel unloved and ugly, how could I be pregnant. “No”, I muttered.
I arrived early at the court house at 9:15 wearing my navy power suit. It was the only thing holding my limp soul and broken heart in place. The long line of strangers, all of whom seemed to stare at me, twisted through every inch of available space in the lobby to the security area and well outside the door. Security! Are you kidding! I’m just here for a divorce, for God’s sake! I’m a professional, college educated, woman with a suit on! Do you really think I would have a gun, a bomb, or something like that? Don’t I get to skip this part? I knew the answer but still had to rant to myself. Another reason to be angry at HIM, my soon to be ex-husband.
I watched people as they were patted down, purses searched, pockets emptied and proceeding like cattle through the arch of the metal detector. I looked at my watch, 9:30, still in line. 9:40, anxious and perspiring. 9:45, almost there. Oh my God! The panic hits me like a brick. I go numb. I have a Swiss Army knife in my purse! They are going to seize my knife! They are going to arrest me! They are going to strip search me, take my picture, and fingerprint me! My knife! What in the hell am I going to do? I thought with horror.
You see, my knife is one of my most precious possessions. My dad gave it to me for a backpacking trip when I was 17. He demonstrated how to use it with repeated safety instructions about how to open and shut the blades without killing myself in the process. It is beat up, not very sharp, missing the combination leather punch/toothpick (but still has a very useful bottle opener and cork screw). I’ve always carried it, always remembered to take it out of my purse before flying, and loved it from the day dad gave it to me.
I leave the line shaking and sweating, fumbling to find my Swiss Army knife in my deep purse to do God knows what with. Every second was ticking away, “10:00 sharp” repeating in my head. I’m going to be LATE, it is HIS fault! That JERK! Because of HIM, I’m going to lose my precious knife or go to jail! I spot a container outside for cigarette butts. The vessel is overflowing, spilling nasty ruminants of other people’s germs on the concrete. Cigarette butts, wads of gum, half eaten sandwich, and who knows what else. I nonchalantly walk to the nasty container andI jam my knife as deeply as I can into the mush of butts, sand, and litter. I look back to see if anybody is watching. A few stare as I try to wipe my hand with a used tissue from my purse. I rush back to the line and it is 9:50. HURRY!!!
My throat is dry and I can barely breathe. I make it through security; quickly bathe my hand in a drinking fountain and run up the stairs to the second floor courtroom. It was 10:10. My attorney scowls at me from a bench outside the courtroom. “You’re late”. My tears start flowing as my chest heaves to catch a breath. “Well, at least we haven’t been called in yet. Here’s a Kleenex, you look awful.” Great attorney, not so great bedside manner.
The deed gets done. I manage to choke out a “no” to the right question. I start becoming more aware of my surroundings as the adrenaline dissipates and fog lifts. I feel silly in my suit as I look around at flannel pajama pants, torn jeans, and dirty jackets. I wonder if my knife is still safe. I imagine it has been fished out by a vagrant who saw me bury it. It’s probably already been used in a crime and, with my fingerprints on it, there’ll be a cop car in my driveway when I get home.
I leave the building and my heart is pounding. I look at the container that may still hold my knife. It is even grosser than I remember. How can I “casually” dig out my precious knife without looking loony? Just do it! No one knows you! No one will see you again. Your pride is gone anyway. HE had an affair, HE left your heart in shambles, you’re 50, and now you’re divorced.
I shutter as my fingers fish around in the gritty sand of yuck and muck, quickly finding the familiar 33 year old oval, red, plastic encasing my knife with the silver cross embossed on the side. I clutch it tightly in my hand and relief comes over me. No cop car in my driveway! At least not today! Ha!
A song by Rod Steward pops in my head as I walk to my car, “The First Cut is the Deepest”. “D” day cut me and it hurt. I’m ashamed, sad and lonely. But I won’t let it kill my soul. I won't let anyone do that to me, ever! I shutter again as I think about the yuck and germs I’ve just encountered. However, that could kill me, though! Thank God I have hand sanitizer in the car and suddenly, “D” day didn’t seem so hopeless.