I’d been nervous driving to the lawyer’s office this morning. Anticipation coupled with a niggling sense of anxiety that, even at this late moment when everything was supposedly in order, some thing, unplanned or unaccounted for, would prevent my mortgage closing. Buying a house on my own at sixty-one was a sobering undertaking; after three months of paper processing, it was hard for me to believe it was actually happening.
The process had been unnecessarily complicated because David’s lawyer had insisted he be free and clear of the house before she would allow him to sign the divorce papers. She allow him??? It was His business and My business.
I wouldn’t have involved lawyers in the first place but once he hired one, I had no choice. As it was, my lawyer recapitulated by saying I could not sign the divorce papers until the house was in MY name.
We didn’t need any lawyers. Couldn’t AFFORD any lawyers. We both understood the marriage was over; he wanted to leave, I wanted to stay. No conflict. Just a matter of me buying him out.
And therein lay the glitch. He bought the house before our marriage so the mortgage was in his name only. We had to get him free and clear of his loan and then I had to get my own. The easy thing, the simple thing, would have been to get the divorce, have him quit claim the deed over to me, and then I would get a mortgage in my name only.
Thanks to legal expertise, however, he now had to be present for my closing; first to sign the mortgage and then to sign a waiver relinquishing any claim on the property in question. All because we are still technically married. After signing, he will take a copy of the appropriate papers back to his lawyer, who will then allow him to sign the divorce papers, who will then send them to my lawyer, who will then send them to me for my signature. Ya-da ya-da ya-da.
Thanks to his lawyer’s “conditions”, his name ended up being on MY mortgage. Albeit momentarily. Which was exactly what neither of us wanted. And he had to drive all the way from Missouri to do it!
But I didn’t know any of this before the closing.
* * * * *I check my watch as I pull into the parking lot of the lawyer’s office. The closing is set for 11:30 a.m. and I am a few minutes early. The lawyer’s assistant ushers me in to an office where David is already waiting. “I didn’t think you were here yet,” I remarked as I sat down. “I didn’t see your car.” “I drove a friend’s van; it will hold more of my stuff than my El Camino,” David replied. “That makes sense,” I said. “Where’s your friend?” “She’s waiting in the van." “Ah," I replied, comprehending at last.
Moments later, the lawyer arrives. I sign a myriad of papers; David signs a few. It takes about 45 minutes. As the lawyer explains what we are doing, I realize why David is here and what he is signing.
I mention this as we leave but I don’t think he gets it. I resent the fact his name is, after all, on my mortgage, but trust the waiver does, in fact, absolve him from any obligation as well as any claim to my property. I head for the tire store to get two new front tires and a front-end alignment and David takes his copies of the papers to his lawyer’s office. He has offered to stop back at the tire store to pick me up since it will take an hour or so for them to fix my car.
We drive back to the house. I knew he had planned to stop by to get more of his stuff. I just didn’t know a woman would be with him. But it’s her van, after all. I didn’t even know he had a woman friend. But that doesn’t surprise me, either.
He introduces us as I get in the back seat. It could be awkward but isn’t. We’re grown-ups, after all. She didn’t meet him till he moved to Missouri, after all.
David pulls up to the side of the house to make it easier to load the van. I go around to the front door and once inside come around to unlock the side door. They come in, David exclaims over how big the cat has gotten, and heads for the basement.
Sally is small in stature. A little pudgy like me but in different places. Tight jeans and turtleneck reveal little bulges here and there. Salt and pepper hair and dark eyes. Attractive.
David comes back upstairs. As I direct them to the piles and boxes I have accumulated for him, we talk. Ironically, I realize this is a woman I could like; someone I could be friends with. Under different circumstances. She is friendly and speaks intelligently.
I learn she is self-employed; sells real estate and is a tax accountant. She goes on to say she is a Pentecostal Christian and has been a minister for 20 years. But recently left the ministry. Because she can’t be a minister and drink and dance and she has recently discovered both. I am dumbfounded! David the Atheist coupled with a Fundamentalist! Unbelievable.
She also is newly divorced--six months ago. As she speaks of the details of the marriage and divorce I hear remnants of pain in her voice although she says it is behind her now. That sisterhood of woman bonding thing rises up in me and I blurt out, “but you’re so needy right now. You need time to heal.”
“Actually it’s been two years since we split up. It’s just that the divorce became final six months ago.”
She talks about a husband who was undemonstrative, who didn’t show her any affection. The more she talks, the more I feel drawn to her and the more I feel the need to warn her. Warn her of what? It’s none of my business. Recognizing this does not subdue the feeling.
She says she and David met about six months ago and haven’t stopped talking since. How familiar this sounds.
I tell her, “Well, David will tell you he wants an independent woman. Beware! He only wants you to be independent as long as you agree with his point of view.” David is standing nearby and I say it in a joking manner--I hope. They both grin so I guess it’s okay that I said it.
I continue by saying, “Which I have decided must just be a male thing.”
“I think you’re right,” she replies and smiles also. “We’ve had some of those kinds of conversations already.”
“Well, don’t back down,” I say.
“Oh, I won’t; I’m good at defending myself. He knows that already.”
Sounds more and more like this is a potentially serious relationship. I feel concern for what I perceive this woman’s needs to be because I have no doubt they will remain unfulfilled. What is this pain I’m beginning to feel? Why do I feel so protective of her? She says she has dated quite a few men during the past two years. I sense that she is looking for someone to love. And to be loved. I know the feeling. I was there. Fourteen years ago. It didn’t happen.
We are alone for a few minutes when David goes back to the basement.
As we stand emptying clothes from what once was his closet, I decide to speak what’s in my heart. “Please don’t misunderstand but I feel the need to talk to you woman-to-woman. I don’t wish David any harm. I just feel the need to warn you. If you just want a friend, a sexual buddy, then you probably won’t be disappointed. But if you’re looking for something more, please be careful. David himself told me in the early months of our relationship that a woman he once dated for nine months told him, ‛David, you’re a taker.’ I learned she was right.”
“Whatever it is that did or didn’t happen to David as a child has made him the way he is. It’s why we all are the way we are, of course, but with David, what this amounts to is, I don’t think he knows how to love. It’s not that he’s intentionally selfish or unkind. But he is the most self-absorbed person I have ever known. And hasn’t a clue as to how to be a father or a husband. Clueless is what he is.”
Then I tell her about his daughter’s wedding and how he failed to show up at almost the last minute. He was driving over the road at the time and called me to say he would have to cut his run short and it might jeopardize his job and he thought he would probably just be in the way anyway and what did I think he should do? (His ex-wife and daughter had rented a hotel room for us, bought flowers for me and him, rented him a tux. They were expecting him to walk her down the aisle, for god’s sake!)
I told her by this point in the marriage I was tired of being the manager, the mother, of making his decisions for him, so I told him he had to do what he thought best. What he thought best was not to go. It broke his daughter’s heart and she called in tears two days before the wedding. David was still out on the road and I had to talk to her. I felt horrible. And wished for her sake I had talked him into doing the right thing--at least one more time.
Just then I heard David’s footsteps on the stairs and tried once again to assure Sally I wasn’t trying to be vindictive. “I just have the feeling you may be looking for something that isn’t going to be there.”
“No, no, I’ve wondered about some of this myself. I’m glad to know.”
* * * * *By the time the tire shop called to say my car was ready, Sally and David were just about finished loading up the things they planned to take. David has to return in November for the court date for the divorce and will get the rest of his things then.
We all piled into the van one more time and they dropped me off at the tire store.
As I prepared to exit the van, Sally said, “I was a little nervous about meeting you but hoped it would be okay. And it was.”
“Me, too,” I said. “But there’s no reason for me to have bad feelings toward you. What happened between David and me happened before he ever knew you. You had nothing to do with it.”
“Well, that’s how I hoped you’d feel. My best friend had an affair with my husband so that’s the last thing I would ever do to another woman,” Sally replied.
“Have a safe trip; I wish you well,” I said as I exited the van and headed to the tire store. I wrote my check, left the store, and drove home with a little knot of pain and sadness rumbling around deep inside my guts. I didn’t exactly know why.
Then I figured it out.
David is looking for a connection. Of sorts. He was looking for it when he ran into me. Who was looking and hoping and praying. To be needed. To be loved.
He found the real thing. He didn’t know it. He didn’t take care of it. And then he lost it.
Me, I’m not looking anymore.
David still is.
He’s run into someone who’s looking and hoping and praying . . .
I have to stop now. There is a pain behind my eyes and it is spreading to my throat and moving down to squeeze around my heart.
-- end --