Tetraptych: sketches done in ball-point pen

I can take care of myself but I don’t know if I could do that if I had a job. I’m proud of the life I’ve built. I was only able to do that because I survived through a horrible divorce, but one day in particular.

There was a hearing. In front of a judge. And I had to sit there while my psychiatrist testified over the phone about how helpless I was and how little potential I had for taking care of myself ever. I had to testify to the same. I had to sit through D’s testimony about how awful I was. The point was made. I was pathetic. I was a failure. I couldn’t and wouldn’t cope and would most likely fall flat on my face without him.

It was all true at the time. You might never really know how bad off I was because there is still a sliver of pride left in me. I wrestle with talking about how bad off I was and would be for years to come. It still amazes me that from all that I could deliver myself to get to this point. I’m so grateful.

I’m a little down today. I’m in need of a soft place to land. I’m just trying to be so proud of myself. No one is here to baby me. I’d love someone to manage some of my needs. Just relieve me from having to use so much of my brain constantly and never letting my guard down because I will do something monumentally stupid.

When I fought for myself back in 2012, sitting there as a party to a lawsuit instead of the lawyer I’d trained to be, as strangers discussed what a waste of a human being I was, I never could have imagined that I would be anything more than that. But I fought so very hard because I had just a tiny bit of hope that one day I could be more. And I needed time to become it.

I wasn’t wrong. I just have to keep going.

So, before I had the lawyer who got me through the divorce, I had a different lawyer. A woman. I think I hired her because D hadn’t filed yet and I was hoping that if I had to had to get divorced, well, at least it could be amicable and we could go through mediation. She was recommended to me because she was good at the mediating stuff. But after I’d paid her retainer and at our second meeting, she fired me. I guess my questions led her to believe we weren’t a good fit. And she was terse and discourteous. I walked back out to my car and cried. Getting dumped by the man you married for forever, painful. But getting dumped by the lawyer you hired to divorce you from the man you married for forever, and you’re a lawyer so you know what it means…fucking brutal.

I went to Rome and got on my knees at the Vatican and begged a god I didn’t believe in to save my marriage. I came home from the trip…home was a rented room in a condominium on River…to a package. A “Thank You” Hallmark Card from the ex and divorce papers. The “Thank You” card might have been sent in earnest. As much emotion as he could eek out from our completely ringed out relationship.

I didn’t grow up in a family that exchanged greeting cards. I think that’s an American thing I only did when I was in that relationship. Before that, it was calling cards with my name embossed on them that my mother bought from Patti at La Galeria. And then F.A.O. Schwartz. After him, it was personalized stationary. But with him, there were greeting cards.

The first one was on my 18th birthday. He sent a package to me in La Jolla from Rio Rico, Arizona. A greeting card, a copy of Catcher In The Rye that he’d inscribed to me, and a mixtape that he made with nothing but punk love songs. His handwriting, so distinct, on the tape and actual liner notes in the cartridge. On the first side, he’d run out of space mid-song, so he started it again on the second side. I played that tape so much that summer that I memorized where the song cut off. Even though I knew it was going to end abruptly, I’d let it play to the end and imagine him fumbling with the recorder and restarting the song…so much in love with me that he might even have been angry at himself for not getting it perfect. The tape got scrapped in a car accident in 2004. The copy of Catcher In The Rye I still have. It’s the first thing I received in my whole 18 years from a boy who loved me. It’s the only artifact of that relationship I intentionally kept. Physical evidence I once was lovable.

This “Thank You” card was the last thing I ever received from him.

I scrambled. I had to find a lawyer who wouldn’t fire me and would protect my interests. D was coming for me and I was scared. I asked all my law school friends and they told me to go John Bolt. I did. It was not a good relationship in the beginning. This guy was a fucking shark. He was a veteran in the business and of the highest reputation. He took evergreen retainers at $5000 a pop. And he scared the shit out of me. But if he scared me, maybe he’d scare the lawyer I told D to use. Aside: That he used the lawyer I selected for him was probably ignorance on his part. My first lawyer had suggested her because they worked well together in mediations. He never switched horses.

I cried a lot more in John’s office. I told him never to tell me how much money was at stake because, as it was, the stress I went through on a daily basis had left my body wrecked and I was in constant physical pain and brain fog. But even without the details, I could barely hold it together. I finally had to write him a letter explaining how hard my life really was, and begged him to be nicer to me.

It worked. He liked my writing. He started having me read cases. Not just for my divorce, but for other motions in other people’s cases. He respected my opinion. Our appointments became pleasant. And if John managed to read something I’d written…mostly Yelp reviews (I know, I know, but I’ve since repented)…he’d let me know what he thought of the writing.

And when it came time to cross-examine D, he had me write the cross. That wasn’t him shirking his duties as my lawyer. And it wasn’t me trying to skimp on billable hours. He had me write it because he knew I’d be good at it. You might never have seen me as a lawyer, but my logic is infallible, I know how to create a story, and I can write a cross so beautiful it would leave you dizzy. I might not be perceptive to when it comes to someone lying at first. But my autistic pattern detection is so tight I can tease out lies from the tiniest of crevices. And John knew that I was up to the job.

He told me once…that I’d make the best family attorney in the city. But then immediately afterwards said, “But I wouldn’t wish it upon you.” At our last appointment ever, he told me I should be a writer. Both of those things touch me so deeply right now I could cry, but this time from joy.

I love my therapist so much. Before I started with him, I’d met him once and just didn’t like his vibe. It was 2015 and I was in complete self-denial.

And then in 2016, when things had fallen apart as much as things can without turning to dust and floating away on the wind, I started going to him. In the beginning I really did treat therapy like I was a guest on a late night show. And I charmed him. It was masking, I know that now. And he was charmed. I could tell because first it was a couple minutes of pleasantries. And then the next visit it was five minutes of him talking about a movie he liked. And the next time it was a YouTube video. He wasn’t shrinking me. He was talking to me like we were friends.

The minute I’ve charmed someone, I lose respect because I’ve won them over with fake me and they let me get away with it.

I confronted him. Told him he had to stop falling in love with me (platonically…nothing perverse or unethical) and stop the chit chat. I was there for therapy. No time for love, Dr. Jones.

I’m glad we stuck together. After 2.5 years of therapy, everything was different. I went from a mental hospital on NYE to a fourth floor apartment in NYC. And we did laugh a lot. And I did regale him with stories at our weekly meetings. And we’d talk about everything from Italian lessons to carburetors and all these big, crazy ideas we had. There wasn’t one idea I had that he couldn’t follow along with and vice versa. I miss our weekly meetings.

He texted me today: rain in Tucson. And he said he was rooting for me. Well, actually, he said he was so rooting for me.

No one would have bet on me in 2012. Or 2016. But I’d bet everything on me now. I’d throw my gun over the top of the trench and then jump over onto No Man’s Land to fight for me now. I’m committed. I might not have the confidence to try something new but my big mouth will open before my brain has thought and suddenly I’m doing something I never would have otherwise. I take chances. I say yes. I ask for things. I say things out loud to friends that I’d always kept inside because my ambition was embarrassing and I had nothing to back it up with. Now, I can get swept up in self-aggrandizement because I dare to hope. How I got here, I don’t know. I’m just so grateful I stuck around to get to see the good side of life.

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