Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunshine for a Rainy Day

It’s gray and rainy here on the pond this morning. Just the right sort of day for a happy story. My last few posts may have left readers with the impression that my life has been filled with crap. Not true. There have been crappy moments, of course, but there have also been long hours of flat-out wonderful.

This is a story about some major wonderful.

Soon after my Elastigirl days, I turned to a friend and neighbor for advice and guidance. As luck would have it, she worked for the man who would become my divorce attorney.

When I left my first appointment, I asked Kathy if every woman who walked in the place fell in love with him. Compassionate, charming, aggressive when circumstances called for it—The Counselor was everything you could want in a divorce attorney.

He was also everything you could want in a man—smart, funny, tall, handsome. And single.

At first I appreciated all those qualities in a dispassionate sort of way but wasn’t in a place to think about it much more than that. I was far too wrapped up in trying to survive and trying to help my children adjust to the strange new world we now lived in. (Plus, there were the whole “Making Muffins for the FBI” and “crazy guy in my yard with a gun” things going on, just to keep life interesting.)

However, as the months dragged on, I began to look forward to our meetings for more than the progress we might make toward settling the divorce. I have to admit I trotted out the nicest pieces of my new, size-6 wardrobe and invested an inordinate amount of time on my hair and makeup each time we met. Still, it was beyond my wildest imaginings that this handsome, accomplished man could think of me as anything but a client.

Then came the final settlement conference, the one where we either came to an agreement or prepared to go into court with the whole sorry mess. I just wanted it to be over and was willing to settle for what The Wasband was offering. The Counselor was adamant that circumstances called for more. After hours of shuttling between mediators and a judge with this offer and that, we walked out of the old Hennepin County courthouse no closer to a conclusion than we had been when we walked in.

I was devastated.

Walking back toward The Counselor’s office, my head was bowed and my spirit broken. I saw every crack in the sidewalk, every cigarette butt and gum wrapper on the street. I watched my feet move forward—right, left, right, left—with no sense that they belonged to me.

At some point, I realized The Counselor’s feet had stopped moving, so I stopped, too. When I looked up, we were standing in the doorway of Alexander’s restaurant, a favorite haunt of lawyers and other downtown types. In answer to my questioning glance, The Counselor asked if I had time for lunch. Since I hadn’t eaten anything real in a day or two, it seemed like a good idea.

Shortly after we were seated in a booth toward the back, The Counselor cleared his throat and stammered out a word or two. He stopped, cleared his throat again, and started over. His obvious discomfort penetrated the fog of my disappointment. By his third try, he had my full attention.

“This is a difficult conversation. One I hoped we wouldn’t have to have. I really thought we’d get it settled today.”

He was scaring me.

“But we didn’t, and now I’ve just got to do this,” he said.

“Do what?” I asked.

“Direct you to fire me as your attorney,” came his reply.

My words tumbled over one another, fighting to be first. “What? Why? Fire you? Are you crazy? I’m not going to fire you.”

“I’m going to have to insist,” The Counselor responded, somewhat severely.

Tears spilled from my eyes onto the table, where they mixed with puddles of water from our sweating glasses of iced tea.

“What did I do wrong? I’ll fix it, whatever it is. Oh, please, you can’t abandon me just when I find out we’re going to trial,” I pleaded.

My panic brought The Counselor up short. A huge smile broke over his handsome face.

“Oh, no. I’m not abandoning you. I just can’t be your attorney any more.”

I still didn’t understand.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I’ve developed strong personal feelings for you, Jerri. So strong I can no longer be an effective advocate for you. When The Wasband pulls his shit, I want to crawl over the conference table and pound the miserable little son-of-a-bitch into the ground. And that’s simply not a good negotiating stance.”

My heart stopped while he took a breath.

“Besides, as long as I’m your attorney-of-record, I can’t ask you out. And I’ve waited about as long as I can for that.”

Joy welled up in me and burst into my heart like the most radiant of sunrises breaking through a cloudy morning. Someone wanted me. Someone wanted me. And not just any someone: A smart, accomplished, successful man who could have any woman he crooked his finger at. He. Wanted. Me.

Meanwhile, back at the reality ranch, there was still the matter of the ugly divorce in progress.

“But, what would I do without you? I need you on my side,” I squealed, none-too-attractively.

With reassuring words and gestures, The Counselor explained that he would continue to represent me until I had chosen another attorney. He planned to set up meetings with three or four prominent attorneys around town and help me interview them. Only when I found one with whom I felt comfortable would I actually have to fire him.

“And then,” he said with a twinkle in his bright blue eyes, “the fun can begin.”

I can’t remember anything from the rest of that lunch or the walk back to The Counselor’s office, only the feeling that I was floating among clouds, buoyant with excitement, tingling with a touch of fear. I must have driven home, because I was there when the kids got off the bus that afternoon. We cooked dinner on the deck and the backyard rang with our laughter. Unused to happy sounds from our house, neighbors came out to see what was going on.

I didn’t explain to anyone. When I was alone, I took out the memory of that lunch and turned it over and over, examining the glowing truth that after 17 difficult, demoralizing years, a man I liked, liked me back.

The adventure of my life had begun.

1 comment:

Suzy said...

Wow. " I saw every crack in the sidewalk, every cigarette butt and gum wrapper on the street. I watched my feet move forward—right, left, right, left—with no sense that they belonged to me.
Amazing retelling. Somehow I think nothing gets by you. You are too smart a woman for that.
Wonderful story. Wonderful living.