Yesterday I went to court to annul my marriage.
That is a strange sentence to write. It was a strange experience: huddled groups of people in ill-fitting smart(ish) clothes waiting apprehensively for their names to be called. Waiting nervously myself with only my mother for company, knowing that I would be the only party there for my case, but not knowing at all what to expect.
A courtroom: architecture designed to isolate and intimidate, to create the impression of an all-powerful, all-wise authority. A grey-haired man (thankfully no wig) perched high above looking down on the small, scared Petitioner all on his lonesome in a large, empty room. A script, which I thankfully didn’t need: language that just wasn’t me (“I rely upon section 12(b) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973…”). The question of oath: which Book on which to place my right hand; which Authority do I pertain to recognise?
The Questions: short specific interrogations into embarrassing specifics of the most traumatic time in my life. Silly details that seemed ridiculous devoid of their proper place in the Story. But the Story was not told. There was no time for that. These are the facts that are pertinent. These are the people involved. This is the court reaching its satisfaction. And the court is in fact satisfied; satisfied that you were not. Are not. And now nevermore shall be.
And with that we are done. The words are said, the paperwork is filed. Degree Nisi is given. Decree Absolute follows after the statutory period (six weeks). It is over.
It is so strange to stand in a courtroom and try to honestly recount events that happened nearly three years ago. Events that were so traumatic that I have spent every subsequent waking moment trying desperately to keep under lock and key. And those statements given: short, clipped assents and nervous, stilted explanations to (very) specific questions were all that was necessary to “satisfy the court”, but they did not satisfy me. It seemed… unjust, even, to reduce a long, hard journey to a few bare “facts”, but that is what happened.
My marriage was the singular most traumatic occurrence in my life. It was an earthquake that shattered the structures of my existence, reducing my life to rubble like a metaphorical Port-au-Prince. It was a sudden sinkhole out of which I am still, now, slowly climbing. One, hard year, followed by two years of walking like a George Romero zombie. Next week is my 3rd wedding anniversary. I have not seen, or spoken to, my wife in nearly two years.
And now officially it never was.
Not that it Never Was: not that we can turn back the clock and pretend that it never happened. No, it happened, and I am sure we both carry the scars and will do, deeply, for the rest of our lives. But that now it is ruled that this never was a marriage. It’s something else; something profound, something powerful, something deep and unexplainable, but not now and never was a marriage. And as hard and as unjust as that seems on paper, I think that it is true.
So. It is over. What next?
It doesn’t feel over. It doesn’t feel yet that today is any different to yesterday. Only that yesterday was a traumatic day in a long line of traumatic days. I do not feel free today, liberated today. No burden has been lifted.
But maybe today is another in a long line of little steps forward. A line that I became aware of at l’Abri, but was probably started some time before. A line of steps out of the mire and on to something else. Each day a little less muddy, a little less bogged down. As regular readers will know, I am very unsure of my future: but I do feel I have been walking forward, even if I don’t really know what I have been walking towards.
It shames me that there are some dear, close friends who will read this to whom I have never told this story. I have never sat you down and been open with you about my journey in the last three years, even through you have played a significant part in it. That truly shames me, and I am sorry. But please know that my reticence is no reflection on you, or on your value to me.
In the middle of the trauma, we closed down. We withdrew into ourselves and battened down the hatches, in an attempt to survive the winds that were tearing at us. Then, after separation came death, and a (very) slow reawakening. I guess I have still to learn how to be open again.
As one very dear friend said to me this week: “this does not define who you are!” In my defence to you I would say that I met some of you dear friends at a time when I was trying very hard not to be defined by what had happened to me, and that would have been very easy had it been the first real thing you had known about me. Still, it is my shame, and I ask your forgiveness. And that, one day soon, we will walk, drink and talk together, and you will ask me to tell you the story.
That is all I can face to write right now.