I sat on a bench in front of the bar in Division 25 thinking about the broken road over which I stumbled which led me to an uncontested docket where grey-haired lawyers slouch next to their petulant clients. We mumble a series of leading questions and in six minutes, end a marriage. I reeled beneath the weight of its effortless desolation.
Then the door to the courtroom opened, and in one crazy moment, I careened into delirium.
The woman walked towards me with an elegant bearing, a grand smile and a curved belly beneath a stunning black dress. My breath rose in my chest; tears gathered in the corner of my eyes. With a darting glance towards the judge, I whispered, Oh my god, I didn’t know you were pregnant! Her smile widened. I studied her gleaming eyes, her shiny hair, her radiant face.
How is your MS? She made that gesture — sweeping hands — all good. No flare-ups? She shook her head. Some people get worse, some go into remission. I’m in remission. A sob escaped as I leaned forward to touch her knee. I’m so happy, I told her. Me too, she laughed. I heard our voices rising above a tolerable level and looked again to the front of the courtroom, but the judge paid no heed to our exchange.
I thought you couldn’t get pregnant! I chortled. Me too! she said again, and her glow lit the room around us. I could neither dim my beaming nor stem the tears. We sat, eyes drawn to each other’s faces, until my case came across the judge’s bench and I rose to murmur my own six-minutes of formulaic babble to end my client’s marriage.
I paused on my way out and looked at her. I will never forget the victorious smile she flashed. I don’t believe that I’ve been this excited about a pregnancy since the doctor told me that I was still with child after losing his twin. I won’t name this woman. I don’t know if she broadcasts her MS or just told me, years ago when we had a case together, because my disability looks so similar to that nasty condition. That she’s pregnant and doing well astounds me. I carried the joy of it for hours after. It almost erased the foul remains of an afternoon on the uncontested docket, where people’s lives crater under each uncompromising slash of a jurist’s pen.
It’s the twenty-fifth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.