The mediator worked from home, just down the block from the birdnesting apartment. (By the time we saw her, we had managed to break that particular lease, losing a month’s rent in the process. My husband took charge, but somehow I ended up showing the apartment to several potential lessees. The young couple who took it in the end–they were, adorably, just starting out together–were thrilled. The irony was not lost.)
“Can you meet these peeps?” my husband had texted. I called my best friend from graduate school immediately. He had just been denied tenure at the college in our town, and was in a foul humor. “Perhaps he means that the people coming to look at the apartment are descendants of Samuel Pepys,” my best friend from graduate school offered. “Perhaps his phone autocorrected his message.”
I am married to someone who says “peeps,” I said to myself later that night. I am married to someone who texts the word “peeps.” Whatever bond we had left began, subtly, to fray.
Meanwhile, the Pepys family (who never got us the paperwork proving their heritage, come to think of it) took over the lease, and my husband rented a huge Victorian house across town. The mediator’s office, where we met in July, was smack between our two abodes.
Her office was in a converted garage behind her house. I may even have biked or walked there. I’m not sure. I can’t remember, now, what we did with the children. I do know that the location of her office seemed pleasantly symmetrical, even (to me) symbolic, and that it felt somehow right–we met her, as we should have, I thought rather proudly, exactly in the middle.
It was a stunningly beautiful midsummer day. Parked out in front was a car–the mediator’s–with a bumper sticker from the college my husband and I both went to, the place our relationship began. I pointed this out to my husband, who smiled. It’s funny to remember. We were both nervous. We’d passed like ships in the night for several months, and now we were to sit down together with a third person and figure out how to divorce. I wanted it so badly my teeth ached, and at the same time I honestly didn’t believe the whole thing would come true.
“Get together five years of your tax returns,” the first pro-woman, pro-divorce website I stumbled across advised, and I immediately broke out in a cold sweat and called my consoling-windows friend to tell her the deal was off. It seems laughable now–those are tax returns that are finished! You just have to ask for them! Hell, you can even ask the IRS! But I was beyond the pale, and the merest errand floored me. I held the gate of the mediator’s garden open for my husband as he walked in. We were both on time. The garden was full of flowers and hummingbirds. The mediator was very pretty, very diplomatically soft spoken, completely professional. This was what I’d wanted. This very thing–peaceful mediation–was what I’d dreamed our horribly upsetting private split could translate into, publicly.