I was nervous as hell. I missed the bus. I missed the second and third bus too. I got the one to the tram, the one that does five circles of 4km each to travel just 4 km. Not good for the stress. I borded the tram and Sat with my back to the direction it was going. I realised I was heading backwards through practically every street that had some importance in my five years here. I wondered about it. I remember the flings, the short time friends, the girls I was keen on, the teachers, the rides on my scooter. It all came back. My Arrival, how I had come to this point in time. I thought perhaps it was fitting that on this auspicious day, it was an accident of timing that I should make this journey in this fashion. Would my outlook have been different if I had been facing the other way? Would I have thought that I moving forward into a new future? I don't know but I travelled as I did. I am on a joruney to find out which face life is watching me with, truly believing my son will be better off seeing more of me, knowing I will be better off if this right, which is ours, is bestowed on us by strangers.
Le Palais Rusca is opposite the Palais de Justice in Nice. It is a low red pinkish building. The security is airport like in appearance but ineffective. It crosses my mind if I was a disgruntled citizen it would be fairly simple to run amok and cause damage. Luckily I am not the type.
The floor is laid out in shiny grey squares surrounded by pinkish borders... it's a modern place. The toilet seat is broken. People come and go from the bathroom complaining about no paper. No one notices the 50 or so rolls stacked up against the wall. The place is bustling with people. My ex sees me and comes towards me. I say hi. She says Hi. We can't keep eye contact. She sits beside me and crosses her leg toward me. I wonder if she still has feelings for me, for I don't understand why she is any way near me. She gets up and goes to look around and see what room we are to be in. She comes back to tell me. I am hyper stressed, palms sweating, I don't want to say anything in case I say the wrong thing and make it all worse. What if I make a plea for her to think of boy and what he wants? What if I ask her the point of all this?
My lawyer arrives she is calm, she looks pleased at my appearance. I have taken out the studs in my ear, I am wearing my teaching outfit, pressed shirt, razor crease trousers, shiny shoes. We don't recognise each other now and then we do. She tells me it will be fine. She asks is my ex here, I say yes. She goes to introduce herself and find out if her opposite number is around. Apparently not yet. He arrives late. He sees me and acknowledges me before he knows who I am. I knew who he was straight away, don't ask how, I saw him come in, I saw him walk down the hall, before he saw me I knew him.
My ex goes into a room I wait outside. She is out in no time. I go in. There are two women sitting at a long table. It's a modern office, not what I was expecting. One of the women is thin and grey. I didn't register her face, she was a grey as the computer in front of her her hair glasses, skin, everything blended into the machinery and the formica covered table. The other lady is big. Younger than I she hasn't washed in a few days. She is very heavy she starts talking to me. I am looking for the Judge. I assume he will come in the door over to my right. I sit on the office chairs, they are beige with more pink cushions worn down from how many couples clenching their ass cheeks over the future of their kids?
The big lady is talking....I realise she is the Judge.
She is asking me if I am who am. If I am the guy who married my ex on Jun 29th and that my son Boy born on 13 April 2000 is he as well. I state yes to Boy Born on April 13th. The date of the marriage is wrong, is it a trap? Too late to say anything, there is another question.
Are you in agreement for Divorce? Yes, I reply. I have re made my life, I am going to have a child, my son is delighted to be a brother finally and no longer be alone, we want more time together.........She notes something down. "Are you in agreement for divorce?
" Yes Madame I agree to divorce! "
Why is it your ex epouse who has submitted the petition?"
"Actually I went to see a lawyer who was not efficient in his job. I thought I was doing the right thing telling her. I had to change lawyers. She managed to get her petition in on her terms first." She notes something down.
I am looking at a huge welt of body fat on her arm, I am taking in her dirty hair. I am not struggling at all in French but I am not present to my words or her aura, I can see everything between us, we are the universe.
"Thank you sir you may call in the other people".
I rise and go back to the door behind my left I open it and hold it for the others to come through. Will she see at least I am polite?
There is hesitation, we are supposed to sit in the middle, the lawyers somehow endup being sheppherded by the couple who take the outside chairs.
He starts to talk. Their argument is that it has always been like that. Why should it change now. The fear for the psychology of the child. They don't want his free time activities to suffer. My claim for Alternative minding is a retribution for their demand for 200 euros a month. If I drop my claim over my son and agree to every second weekend and half of school holidays they will drop their demand for money. I start to tear up. I am disgusted. The nervous girl who I met in the hall way, now has a cast of hate and determination to her face. They would stoop so low those who know so little of the love between a father and son. I am more than disgusted and the last vestiges of affection fall away like dried moth wings at sunrise through the open window.
She starts to talk. She is nervous, she looses her train of thought, she mentions boy, the age of reason, why I waited till now, it's all a crock but it might work, she mentions we live in a expensive area purposely to be very close to him. It's true, that's why we pay more than we should and we live 3km away from his house 5km from his school. So I could be close to him. His name again. The fact I am willing even with the shared care to still contribute to pay for his schooling. How could I not do that?
There is more to say I am too nervous. It's too late, it's done. The deliberation will be give on September 23rd the day my parents arrive. 2 days after my birthday. I sign blindly without reading the divorce agreement. My lawyer signed it before me. She hands it to her right, ( I am on her left) Her lawyer signs it, I see his signature even though he is two people away from me. He writes with a carefully meditated flourish, too carefull that spoils the flourish effect. She signs it.
I notice all he has said to me is hello nothing else.
I notice Virginie my lawyer took the time out to be civil.
I notice the Judge knows none of this.
We are dismissed. I am the only one to voice thank you, and immediately I wonder,would that small thing make a difference.
I am shook.
There is a sea of people outside the door. I can't see Virginie my lawyer. I wait till my ex and her lawyer go. Virginie is there in front of me. She beckons to me as a mother to a lost boy, we walk down the hall, I see my ex outside her law guy talking to her. Now as I write I wonder was he angry? I don't know why that would be? Maybe I am clutching at straws. I didn't think it at the time.
Virgine is nervous, 'Look it won't be any worse than what you have now, at least you will know what days you are going to get your son and that can't be changed' This is true. 'Go have a drink'.... I laugh , one? We make eye contact. What was that I ask? I am disgusted. That was disgraceful they tried to buy me off for 200 euros. She shakes her head, no that wont work it's why I didn't even ask you. Go and relax.....I put my hand on her knee, 'You are coming to eat in my house when this over I tell her! She laughs. I think this person is genuine and I know it means absolutely nothing.
I walk off in a daze. I know she is behind me somewhere, is she trying to reach out? Or is she trying to burn holes in my spine with her lazer vision?
The bar is not open till 12 and anyway I know no one there now. I have no friends there to talk to. I go to the Grain de Cafe on Felix Faure. This place that has been a constant for me. The men kiss me in greeting and they have no idea how grateful I have been to them down the years for their humanity. Coffe and pain au chocolate. I write some notes for myself and for boy. For the future.
I call a few people, I get a few calls. I update people. I am destroyed. I feel like I have been hit by a truck. I can't sleep I am too exhausted. Lover finally comes home I tell her about my day, I am very calm but so destroyed. I find it difficult to concentrate on her news. I apologise and she understands. She knows the Red Palace, she has been there herself. She has lived through this.
Now as I write I am emotional. My future relationship with my son lies in the hands of a woman who is younger than I. Fatter than I. Greasier than I. More Qualified that I in a educational sense. I have to have faith in this person and this is a challenge. All 5 of us in that room, because my son was there in spirit, All 5 of us in front of her are complete strangers. What will she base her decision on. Papers with figures, appearances? Finances? Manners? A strange name of a lovely boy whom she will never meet? What is this thing we call Justice? How have we allowed ourselves to evolve to this moment in time?
The Red Palace, is red, Is it for the blood spilled or the love broken, or do they even know the cruel mockery of it's heart when they send the ex lovers, the parents of those conceived in passion who separate in anger, who fight cruel games through priveledged educated white kids, over the future of their own fragile children whose interests and desires should be our only focus?
The Red Palace, no matter the result in the month of ripening fruit, will live in my soul till my days are over. I need to let its colour be a positive sign of things finally bearing fruit. Of change that comes perennially in September.
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