Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Saxophone Solo

For the second time during my conversation, the air was filled with the mournful wail of a wounded brass instrument. I stopped talking and braced myself for the second series of "notes".
"Can you hold on for a second?"
Screech - ahhhh - screeeech!

"Okay, I'm back. Sorry, Miles is practicing the saxophone. He has a solo at his school's winter 'Blues Brothers' concert on Monday."
She laughed. "You have a lot going on this Monday".
Our divorce-mediation was scheduled for 10:00am that same Monday. The entire lower school was performing, grade by grade from 11:00-2:00pm. One of us was going to have to probably going to have to leave the mediation early in order to make it there for his performance on time. He ​had to have at least one of us there. He'd had both of his parents at every single concert so far. We'd always each built our schedules around our son's school events.

My mediation prep was a shock.
"You don't address him directly" she advised. "He won't address you directly either. I know his attorney, he's a sharp lawyer. He'll give him the same advice."
"You do realize that we still live in the same house, right?" I said. "I can't actually not speak to him."
"I would encourage you not to discuss anything having to do with the divorce until after the mediation. Especially in case it goes to trial."

Trial! I didn't want a trial!
"I told you". ​My voice sounded so small. ​What was it about my attorney that made me feel like a little kid?
"I don't want to go to trial. I can't go to trial. I have more at stake than -- most people."
"Your children?" She said lightly. "Most divorcing-people have children."
"Yes, of course, my children. But that wasn't what I meant."
"What then? Money? I told you, anything regarding finances, just leave it to me."
"Not the money" I said. I felt anger and frustration filtering into my voice.
"What then?"
I reached into my purse and fished out the 90-day medallion on my keychain and held it up for her to see.
"Oh that" she said, lowering her voice to a whisper. "Your sobriety? I'll do everything to make sure that he doesn't use that against you." She winked at me. "I'll ensure that you're seen as very sympathetic. Don't worry you'll be the victim."
I steeled myself and raised my voice a little. "No, I mean I can't go to trial, because I can't risk my sobriety. I need to make sure that I don't make any of this a bigger mess."
She studied me silently and then snapped her fingers and pointed to me. "Okay," she said craftily. "Maybe we can use that! The mediator might see your reluctance to go to trial for the sake of preserving you sobriety as virtuous."

I closed my eyes and willed myself to breathe.

I just want it to be over with. This whole thing is a nightmare.

Miles was practicing again when I got home that afternoon. He ran to the door, sax in hand, to serenade me with the latest production of his solo.
"Ready, mom?"
It was earsplitting. Every note was an electric shock-current running through my brain. It was positively unbearable.

I felt unkind words rising into my mouth.
"Miles" I said sharply.
He lowered the sax, a string of saliva connecting him to the mouth bit.
"Yeah mom?" ​Those eyes.
I took another breath.
What was I doing? My son was excited to play his solo for me. This could have gone so many other ways, but it didn't. Today my son wants to play for me.
I sat down on the tangerine, semi-circle bench in the foyer.
"Ok Sweetie. Let's hear it."
Monday morning I packed Miles's black suit jacket, white t-shirt, sunglasses and black satin tie in his backpack.
"Your teacher is going to help you put the tie on" I said. "And either Daddy or I will be there in time to see you play, okay?"
"Not both of you?"
My heart felt like it was rising in to my throat. I swallowed hard.
"Maybe both of us. We'll try. But one of us for sure."
The pout on his face filled me with a sense of dread.

This whole thing was crazy. What were we doing?"

My attorney's offices were on the 37th floor. Every conference room had a 4th glass wall from which you could see a sweeping view of the city or the ocean. I was shown in to the rear conference room, which had a city-view. Everyone was seated on opposite sides of the large glass table. I sat in the open chair next to my attorney. Brian and I barely looked at each other. The mediator, a retired judge, started to explain how it would go. I tried to fix my gaze on her since it was uncomfortable to look anywhere else. She had a generous face and kind eyes. I liked her voice. It was soft, but smart. She said my name gently.

"Do you understand, Laura? We're just going to go through things, line by line and see if we can come an agreement."
I nodded, "I understand."
It went on for over an hour. My lawyer raised objections, his lawyer raised objections. My stomach was a knotted mess. I was so relieved when they called for a break. I walked down the hall toward the restrooms, looking at my watch.

12:45! One of us was going to have to miss it.

I dragged my feet on the way back to the conference room. I didn't want to go back in.
I looked up and saw Brian coming down the hallway from the other direction. We both regarded each other for a moment.
I leaned against the wall with my hands clasped behind my back.
"This is insane" he said.
"I know. I hate it."
"Me too."
I slid down to a seated position on the floor.
"What would you say to..."
He slid down and sat on the floor opposite me. Paralegals regarded us warily as they scooted by us.

I asked him about a few things in the agreement. He listened and offered a slight variation toward a solution.  The whole thing took all of two minutes. We looked at each other. I saw him smile as he looked at his watch.

"Maybe we can still make it!" He said.
We rushed down the hallway. Our lawyer's mouths fell open as we burst in together. Each of them called each of us to their side of the table in a panic.
"Sit down, sit down" said Brian motioning them with his outstretched hand. "We settled everything."
"Can you write this down?" I said hurriedly, speaking directly to the mediator.
"I need a word with my client!" shouted both of our attorneys at the same time.
"Actually, no. No, you don't" said Brian calmly, sitting in the chair next to me. "We need to finish this now. We have a performance to make."
The mediator broke into a wide grin and opened her laptop.
"I'm ready."

At 1:47 Brian and I threw open the doors to the auditorium.
Miles was on stage! I listened for where they were in the piece. The music was deafening, a cacophony of off-key strings and horns.
I couldn't tell, I couldn't tell! Had he already done his solo? Did we make it in time?
Miles was scanning the crowd in his dark "Blues Brothers" glasses, looking for us. Brian and I ran up to the stage and stood right in front, blocking the view of the sea of parent-videographers who were crowding the aisle. Miles took off his glasses when he saw us and burst in to the biggest, happiest grin, waving to us with the hand that wasn't holding the sax.
"Did we miss it"? Brian stage whispered to me.
"God I hope not."
Just then Miles put his glasses back on and lifted the saxophone to his lips as the rest of the band silenced their instruments.
It was the most brilliant saxophone solo ever.

I cried and clapped till my hands hurt. When they were taking their bows, Brian nodded to me and grabbed my hand for a second.
I looked at him and then looked at our son up there on the stage.

We did it.

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