On the day my divorce was finalized, I accidentally ended up in the neighborhood where I took so many of the steps which led me to that moment.
As I shared in an earlier column (which you can read here ), I have long wanted to be unequivocally considered an adult. Though it may be something I was not able to achieve through stature, employment, writing or marriage, surely this errand would finally award me that title: I was at the bank to finalize my divorce paperwork.
I gave my full name to the teller, as she put me in line to meet with a notary. I explained what kind of paperwork was being notarized. “What do you prefer to be called,” she asked, suggesting either my first or middle names.
“You can call me Mr. Fortino,” I replied. “This is a bank, not a bar.”
I hadn’t meant to go to that particular branch of my bank, as it’s the one where we had established our local accounts when we moved here what seemed like a long ago (although it had not even been three years). My intention had been to avoid that entire part of town where we’d shared an apartment. However, I’d had an earlier appointment just a mile away, so fate — or at least questionable time management — had led me there. I both loathed and welcomed the idea of bumping into one of our old neighbors or friends who still lived in the area.
As a person raised Catholic, I like ceremony, ritual, passion plays, symbols and relics. I realized the significance of finally signing my divorce paperwork, but I wondered if commemorating it by making a sort of “Stations of the Cross” through our old neighborhood seemed an exercise in petulance. If you’re unfamiliar with the Stations of the Cross, it’s a meditation exercise where one moves along a series of fourteen plaques commemorating the path Jesus took on the way to His crucifixion. The fourth station, “Jesus Meets His Mother,” is perhaps the saddest one. I wondered if my version of that would be meeting the sweet, gray-haired neighbor that had comforted me when things ended. Would I bump into her again and break down?
I imagined the rest of the “Stations of my Former Marriage” would go something like this: “There’s where we used to walk the dog. Here’s where I found my wallet that evening. There’s where we used to get coffee. Here’s the Trader Joe’s we used to go to…”
I’d returned to these familiar streets of that pocket in Northwest Portland at least half-a-dozen times or more: after a movie with Eric, after dinner with Adam, after a lunch date with someone whose name I can’t remember. I’d make a pilgrimage to the locations of each of these scenes we shared together. Each time, I promised myself it would be the last. Yet, somehow I’d then find myself there again, staring up at the seventh floor corner apartment that had been our home.
With the paperwork signed — the smack of stamp against paper releasing me in much the same way smashing a glass sometimes declares a couple joined in matrimony, I took my leave. But as I exited the bank, I felt no magnetic urge to make another pilgrimage through the past. Instead, I walked in the opposite direction to the nearest FedEx to send the papers on their way. Afterwards, I was headed to meet my housemate at the Oregon Ballet Theatre in part because, in all my years of attending live performances, I’d not once been to the ballet. And so, with something new to experience ahead of me, there was no time to dwell on the past.
It was time to walk into the future.
Last modified: May 9, 2018