I headed down the hill. Thats what the locals always say; Down the hill, and now I say it. I headed towards East County Supreme Court around eleven in the morning. Thats what two hours of phone calls got me. Go file for divorce first to get a custody order. That was their free consultation. It was also what I got from some free lawyer advice sites. So I asked the question, how much do you charge and I sat mouth agape. Five thousand deposit and three hundred fifty an hour, till the deposit is depleted or the case settled.
Holy fucking shit.
Do you take payments, that was my next question.
Frantically, I tell him my story. My story.
“Friday night my wife never got home, so before calling the sheriff I check her phone to call her friends. I didn’t find it. I frantically checked closets and under beds. I looked every where. Nothing. So I checked the computer. The browser history was cleared. So I checked her email. And I know her plan. She took my son to a shelter and was going to file for divorce on the grounds of emotional abuse on Monday morning. But its all lies, I read the plan. I need help, I want my son back, he does’t deserve this. I tried filing a missing person report, but they couldn’t do anything. Please. I need help.”
This is what I said over the phone three or four times Monday morning. it’s not exactly how I said but it is the gist, the heart of this matter.
And in my silence, in my defeat, he said. They said, all the lawyers said; The Family Law Facilitator’s Office.
So down the hill I go.
I head towards the court house of east county, to the Family Law Facilitator’s Office. Once at the court house, I look for a parking spot and I am not alone; we waddle along, me and others, following each other along like ducklings, till its our turn to fill an empty slot. And when I hurry to the entrance there is a line and I mimic the people in front of me. I empty pockets, put pocket contents in a tray; phone, keys and belt, push tray into a maw of metal and rubber and walk through the gates of the great Supreme Court of East County. I walk to the bathroom, put on my belt and walk straight to the help desk and ask for directions. I ask where the The Family Law Facilitator’s Office is; the lady at the desk looks at me and says, “I am not sure.” And I must of looked befuddled; What? Is what I think out loud; And she hears me because she says “try the Family Office upstairs, go left and then right, and you can’t miss it.”
I follow her Instructions and I pass people sitting on benches waiting, talking, and looking worried, and stressed; and I realize that I am not alone here with my troubles. There are people here with their own problems and worries and I do not have time to guess what they could be. I start passing a line being formed and I can see and feel the atmosphere in it; do not cut in line, we are watching you. I pass the line and I see the plaque on the wall: Family Office, and other offices I can not recall. I am here, I walk in and it is completely empty. I look around and there are some brochures on the counter, and behind the counter there is an office, and it is empty. I stand there for minutes, and, I know, I am looking lost. And I finally look out the entrance I came in and a lady around sixty years of age, white hair and dressed professionally with a long skirt and suit, all black, sees me and for a moment, I see blazing hate come towards me from her gaze, and her dark eyes realize that I see her antipathy and she smiles and ask;
Can I help you?
I took a few moments to answer because an image overtook me of what I was presented. I do not know why it came to me at that moment, but I did not like it, it unnerved me. I saw a Hagraven waiting to screech and claw me to death with feathers filling the Family Office.
A Hagraven is a mix of a bird and an old crone, and as far as I know, only female. It originates from the game Skyrim, It is a role playing game me and Fantine love.
When I got my nerve back, I replied; The Family Law Facilitator’s Office.
After she tells me you are in the wrong office, she gave me instructions. So I followed them, and got lost. Eventually after a few elevator trips I found a plaque that said: The Family Law Facilitator’s Office.There were more people sitting on benches in the hall and everyone of them gave me a look over, woman young and old with children and some with mothers, or both; also a couple of men, all of them alone. I stood in front of the plaque which was next to a door. No line, no instructions, and no sign in sheet; so I just walked in, and thats when I meet my second Hagraven of the day. She sat at the first desk on the left when you walk in. She looked up and asked me “Can I help you?” So I told her what the lawyers have told me and that is why I am here. And this time I can see her, as the Hagraven, wanting to paint designs on white feathers with my blood, splattered and purposeful. I quietly tell her all I want is my son, averting my eyes towards the floor, after a moment I raised my head and tell her “I just want my son and I need help” And she tells me I can not help you with that, followed by a phshh and a shake of the head. She opens a drawer and pulls out a yellow brochure and hands it to me. Call them she says. I look down at the brochure in my hands and she says go down to the Family Office and they will help you.
I remember looking at her and wanting to share my frustration with her. Wishing I had an ebony sword in one hand and my other hand sparkling to loose a lightning spell, but I wasn’t a character from Skyrim. I was a father whose child has been abducted by his wife, and the legal system did not see it that way. And I knew enough that I have to play the game, the game they lay out for you. There are no instructions for this game and you do not start at Go, they start you off in jail with no money and hand you one dice and persist that you need to roll doubles.
Leaving the The Family Law Facilitator’s Office and heading back the way I came, this time not getting lost, I made it to the Family Office in no time. And to my relief the first Hagraven I encountered was not there, Instead the office was empty. And than I heard “Can I help you?” I looked to the counter expecting to see the first feathery crone. but no, instead a lady, around forty-five with brown hair was sitting there looking impatiently at me to answer, over and behind the counter. I told her what Hagraven Two told me and she snapped the word “What” at me, followed by a phshh and a shake of the head. Jesus another Hagraven. She asked for the brochure in my hand, I handed it to her and Hagraven Three proceeded to write a phone number on the back of the brochure agitated. as if it disgusted her. She snapped at me again, “Here”, and turned away from me.
I left the great Supreme Court of East County defeated and utterly ruined.
When I got home, Zelda greeted me, and that was all. Just me, the cat, and emptiness. I went to my room and opened the yellow brochure, there was a number on the inside back flap, i turned the flap over to the outside back flap and the number the Hagraven had written down was exactly the same as the number printed on the inside flap. I gave up. I went to lay in bed, curled up, hugging Mijo’s blanket. And told myself I have to go back. Back for Mijo. But I had no energy, I was beaten.
Around midnight I got out of bed and ate Mijo’s burrito, his favorite, bean and cheese. And realized that was the first thing I have eaten since Friday, it laid where I left it, with one other. Mijo always asked for two. One for now. One for tomorrow.
Tomorrow I will go back and get it right, then eat the other.