This is where marriages come to die, I thought. Standing as I have done daily, before the judge, beside my client, explaining why her/his life, with him/her has become unbearable. I change a few words here and there, the dates may vary, names of children, childcare payments, custody rights. But the pain is the same; endless, immeasurable, and heavy, like being smothered by a nightmare you can’t shake off. And then there’s the feeling of foreignness; falling through a hole so big, you can’t fathom how you could have missed it. You’re somewhere else, you’re someone else. It takes time, hard work, to reach yourself again, to meet yourself again. To drag through deserts of emotional healing, on your knees, tired and broken and deceived. That incessant alienating distance to learn how to love yourself again. Or sadly, for the very first time. And how some of us never make it.
I smile empathically, I listen and nod, I reassure, I hold out napkins for when my lady clients cry. Some of them cling, needing. “No one understands”, “my family isn’t supportive”, “Thank you for listening to me”. And I say: “I understand, I support you, I’m happy to listen”.
I cannot bare to tell them that this is only the beginning, that this is the first death, that there are so many other deaths to come. That like surviving a war, or a fire, or a terrible car crash, the scars will always remain, the baggage will always be heavy.
There is a nagging shame to everything I do as a lawyer, when I am feeding off people’s loss, people's mistakes, people's bad decisions, and disappointments. When I say: “it will be okay” to a grieving mother at the juvenile court. When I’m talking to a client from behind bars, feet shackled, iron heavy, hands bound. I’m a maggot eating away at a meatless carcass. I’m a vulture hovering around an already dead prey. There is something very cheap, very demeaning and cowardice about earning a living off someone’s misfortune.