Monday, 14 November 2011
Coprolalia - a compulsion to talk shit
I am now officially divorced from Dominic's mother. It only took eight years.
Before Balbina Maria Mendes Goncalves Gowans and I entered court (she breathtakingly elegant and composed, me still sweating and shocked to realise there was no glass in the window frames and that I had left the Nitrolingual at home, a couple of squirts of which I desperately needed), the clerk warned us that we would not be allowed to address each other directly, no doubt tired as they were of uncontrolled acrimonious outbursts between estranged partners, so we could only communicate with each other through the judge. Bearing in mind I had instinctively avoided all but the most essential contact with my wife for nearly a decade and that this is pretty much a male dominated society, I started to relax. Even if she had a finely honed Sabatier knife in her Hermes Birkin handbag, with such close supervision Bina was unlikely to get close enough to me to stick it through my worthless heart.
I tend to cross my legs like a girl, especially when I am nervous, so proceedings having barely started, were briefly halted again while the court clerk reminded me I had to sit to attention, crossed legs either being a sign of guilt, in which case he was doing me a favour by making me open my legs to show I had nothing worth hiding, or a sign of apparent disrespect in which case he was behaving like a typical officious git invested with the briefest moment of power leaving me suffused with the barely controlled impulse to hurl him through the glassless window to see if his Halloween black cloak would, like a swig of Red Bull, give him wings. The reason for my sudden discomfort was the awful realisation that the Judge was a woman.
This wasn't the first time I have been in court in Angola and I shan't bore you with all the details save to say that both times were scary.
The first time I faced ten years in an Angolan jail if convicted. Clearly I wasn’t found guilty as I am writing this although I suppose with good behaviour, I could have been out by now. This, the second time, I faced financial ruin so was unable to sleep the night before my scheduled appearance, succumbing instead to my well documented weakness for distilled grain and adding a hideous argument with Marcia to my woes. By the time I had covered the three hours into town early in the morning having left hollow eyed at some indecent hour after a sleepless night to make an eight o'clock appearance, jumped out of the car when stuck in immobile traffic two miles from my destination, accosted a young lad on a motorcycle begging him for assistance in extremis to help me cut through the congestion, then climbing ten floors to the family court with a heart ready to burst out of my chest and sweating like a Sowetan bricklayer knowing that the recent loss of email and telephone access due to the burglary meant I had unwittingly failed to respond to two summons and this was the third and final chance before inevitable incarceration for contempt, I wasn’t so much a lamb to slaughter as an old bull that, for pity’s sake, should be put down.
Had the Court's judgement been to throw me dehydrated out of the window saving me the effort of returning down those ten flights of stairs humiliated and ruined, I would have been grateful for the brief relief the sudden rush of cooling air would have provided as I descended by the express route.
After that I wouldn't have cared less. I do not think I would have had time to consider the effect of impact on the nice suit I was wearing, though that would have been a cause for some regret had I by some miracle remained conscious on the pavement below long enough to consider my threads and, after all, handmade shoes are handmade shoes. If there is an after life, I would have been pissed to see the Langa that tore them off the feet of the broken Branco that providence had dashed on the pavement in front of him (before the bewildered copper arrived to secure the remains of an ageing white bloke foolish enough to try and escape Angolan justice by jumping out of a tenth floor window) clomping around in them embittered because the finest English suede doesn't take a good shine.
Sitting there legs decently uncrossed in a sweaty suit that could now definitely benefit by pressing, even if only suddenly on a sun baked concrete slab by the weight of its occupant, surveying a judge who like her clerk was clad as if she had been interrupted half way through tricking or treating her way through an ungenerous neighbourhood and bore the sour expression to match, I was a tadge nervous.
By Angolan law, the judge is obliged to make one last attempt at reconciliation, even quoting the relevant parts of those laws.
Considering that I was there to divorce, it was hardly the moment to appraise the woman in black who would shortly decide if not my ultimate fate, then certainly how miserable a future I could expect on my way towards it but I couldn't help noticing that she was a remarkably fine looking lady. She must have been knocking on sixty but Naomi Campbell would pay a fortune for whatever skin cream she was using and if ever the Judge became tired of dispensing justice, she could earn a fortune dispensing dietary advice instead to ageing Hollywood starlets. This was one good looking girl and intelligent to boot. If only I had met her five minutes before meeting the estranged wife sitting so close to me.
The judge, having illuminated us with the relevant extracts of legislation, asked us if we were determined to proceed. Both of us responding simultaneously and so positively with unsurpassable conviction must have had some bearing on her decision to end this one as quickly as possible, after all, she had a waiting room full of similar cases to hear.
The issues of maintenance and access were quickly dealt with, Bina and I having agreed all this before hand and when it came to the division of spoils, I rather like my shirt so didn't feel too hard done by when I was allowed to keep it.
Recognising that Portuguese was only my third language and that Bina and I had shown little inclination thus far to rip each other’s eyes out, the rule precluding direct communication between Bina and I was steadily, if informally relaxed until Bina was acting as my interpreter. I even crossed my legs, but this time as a means to relax rather than out of discomfort or unwitting flagrant contempt.
So, the divorce was granted. Rather than the harrowing experience that, with my guts tied in knots in awful anticipation had left me sleepless the night before, it was one of the more pleasant of the frequent brushes I have had with the forces of law and order and, in this case, justice.
It may take a long time to get a case to court in Angola but once it is there, the amount of preparation that preceded the hearing is evident. The Judge was clearly familiar with every deposition and statement either Bina or I had made so knew all about our personal situation, the children involved (Bina had confessed to two more with her new boyfriend and I one with Marcia since our separation not forgetting, of course, our mutual offspring, Dominic).
In granting our petition for divorce, the Judge warned us that it was only provisional, a Decree Nisi, rather than Decree Absolute but that, if neither of us rescinded within the next ninety days, it would be final without further intervention and that after that date, we would be legally free to remarry.
While the court recorder battered out the ruling and printed it out so that we could sign, the Judge, now as relaxed as we all were, expressed her regret that she had never had children.
Now I have no idea from whence it came or why I said it. Bearing in mind even crossing my legs was a sin and I was so close to leaving the court to all intents and purposes a free and solvent man, I must have been mad or suffering from Coprolalia.
Addressing the Judge directly, I said, ‘Well, Madam, it appears that in only ninety days, I will be legally free to help you out there’.
The court recorder stopped typing. Bina’s jaw slopped open. The court clerk looked at me with the sort of vicious hatred that only triumph provokes knowing, as he did, it was me that was going to be flung through an open window and not him. All eyes swiveled inexorably towards the Judge.
Now even though my breakfast had consisted only of whisky and started around midnight the evening before, I suddenly realized that the spectre of a Langa in my shoes wasn’t so far fetched after all.
Her shoulders started to jerk. Then she sniggered, and then burst out laughing. She was far too elegant and refined to let a real belly ripping laugh go but her eyes were moist.
Turning to Bina, presumably in one last dutiful attempt to secure reconciliation she said, ‘How can you divorce such a nice man?’
To which Bina, now my ex wife dryly replied,
‘Try living with him’.