The thing about hell is, everyone has their own idea of what it might be like. I should probably insert a reference to Dante here but I'd only be doing that to make myself sound more intelligent.
Two years ago I initiated divorce proceedings. We'd been separated for a year and now it was time to make it clear that no, I wasn't having a funny turn. I didn't need to take in the sea air or go for a long spa holiday with 50 shades of fecking hope. Divorce, my own version of hell.
Lawyers, barristers, financial disclosure, judges, bills, custody issues and who gets what. The Great War between 'that's yours land' and 'this is mine island.' It's ugly and disorienting so now I'm uncertain. I'm more than kind of fucked.
For now, I'm completely lost.
The lawyers have done their job, my friends say. There's nothing more to do but wait, they say. And I try. I try to distract myself with work. I write. I write badly. I'm a children's author, by the way but these days I feel like a fraud. Like I'm just pretending. Since the separation I've revisited the dressing up box. What does a single mum writer wear? A smock? Fingerless gloves? Aspiring Rowling chic? Nothing new seems to want to reach the page. The words fail me. I try to concentrate but I can't stay focused, my mind keeps wandering back to the moment the barrister told me the truth about my ex-husband. When the lies were uncovered. When my marriage was revealed to be what it truly was. Fraud. I married a Triple B, subprime faker. A pound shop Bernie Madoff. The Hemingway persona was as real as the pension he never paid into. The savings were gone. The man I believed in was pure con. He sold a version of himself to me like Jordan Belfort selling penny stocks. Now I've discover the reality. My personal Hemingway never existed and there's no money either. 20 years of life changing decisions based upon lies and now I'm broke.
What did I do? Well, I've cried. I've cried a lot. I've cried with a pillow over my face so that my son can't hear. I've cried on the way to do the school run, in the shower, on the phone to my friends.
A divorced friend suggested a counsellor to help me 'process everything I had to come to terms with.' So I booked an appointment. I'll get to talk I thought, I'll get to talk, get angry and at the end I won't have to listen to any of the crap that's coating their lives. Why hadn't I thought of this before? Besides, perhaps I will return home with some wise little nugget of gold. I imagined my counsellor as the Dahlia Lama or was it Yoda? "Divorce, you will Suzi stronger make." It was with that image in mind that I strode into the reception of the 'health and wellbeing centre' and the counsellor was waiting for me. It wasn't Yoda. He held out a hand. What greeted me wasn't an vision of hope or the face of a Buddhist sanctuary but something more resembling an upmarket estate agent. He was about 60, wore crusty cords and a pair of Churches brogues.
Then he spoke and his voice was clipped and military sounding. I did not feel at all at ease. "Room 4c." He said, "That's where we're headed." I looked at the stairs.
"Hope it's not on the top floor, my hip isn't so great with stairs."
His hip? I imagined a war injury.
"Arthritis." He said, "You'll have to excuse me; I'm not familiar with the building." The stairs beckoned.
We went upstairs, downstairs, across corridor and through heavy door after heavy door. Stairs and more stairs. Doors and more doors. Some rooms were numbered but no 4c. Hypnotherapy, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, osteopathy, reflexology, Rolfing, healing, cupping, dowsing. There were doors to the left; there were doors to the right. I felt trapped inside that Escher picture with Stealers Wheal playing on an endless loop.
"Can I help you?" Came a voice from behind.
"We're looking for a room 4c." Barked my country life counsellor.
"Room 4c?" She said looking perplexed. "Room 4c? There isn't a room 4c."
He looked over the window at spiralling stair case. I looked outside at the rain.
"Oh dear," he said sheepishly. "Looks like we're completely lost."