Null Set

Meanwhile, back in the land of malingering divorce, my ex-husband has asked me for an annulment. 

This comes as no surprise to me — nor should it come as a surprise to anyone who knows either of us, since while I am not sure Andrew actually believed in Jesus, he was fairly obsessed with the institution of Catholicism per se.

At first, I was fine with this, what with him being a capital-C-Catholic, steeped in all the Church’s dogmatic glory, and me being a lowly lowercase-c-catholic of the western church.

Then, reality set in.

I happened to be walking in the East 90s on Saturday, where he lives, and out of the blue I called him.  (I have no idea what I was thinking, by the way.) 

Hey.  Just walking through your neighborhood and thinking of you!  Wondering how your Russia trip was?


I was wondering if we could resolve the last of the banking issues?

Our statements often ended; still end in questions, as if we were never sure of what we were saying to each other.  As if we never knew how the other would take what was coming next out of the other’s mouth.

Sure?  Come on over?

Great?  I’ll be there in five, ten minutes?

I made my way to his place, the place that is arranged in a manner identical to our Tribeca apartment.  Years have now passed and the memories of what it was like to sit on the clubby chairs and at my desk where I used to write are becoming fuzzy.  Like forgetting the voice of a beloved, dead lover, or losing the longing for something destroyed in a fire.

I rang his doorbell and he threw open the door to reveal the dogs; the chairs; the tables and dark wood and decoy ducks and leather sofas of our married life.  (I recite the design elements all the time, like a mantra, to remind myself that I really lived that life.  Like Aurora, I slept for 100 long years, which turned out to be only seven.)



We chatted through the banking — easy enough. 

Then he pulled out the Papers Regarding the Marriage Case, stamped with the seal of the Archdiocese of New York.

We should make our answers consistent?


To obtain an annulment one has to fill out extensive paperwork providing background on the parties’ courtship; the history of the marriage; a detailed account of what led up to divorce.  Then one completes a survey about the parties’ capacity to consent to the marriage in the first place.  One also provides supporting documentation in the form of civil papers, and the names of witnesses.  The Church may also ask for medical records and in-person interviews.

So I suppose we should say that you didn’t want to have children and raise them Catholic?  And/or that you wanted to use birth control?

(A beat, in which I remembered the moment during our big, fancy Cathedral wedding ceremony where I was slapped with the whole having-as-many-children-as-God-gave-us-and-raising-them-Catholic-bit that no one had bothered to tell me about until that moment…)


There was something hilarious about the way we were going about the questionnaire: me telling him how to annul his marriage to me, since an annulment felt very much like something belonging exclusively to him, not something we owned jointly.  This, in itself, was counter-intuitive — if you know anything about the Catholic church, you know that the sacrament of marriage is the only sacrament that the laity can give to eachother.

I suppose, then, that was grounds for the annulment right then and there.  But I didn’t say a word.  I dutifully penciled in information about what our bedroom practices were, and then escaped out into a sunny Saturday. 

(My marriage failed because of his predilection for Trojans? My college football team failed because of those pernicious warriors.  They did not interfere with my capacity to consent to marriage.)

Back out in the fresh air, on the way through the Park to Dr. Berri’s to borrow her car, I sent a few snapshots of the paperwork (against Church doctrine) across the Atlantic.

Oh. My. God.  That is the most fucked up thing I have ever seen, said a certain Englishman.

Meh.  This is what marriage does to people.

But upon reflection, I know that marriage is more than that; it’s just the soft, sore, sacramental wound that snaps those statements.  Marriage is greater than the null set rendered at the end.  People love; people hope; people make the impossible work — not because of doctrine or dogma or the dictates of men who have never been married — but because of wanting it.

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