October 11th, 2017
Today marks a year ago I spent the day in a court room filled with strangers,
dressed much nicer than I usually dress.
I was terrified and I couldn't breathe very well.
I kept reading and rereading the documents I'd gotten
from some online company,
sweating on the bench
and trying not to let my eyeliner get into my eyeballs.
There were no signs on where to go,
and I had to go to the bathroom
more than once
to press my hand against cold tile
and put it on the back of my neck.
I kept trying to stay calm,
but my brain got foggy
and what happens whens.
I was the first person called.
The judge was a no-nonsense lady
who only made two jokes.
My neighbor to my left was a lady
who I politely tried to converse with
but all I remember was that she had her bike stolen.
It wasn’t the best first impression I've ever given
but I'm sure it wasn't the worst.
When the judge called me,
my shins felt like they were going to give way.
I was glad I wore my nice shoes
because they felt stiff and sturdy,
a good, supportive shoe that hadn’t been broken in yet.
They felt like they would carry my wavering bones up to the podium all right.
The guard smiled at me and the judge reassured me it was okay to take a second to breathe.
The guard handed me a Kleenex box because I was quietly weeping.
I was crying controlled tears that quietly fell all over the place
but I maintained eye contact with the judge.
I think that’s what weeping means.
She asked me questions and I answered.
I held on to the sides of the podium
and tried not to let my legs give out from underneath me.
I didn't know what to do
with these very expensive, scary papers I'd memorized.
She told me she forgot to ask me for them.
These papers were expensive and I paid for them all by myself.
They were terrifying and they were heavy.
They weighed on me like a slimy garbage bag filled with cold mashed potatoes.
I couldn't breathe.
The clerk politely took them from me
and gave me the fastest reassuring nod I'd ever seen.
It was like she wanted me to feel okay,
but didn't want to show she cared.
The judge looked them over.
I tried to breathe slowly and notice the podium a little bit more.
It was kind of sticky and had a microphone on it.
The judge asked me if I wanted
to change my name that day.
I tried to say yes but
I had been a married lady,
in a sense.
I took care of him when he was sick.
I paid our bills.
I kept my mouth shut when things got violent.
I tried to do the right thing.
In the weeks previous,
I had come to a conclusion.
That I would indeed be changing my name
from all the names that felt alien to me.
I would take my middle name as my last name
and that would be that.
My father had already given his blessing and I found myself ready.
I answered the judge by making a small joke.
She laughed and acquiesced the request,
and I felt a cold sweat form on my neck.
The judge smiled and congratulated me.
It was done.
I was free.
I couldn't hold my composure anymore and I openly cried big tears of gratitude.
I thanked her as professionally as I could and turned around.
I was dismissed.
I had made the entire courtroom cry.
When I got down from the podium,
all the women who were next touched my hand
or patted my arm
in a strong,
They were almost as happy for me as I was.
I stayed for the bike lady’s divorce and then quietly left.
I had taken a car to the courthouse and didn't know exactly how to get back to my apartment,
so I went to the DMV and changed my name
with my new Judge Stamped Papers.
The elite version.
They didn’t seem so heavy anymore.
I told the DMV lady I was changing my name
because of the divorce I had just gotten.
I couldn't stop smiling.
She congratulated me
asked if it was okay that she congratulated me.
I almost started crying again.
I got moved to the front of the line and was a smiley, weepy mess.
I got a new picture because my old picture
had visual evidence of me
down the stairs
The rest of the day is a blur.
Do you know that I feel no qualms sharing all of this with you? None.
Do you know that oftentimes people in abusive relationships have no idea?
I read in a book once that we accept the love we think we deserve.
I didn't know how bad it was until months after it was done.
People came out of the woodwork telling me they always thought he was bad news.
If you were to tell me while I was with him how awful you thought he was,
I wouldn't have been able to hear you.
It's not easy.
If your friend has a garbage relationship, be patient with them.
They may not know or they may not be able to hear you.
But don't stop being there for them.
I wouldn't be able to be the person I am if it weren't for my people.
Here's to all of you.
Happy one year of being exactly myself, Kira Rudjen.