Because the Road to Nowhere Leads to Me


Highway to Hell — My Working as a Repo Man

Hell Highway

Before I moved to Maine, I explained to the manager at the warehouse where I worked that I had some problems at home and needed to get out of town for a while. He told me that if I ever decided to come back, I would always have a job there.

I lasted three months in the frozen north before packing up my bags and heading back down south with Heather along for the ride. I expected it to be easy to get my old job back but when I went to the warehouse, I found an abandoned building. The entire operation had been moved overseas in favor of outsourced labor and everyone that I had worked with had been scattered to the wind.

A month or two went by before Heather took a job at one of the local roofing companies as an Administrative Assistant and another month passed before I found any work. Shawn’s girlfriend Shelly worked as the Office Manager of automotive repossession company and she told me they were hiring. It wasn’t anything I had ever considered but she said the money was good and the position didn’t require any previous experience. Having no other prospects, I accepted the offer and went to work as a repo man.

The owner of the company had made a big splash in a little pond and carried an inflated sense of self-worth with a hefty dose of ego and arrogance. He enjoyed bragging about all of his expensive toys and talked of purchasing exotic animals as pets, one of which was a Bengal Tiger. I wasn’t impressed.

I was required to drive my Rx-7 with my new partner Randy in the passenger seat but I didn’t mind. I loved cruising the interstate with the music cranked up and the windows down. We would travel all over South Carolina and touch on some areas of North Carolina and Georgia in our hunt for vehicles. I believe that when many people hear of repo men, it conjures images of oversized gun toting rednecks that constantly get into fights with people that aren’t ready to let go of whatever it was they couldn’t afford. There were a few that wanted to be baddasses and made idle threats and a few more that offered us various goods and services if we would just turn around and walk away but most were nonconfrontational and simply handed over the keys. There were also the midnight boosts where we didn’t speak with anyone and simply took the vehicle without them ever knowing we were there. Randy was a lot more comfortable with that than I was and he went on 24-hour call after I refused.

The money started coming in and I found my footing again. I was able to pay the bills and keep a little in my pocket but it wasn’t enough. I hated the idea of taking peoples’ vehicles away because I knew that it would put them in an even worse position and it was slowly eating away at me. There are some that I felt absolutely no pity for like the dumbasses living in old shacks with the fully pimped luxury vehicles parked outside. But then there were the people that had just fallen on hard times after being laid off or injured and unable to work. I felt like a shark smelling blood in the water and feeding on their misfortune. I wondered how long I could keep it up before I was pulled under by the weight of a guilty conscience.

Bed of Lies — My Return to South Carolina

Insomnia 2

No, I would not sleep in this bed of lies
So toss me out and turn in
And there’ll be no rest for these tired eyes
I’m marking it down to learning

Just like me you got needs
And they’re only a whisper away
And we softly surrender
To these lives that we’ve tendered away

I don’t wanna be the one who turns the whole thing over
I don’t wanna be somewhere where I just don’t belong
Where it’s not enough to just be sorry
Don’t you know I feel the darkness closing in

- Matchbox Twenty “Bed of Lies”

It was late afternoon when Heather and I returned to South Carolina. The sun was setting on the horizon when I pulled the Rx-7 into the driveway. The snow had given way to lush green foliage and the temperature had risen from below freezing to somewhere in the mid 70’s overnight. It felt good to be home.

We got out of the car and headed toward the house where I knew my wife and daughter awaited our arrival. I was nervous. I didn’t know how the initial meeting between my wife and Heather would play out but both women were on their best behavior. Then I saw my daughter. She was four years old at the time, just a few months away from her fifth birthday and I scooped her up in my arms just as my father had done for me as a child. I squeezed her tight and held her not wanting to let go.

That’s when Madison said that she had something to tell me. My gaze shifted from my daughter and I saw the shift of someone moving out of the shadow. “James, this is Brian” Madison continued.

Brian, as it turned out was someone that she had met on the internet and asked to move into our home. Her reasoning for inviting Heather to stay with us came into focus. I had thought that maybe there was a random act of kindness at work on Madison’s part but she really just wanted Heather there to serve as a buffer. I believe she was afraid that I would want to fight with him and having Heather there would somehow prevent that from happening.

I disliked him from the beginning but I couldn’t blame him for the series of events that had unfolded and knowing that was enough to prevent any acts of violence. With his being quiet and walking softly around me, he didn’t seem like a bad guy. He had come all the way from California and had aspirations of becoming a bartender. The only other remarkable trait he possessed was the ability to make a decent tuna sandwich, not exactly the life of the party.

Madison and he had converted my old office into another bedroom. My computer desk had been moved into our old bedroom where Madison suggested that Heather and I sleep. It all seemed like some kind of demented dreamscape where Heather was lying beside me sleeping in the bed that my wife and I had shared. I would often stare at the darkened ceiling and listen to the sounds of Madison and Brian laughing late into the night.

After giving up on sleep, I would go to my computer and type until the sun came up. It was the first time I really heard the demons in my mind and they were scratching at every corner searching for escape. I would just start typing not really knowing what would pour out as I focused on the click of the computer keyboard. Most of it was sappy, bleeding heart bullshit that painted me as the victim. I kept it to myself, too embarrassed to share with anyone else. I tried to find it the other day but it has been lost in the old computer hard drive that burned out years ago. Good riddance.

So I stared at the ceiling and wrestled with the demons. Block them out. Shut them up. Just close your eyes and sleep. You need to sleep. Get some rest so you don’t feel like shit tomorrow. Why the fuck can’t you sleep?! Stop screaming. Start dreaming. Just shut the fuck up.

Heather would lay beside me completely at peace. I wanted that sleep, that peace of mind. And I knew that I was never going to find it as long as I stayed in that house listening to the laughter down the hall.

Home Is Where the Heart Is — My Move from Maine


I really have no way of knowing what Heather was thinking after I popped the question. No it wasn’t the big question; the one that involves a diamond ring and the promise of a lifetime but it deserved no less consideration. Imagine you had just met someone a few months earlier. All you knew about them could be written down on a cocktail napkin and that practical stranger had just asked you to pack up everything, say goodbye to everyone and come live with them and their estranged wife because that’s exactly what I had done.

Heather had friends and family in Maine whom she loved but she also had her share of demons there with fresh wounds still festering from her fiancé’s infidelity and a brutal attack she endured as a teenager. She had given me graphic details of the attack nd I still fantasize of finding the vile piece of shit responsible and beating him bloody. The rage inside of me lets me know that if given the chance, I wouldn’t stop there.

I remember Heather’s expression when I asked if she would like to come back to South Carolina with me; that look of surprise and disbelief but behind the fear of the unknown, her eyes held a glimmer of excitement for a new beginning. She opened up and began talking about all of the arrangements that needed to be made. She didn’t think her car would make the trip because the chassis had been eaten away by salt on the wintry roads and she would have to leave many of her belongings with her sister to be picked up at a later time.

The move had been set in motion and there was that brief moment where she asked, “Am I really doing this?” Heather was packing up her bags but she had to understand the absurdity of the situation. I was moving back into a warzone, to live with a woman that had made it very clear she didn’t want me there. I found myself grasping for reasons as to why Madison had invited Heather into our home but there simply were no answers to be found. It was absolute madness and between the three of us, I don’t know who took home the prize for being the craziest.

I thought about Heather’s question and answered, “I don’t know. Are you?”

She concluded, “I think I am.”

And with that Heather took a 2,000 mile leap of faith. All arrangements were made and our bags were packed. The back of the Mazda was so loaded down with our shared belongings that the rear window was completely blocked from view.

We had a farewell dinner with her family at one of the local taverns and her sisters threatened me with the usual “If you hurt her, we will hunt you down and kill you” sentiment. They were laughing when they said it but I knew there was at least some truth to their words. They were fine with me being there but didn’t want her to leave and joking about inflicting pain on me was their way of dealing with the inevitability of her departure. I promised to be a good boy and laughed along with them with that nervous uncertainty people sometimes feel when venturing into unknown territory.

I can’t really blame them for worrying about her. In those dark days of the internet before social sites like MySpace and Facebook gained popularity, horror stories involving predatory strangers seemed to run rampant and Heather’s family knew even less about me than she did. They had no way of really knowing me and only saw a guy with long hair, earring and leather jacket before them. All I needed to do was bite the head off of a bat to seal the deal and confirm their worst fears.

As a parting gift, Heather was given a small stitched pillow with the image of a home having hearts for windows sewn across its face. Across the top, it read “Home is Where the Heart is” and though I agree with the statement, I questioned the reasoning behind it. An optimist might have seen it as a suggestion to follow your heart but I suspected that it was to serve as a reminder that if things didn’t work out, Heather could always return home to her family. Were they right to be so concerned or would I prove them wrong by not being such a bad guy after all? Only time would tell.

Hazy Shade of Winter — My Time Living in Maine

Winter Road 1

I started down this road to rediscover who I am through the steps I’ve taken over the course of a lifetime. Through my thoughts and memories of past mistakes and triumphs, I have found new clarity along with some semblance of the man I used to be but the chain of events that came to pass in January of 1998 still amaze and confound me. There were just so many pieces that somehow seemed to fall into place while others refused to fit anywhere and absolutely nothing made any sense.

I had moved to the small town of Oakland Maine after my marriage fell apart. My wife told me that she was no longer in love with me and wanted me out of our house so I packed up everything I could in the back of my car and moved nearly 2,000 miles away from my family, friends, practically everyone and everything that I had ever known.

I had been given an invitation to stay with a friend in her apartment and after seeing no other options, I accepted. I quit my job as a Warehouse Supervisor, said my goodbyes and left my hometown on a Saturday morning. I remember the roads were still dark with just a faint outline from the sunrise on the horizon.

I was scared but I wasn’t going to let anybody see it. I didn’t know the way and only had a couple of printed pages from MapQuest to serve as my guide. I wasn’t sure if my car would survive the trip but quite certain that I didn’t have enough time or money to repair it should it break down along the way. Most of all, I was afraid of the future. I had given up seven years to try and be a good husband and failed before looking to make a new start with my only real direction being north.

I traveled up the east coast, hit a few pitstops along the way and had to stop for the night when I could no longer keep my eyes open. I was in New Jersey and decided to stay at one of the hotels just off of the Garden State Parkway. It was dreadfully overpriced for the most basic amenities but the lure of a hot shower and warm bed was too great to ignore. I called Heather to let her know that I was stuck in Jersey before crashing for the night and continuing on the following morning.

I remember how thankful I was to see the New York state line. I really wish I had more time for touring the sites along the way but I continued driving past the city of my birth into Massachusetts, New Hampshire and finally Maine. The Sunday sun was setting and with the clear roads behind and snow covered roads ahead, I raced to reach my destination before the evening freeze set in.

The sun had just given up its last light of day when I drove into the small Maine town and breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled into Heather’s driveway. I had made the long trip and I thought the worst of it was behind me. My relief was short lived however because her apartment sat atop a very steep hill and after snow turned to ice overnight, it served as a slippery slope for my Rx-7 to slide down while I watched helplessly from inside her home. It was sometime during the following day and we were visiting with Heather’s sister. We were sitting in the living room talking when I heard the ice cracking and watched my car slip backward down the hill. To make matters even worse, the small driveway connected to a very large hill that cascaded down into a main intersection. I knew that if my wheels had turned just slightly, my car may have continued another half mile before it collided into something else and panic took over. I ran out of the apartment trying to catch it but was unable to do so. It slid down the driveway and sat on the narrow two-way street blocking both lanes. That was really the best I could have hoped for under the circumstances but had to work quickly to get it out of the way of any oncoming traffic that may or may not have been able to stop in time. I drove the car back up the driveway, parked next to the curb, turned my wheels and locked the emergency brake to prevent it from happening again.

A new week started and everything was white washed in snow. It was a cold grey day where the temperature barely reached double digits and the night would drop deep below zero. Every day was the same with more and more snow piling up only to freeze into solid sheets of ice overnight and my Rx-7 was getting buried beneath it in the process.

Heather and I got around using her car most of the time. She had a Subaru wagon with four wheel drive and it was much better at navigating the icy roads than my car would ever be. I spoke with some of the locals in hopes of finding employment but the town of roughly 6,000 residents didn’t have any entry level positions for a flatlander like me. I also searched the classifieds but the newspaper only had positions for skilled professionals that involved neither architecture nor automotive mechanic or bodywork; the only viable skills I possessed.

I fell into a depression after being unable to find work and refocused my attention on the tabletop strategy game that I had been designing. I had the apartment to myself when Heather went to work at the mom and pop organic health food store and I poured over the numerous pages I had created to help pass the time.

The two of us would usually sit down for dinner together after she got off of work. It was Heather that first introduced me to free-range chickens, soy based textured vegetable protein and Tofu; foods where the focus was more on the healthy benefits than the flavor. I remember asking her to pick up some ingredients for hot dogs and she brought home a pack of soy dogs, vegetarian chili with beans and a pack of whole grain buns. The bread was decent and the chili probably would have been okay by itself but there was no hope for those soy logs having a texture similar to wet shoe leather and the flavor of spiced cardboard.

Luckily for me, there was a corner store close by that offered the best Italian sandwiches that I had ever tasted. They were huge, loaded with real meats and cheeses and an absolute joy after suffering through soy. Outside of that, I sustained myself on organic cola and wine, usually having a glass of one or the other with dinner and conversation.

Heather and I discussed our past mistakes and she told me about her previous engagement to be married. Her fiancé had an affair with another woman and after discovering the truth, Heather moved into the apartment without him. He still called however because he wanted a continued relationship with both women and it always left Heather upset. After the second time, I asked her to hand me the phone. She did so and I told him plainly to quit calling. I explained that he had fucked up and Heather no longer wanted anything to do with him. I finished the conversation by making sure that he was listening and offered to explain it face to face if he still couldn’t get it through his head. He must have understood well enough because that was the last time that I or Heather ever spoke to him.

I also kept in touch with my daughter through numerous phone calls. She helped keep me grounded and made me want to be a better person. Even if the marriage with her mother had failed, I wasn’t going to give up on being her father and after three months in Maine with no prospects of employment, I swallowed my pride and asked Madison if I could move back down south. I explained how things weren’t working out and how I needed to get back home to be there for my daughter.

I braced for the worst as I awaited Madison’s response. She could have easily refused my request and ripped into me for even asking but she surprised me by saying yes and left me flabbergasted when she asked if Heather wanted to come with me.

Roads Untraveled — My Attempt to Save Our Marriage

Rainfall Road

Weep not for roads untraveled
Weep not for paths left lone
Cause beyond every bend
Is a long blinding end
It’s the worst kind of pain I’ve known
Give up your heart left broken
And let that mistake pass on
Cause the love that you lost
Wasn’t worth what it cost
And in time you’ll be glad it’s gone
Linkin Park “Roads Untraveled”

After my decompression period, I rode the Greyhound back home to my wife and daughter. I could see the mistakes that were made and wanted to find resolution to the problems we were facing.

Madison picked me up at the station but I don’t really remember much conversation in the car. There was still that uneasy tension between us and that painfully awkward moment where nobody really knows what to say. After unpacking, I knew that if anything was going to be resolved, I had to make the first move and asked Madison to sit down and talk with me, no arguing or screaming, just talking. I confessed to my mistakes of not communicating with her and offered her my full attention and devotion. I told her we could get rid of the internet because I didn’t need it to continue working on my game and we could become a family again. I talked about our struggles and how we survived through all the hard times together. I asked her to remember how strong we were when it was just the two of us against the world instead of being against each other. Being one move away from being on my knees, I begged her to please listen and believe what I was telling her but her response to everything was, “It’s too late.”

I remember the tremble in her voice as she fought to hold back the tears. I remember how my own eyes stung while I sat there holding her hands unable to comfort her. She pulled her hands away and told me that the marriage was over. She said it was over the moment I got on that bus and though she still loved me, she was no longer in love with me. Even if I did as I had promised, it wouldn’t make a difference because the mistakes of the past would remain.

I had given it everything I had. My vows to change were sincere and I meant every word that I had spoken but hers were no less important. I tried to explain how she wasn’t seeing the whole picture but her decision had been made and she no longer wanted anything to do with me. I could hear the tone of her voice shift from sadness to anger as she spoke through gritted teeth and clenched fists. She was as certain of her words as I had been of mine and I remember sitting back in the kitchen chair to pause and survey the room, looking at everything around me but not really seeing anything as I sat there absorbing the impact.

For the first time, I was able to see the picture from her point of view. What if she had told me that she wanted to travel across the country to gather her thoughts with someone that I didn’t know? Would my reaction have been any different from hers? I would like to believe that I would have protested the idea from the beginning instead of waiting until the last minute and came to understand that if she had gotten on that bus, we would probably still be having the same conversation.

I asked her how long she knew. Did she stop loving me as soon as I stepped on the bus? Was it something she realized while I was gone? And she answered, “No. I’ve been feeling this way for a while now. I just didn’t know how to tell you.” She broke down and let loose all the tears she had been holding back.

How is anyone supposed to handle that? How could anyone be with someone under the guise of love for any amount of time and not let them know how they really feel? How was I supposed to react to the new revelation after being with her for the past seven years? My mind drew a blank as the past, present and future all collided in a series of incoherent thoughts and after contemplating everything, I knew that our marriage was over long before the bus trip. With that realization, I only had one question left  for her to answer. “So what’s next?”

She told me that she wanted me out of the house and I agreed to leave. But where was I going to go? The majority of my blood relatives were a bunch of pious hypocrites that preached acceptance while practicing judgment. And my friends all had lives and families of their own to care for. I turned to Heather as my only viable option and explained the situation at home. I asked if I could stay with her until I got on my feet again and on the following weekend, I loaded up the computer along with everything else that I could pack into the back of Rx-7 and headed for Maine.

Decompression Period — My Marriage Falls Apart


We’re walking on thin ice
And I hope it doesn’t break
And I need some space to
Clear my head to think about my life
With or without you
Papa Roach “Decompression Period”

Madison and I continued to argue over the computer and it reached the point of us screaming at each other or extended silences where neither of us would speak a word. I’m really not sure which was worse because screaming until my throat was raw and feeling like an ass afterward was becoming an all too common occurrence. I would sometimes try to apologize for my actions but more often than not, that turned into another argument. And then there were the uncomfortable silences where we would actively avoid each other’s presence. The two of us had been together for seven years and being uncomfortably anxious around Madison was a new experience for me. I remember wondering how long it would be before we exploded again and started the whole process over.

If I had been smarter, I may have sold the computer but I was still holding onto the dream of designing my own tabletop strategy game. That blinded me to the obvious answer like being too close to a picture and only seeing a fraction of it.

I needed to take a step back. I needed to take some time for myself and figure out what I really wanted at that point in my life and I was given the chance through an online acquaintance. I had begun chatting with a woman through America Online and that progressed to the telephone while Madison got her computer time in. I remember a lot of talk about music and I sent her some cassettes of the bands I enjoyed. She liked a lot of 80’s pop but also liked performers like Loreena McKennitt and Enya. I knew about Enya after being friends with Dexter but I had never heard of McKennitt or some of the other performers Heather listened to. I don’t know if it was considered New Age, Folk or something else but it was a far cry from the hard rock Nu-Metal world that I wanted to share.

Heather also knew about my problems with Madison and somewhere along the line, she offered me a chance to stay at her home. It wasn’t an open ended invitation but it gave me the chance I needed to really think about everything without being under the pressure of a powder keg and I took it. I told Madison that I wanted to leave for a week to gather my thoughts and she agreed with the idea, at least in the beginning.

I took some time off of work from the warehouse and purchased a Greyhound bus ticket. Madison drove me to the station and  sat there with my bag packed waiting on the bus to arrive. I heard the bus pull into the parking lot and Madison begged me not to go. She had weeks to talk to me about the trip but waited until the very last moment to actually voice how she really felt about it. I couldn’t comprehend why she didn’t say anything sooner because it didn’t seem like she was holding anything else back. And maybe I was being stubborn or selfish when I refused her request and left her there crying.

I rode several connecting buses from South Carolina to Maine. It was the first week of January and Maine had just suffered a major cold snap from a nor’easter out of Canada. There were piles of snow and ice pushed to the sides of road that stood nearly twelve feet tall and the state’s road crew consisted of old beat up pickup trucks with plow blades chained to the front bumpers. I thought it was just an inventive redneck behind the wheel but Heather confirmed that they were government funded. Temperatures were in the high teens during the day and below zero at night but the strangest thing was how none of it seemed to bother the locals. In South Carolina, a few inches of snow meant that most of the town would be shut down for days but for the Maine-iacs, it was just another day at the beach and they drove across the icy roads without being fazed. I remember Heather turning the wheel of her car way before the connecting road and sliding into the corners while the steering wheel spun beneath her hands.

Heather worked at a local natural foods store and I would sit inside her home thinking about everything while she was away. I thought about Madison, our daughter, our marriage, everything that we had been through and survived together. It was peaceful there, warm and cozy with a winter haze just past the doorsteps. I felt completely at ease but at some point, I realized that I missed my family, not the most recent troubles but all the good years we shared before things started falling apart. I knew it was time to go home and try to make amends.

Land of Confusion — My Marriage Meets the Internet

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

I must’ve dreamed a thousand dreams
Been haunted by a million screams
But I can hear the marching feet
They’re moving into the street

Well this is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make it a place worth living in

Ooh, Superman where are you now
When everything’s gone wrong somehow?
The men of steel, the men of power
Are losing control by the hour

I remember long ago when the sun was shining
Yes, and the stars were bright all through the night
And wake up this madness as I held you tight, so long ago

This is the time, this is the place
So we look for the future
But there’s not much love to go round
Tell me why, this is a land of confusion
Disturbed, “Land of Confusion”

Madison and I along with our daughter lived in the roach infested apartments for three years before deciding we were ready to move on to something better. She was working as an administrative assistant at one of the local textile mills and I was still working as a warehouse supervisor. Neither of us really liked our jobs but there was security in them and we thought that would be enough. We found a small house in one of the neighboring towns that wasn’t much to look at but it was clean and free of cockroaches and after doing the math, we decided we could afford it and moved in.

I had an old word processor that I used to write stories on in college and upgraded to a real computer. It was a beast of a machine complete with Windows 95, a 4 GB HDD, 32 MB of RAM, a 28.8 bps modem and a 233 MHz processor with MMX technology. It was top of the line at the time and only set me back a mere $3000.00 with the addition of a printer. I found another computer just like it on Ebay several years back with a starting bid of $15.00 and nobody wanted it.

I had bought the computer to continue working on a tabletop strategy game that I had been designing. It was a post-apocalyptic setting where multiple alien races invaded our world and brought their wars down upon us. Mankind was all but destroyed until the world united with the Guardian Project. The plan was to acquire the alien technology, modify it for humanity and turn the aliens’ own weapons against them. There were also a number of rebel factions that operated outside of the strictly regulated newly formed world government and played by their own rules of survival. My friends and I play tested the game and it was a huge hit but I never seemed to have enough money to do anything with it.

Madison and I also got our first real taste of the internet using the only 14.4 bps dial-up connection that was available in the middle of nowhere and just as most people did during the infancy of the internet, American Online was the service of choice. Free discs to install the internet service were everywhere from the counter of the local convenience store to your mailbox as the discs were being mailed out almost as frequently as credit card and cellular service offers are today. But it wasn’t the internet we all know it to be now so much as a glorified chat window where sending a 50 Kb file took nearly thirty minutes to complete while we sat there watching and waiting for the transfer to finish. People would get up in the middle of the night to take a piss and turn on the computer just to see if any new e-mails had arrived. There was even a Top 10 list for symptoms of being addicted to the internet and the midnight pisses and e-mail checks made the cut.

Then a new darkness befell our home. Madison and I stopped talking to each other and started spending more and more time on the internet chatting with strangers. If I am to be honest, I have to admit that it was me that fell first. I remember some brief arguments where Madison would want me off the computer so we could spend time together but that gave way to our fighting over the computer itself because we each wanted more time with our newfound internet friends.

I think back to those early days and late night chats with faceless friends and as hard as I have tried, I cannot recall a single conversation that deserved priority over my relationship with Madison. But there it was; two people that had loved each other for years unconditionally, suddenly fighting for time to sit in a room alone and chat with strangers through a $3000.00 telephone.

It’s ironic knowing that I purchased the computer to create a futuristic post-apocalyptic warzone and inadvertently created one in my own home.


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