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.