Because the Road to Nowhere Leads to Me


Twilight Zone — A New Roommate Moves In

What is it that makes us want to surrender our personal space to someone else? Sometimes it is as simple as a relationship where closeness takes priority. Other times it is required to share in the responsibility of making ends meet. And sometimes it is the fear of being alone that prompts us to seek out the company of others. It is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Every pro and con should be weighed and despite our best efforts, rarely do new roommates work out as we had hoped.

Heather was in the process of moving out of our apartment and a chain of events led to Randy moving in. I really don’t remember if I was looking for a new roommate or if his needing a place to stay was enough for me to take pity on him and extend the invite. The two of us had been working together for months as repo men, shared a lot of the same interests and always got along well. That should have been enough but as much as I thought I knew Randy, there was much that remained a mystery. After he moved in, I found out more about him than I ever wanted to know.

The first problem we faced was his feet, more specifically the odor surrounding them. He had never removed his shoes while we were travelling together and the first time the smell of a sweaty gym locker permeated the apartment, I knew that something had to be done. Randy was good about keeping his feet clean but there was no hope for his shoes. He washed them repeatedly and after that failed, set them outside in the apartment breezeway. We thought we had found a solution to the problem until one of our neighbors tracked down the smell and came knocking at our door asking that the shoes be removed.

Then there was his unusual collection of porn. I enjoy adult entertainment but some things that happen in the bedroom should stay locked away in there. I was at my computer desk when I noticed that the printer was out of paper. As I reached for the ream, a loose stack of printed pages fell onto the floor. Being the days before porn was so portable, I thought it was just a collection of attractive women that Randy had found on the internet and decided to print out for later use but upon closer inspection, I discovered that every single one of them had a penis. I had heard of hermaphrodites but just like felching, scatting, snowballing or necrophilia, there are some words that should come with a warning label before Googling. This was one of those moments where I knew that nothing good could possibly come from my asking Randy about his collection and the and the pages were put back where I found them.

Foot odor and chicks with dicks aside, Randy really wasn’t that bad as a roommate. He was a quiet guy, cleaned up after himself and always had his half of the rent ready at the first of the month. It was a welcomed change after surviving a few ex-girlfriends and one ex-wife.

An Affair of the Heart — My Tortured Relationship

There is something fundamentally flawed in the human spirit. Why is it that we so often try to rationalize the decisions we make regarding relationships and all that they encompass when we know that our hearts are based on emotion rather than rationale? How can a choice made the night before seem so wrong the morning after? And what is it that makes us wake up on one of those mornings after, look to the person at our side and think this has got to end?

My marriage had ended before I knew it was over and I was in the very same bed with another woman before the sheets even cooled. Meanwhile, my wife was down the hall with another man and our friends were caught somewhere in the middle trying to make sense of it all while we held an ongoing grudge match where we verbally assaulted each other at every turn.

As soon as we were able, Heather and I moved out. The storm settled and the waters calmed. I still had a wife on paper but Heather had been accepted as my girlfriend and we were making the relationship work. Several months passed with things going well and then there was that morning after where I decided to end it.

I of course tried to rationalize my decision. I questioned where I had come from and the decisions that led to that point in my life. I didn’t want to be tied down with nothing but small social gatherings, informal dinner parties and board games to look forward to. I needed some space, some time to think for myself, to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to return to the party life and enjoy every drop of excess that came with it. I wanted to hit the town at Midnight, stay out until dawn and sleep until Noon just as I had done before… That was the load of crap I kept telling myself anyway. The absolute truth that I would have never admitted to anyone was that I was afraid of failing. Deep down I knew that if Heather and I stayed together long enough, I would find a way to fuck it up and I didn’t want to go through that again.

It took some time before I was ready to talk with her. I really didn’t know what I was going to say because I didn’t fully understand it myself. There was a lot of confusion. Incoherent thoughts seemingly disconnected suddenly colliding to become entangled and twisted. None of it made any sense but there we were with my telling her that she had to leave and her asking me why she couldn’t stay. I’m sure I pulled some bullshit out of the mental vapors as an offering to answer her question but it didn’t make it any easier. I had never intended to hurt Heather but the words just weren’t there. She eventually conceded but I knew that she wanted me to have a change of heart that never happened. Shortly thereafter, we said our goodbyes and she was gone.

Bad Company — Our Friends Reaction to the Divorce

AVP Pool

When a couple decides to end the relationship, people often talk about the reasons behind it and the damage it caused to the individuals involved. There may be talk of the man being an asshole or the woman being a bitch and if the couple has been together long enough, there may even be talk of the children and the effect that the separation will have on them.

Rarely do people talk about the friends of the newly separated couple even though there is an undeniable impact on their lives. Those who would be friends suddenly find themselves caught somewhere between having to choose sides and avoiding all interaction. And all they have to help with the decision is what they know or at least think they know. Before airing dirty laundry on reality television, Facebook and other so-called social networks became the norm, people struggling with a relationship would often keep their problems contained to the family or perhaps a few select friends.

While Madison and I were having problems, we kept it between the two of us. Absolutely nobody outside of our home knew anything about the issues we were having and it came as quite a shock when I removed the mask and announced my move to Maine.

My and Madison’s circle of friends had known us to be the first married couple in the group. They really didn’t know anything about my hard partying lifestyle before Madison and saw us as a good match. When we first announced that we were getting divorced, several friends had trouble accepting the idea and declared that out of all of us, they thought that we had the best chance of making marriage work.

After the initial shock, our friends had to try and understand why our marriage failed. They were given some details by me just as assuredly Madison and hidden somewhere between the two of us was the truth.

Most of our friends were couples themselves – Brad and June, Shawn and Shelly, Johnny and Jeanine and then off in the distance was Seth and Lindsey, who never seemed to make it to any of our social gatherings. Out of everyone from our circle, Damian was the only friend I had that was flying solo.

Lines in the sand were drawn and some of our friends chose sides. I had Damian in my corner. Brad, Shawn, Johnny, June and Shelly tried to remain neutral while Jeanine, Lindsey and by default Seth, took Madison’s side. It made sense because Jeanine was Madison’s best friend and Lindsey had hated me from the beginning believing I was a bad influence on poor pussy-whipped Seth who wasn’t allowed to have a thought of his own after being put on lockdown.

Having the majority of our friends try to maintain a neutral position seemed like the best choice but that didn’t make it any less awkward when I showed up with Madison often appearing sometime afterward. I remember hanging out, laughing and having a good time but whenever Madison arrived, the room would become stifled with tension. The laughter would stop and the conversations would die down to whispers as everyone walked on glass. Uncomfortable silences can be difficult when it is just between two people but when the entire room shares that moment; it becomes a new kind of monster.

I grew so tired of attempting to avoid eye contact along with the hateful stares and quips that followed when we failed. When Madison and I were newlyweds, I could have never imagined causing her such grief but this is where we were at after seven years of marriage and our friends were caught in the crossfire.

Separate Ways — My Marital Dissolution and New Apartment

There is something very alluring about the prospect of moving into a new home. It could be the desire to improve your station, your status or just a change of pace offering something new to experience. The desire is especially strong when you know that your company, that your very presence is just being tolerated in your current home and with both Heather and I working, we knew it was time for us to get our own space.

I had only lived in one apartment before and it was so overrun with roaches that exterminators had been contracted to come in every few months to bomb the entire complex. We would have to cover most of our kitchen area in plastic and evacuate the premises unable to return home for at least eight hours after the job was done. We would often come home to a fog filled environment and open windows to air the place out. Roaches could still be seen moving across the floor, a bit slower perhaps but definitely not dead.

When Madison and I moved out of that first apartment and into the house, we had some unwanted hitchhikers, most of which had made their home in the warm electronics of my entertainment center. I remember shaking the equipment outside or disassembling it completely in an attempt to get rid of them. The entertainment center itself sat outside for a few days while I worked to remove all the pests.

We managed to get rid of the roaches and our marriage was good for a while. It was really good but after several years and a number of mistakes, I found that I was the unwanted pest in our home. For all intents and purposes, I was with Heather and my wife was with a wannabe Bartender named Brian. She had claimed the house as hers and I couldn’t wait to get out of there to ease everyone’s discomfort.

When Heather and I first started looking for our own place, I knew exactly where I wanted to live. There were some very nice apartments on the east side of town, located in the heart of a historic neighborhood with proud heritage. The apartments were conveniently located to a number of specialty shops and eateries. And very well landscaped in a natural wooded setting complete with squirrels and chipmunks. There was a private pool, fitness room and clubhouse for social gatherings and as an added bonus, the apartment was free of cockroaches. It was everything I wanted and we went for it.

Heather and I moved in and my daughter came to stay with us for the summer through an informal arrangement that Madison and I had made. My daughter was five years old at the time and I know she didn’t understand why I was living in the apartment and her mother was living in the house but I wanted her to understand that I still loved and would always be there for her.

I remember one of my favorite aspects of the second floor apartment was the large bay window. My computer desk fit into it nicely and despite being surrounded by local businesses, the canopy of trees kept the neighborhood relatively peaceful. It had been months since I really slept after being tormented by the voices but after we settled in, I finally found some much needed rest.

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. 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.


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