Eleven-Eleven

When Megan told me she was pregnant, I had forgotten we started trying back in April before my professional world came apart and her fear response went into overdrive. None of that mattered in the moment as my bullshit meter was instantly reset to zero and I gathered her in a hug, kissing her gorgeously-full lips through the salt of my sudden tears. We were having a baby. Holy shit.

It takes a lot to rock my world and that did it all night long as we headed out for a celebratory dinner at one of the many interesting and eclectic choices in our neighborhood. We instantly gone to the wonderful place where we are perfect for each other again. The place where we found love much later in life than many of our friends by taking a chance on Match.com as a way to overcome our individual insecurities. We had tabled our many differences in the hopes of finding compromise solutions to prepare for the little peanut who was on the way.

The first thing we had to do was start whatever remodeling projects made sense to get the house in a condition for our curious new arrival. Megan was amenable to the idea that we tackle the windows on the front of the house first as getting the biggest bang for our buck with draining savings. This would allow us to tackle the remaining projects a room at a time as I landed freelance web gigs or received an intermittent check from Georgetown University.

The nursery would be first, of course, but we could do the master suite at the same time since the only big project beyond the mechanical enhancements for the electrical, air condition and heat that needed to be done as a logical first step would be a master bath. Once that was done, we could complete the upper level by doing a gut-renovation on the one bathroom and finishing with the guest room at the rear of the rowhome looking out onto an alley that wasn’t nearly as seedy and garbage filled as when we had first moved into the neighborhood seven and a half years earlier when it was still in transition.

Renovation plans finished before dinner was over, we wandered down to the Capitol talking about how we would finance the many projects that needed to be done. We had enough to get the windows done, but anything beyond that would be subject to the limitations of available funds. I had been looking for a full-time gig since May, but I had yet to have a single response to my email queries or electronic applications let alone an interview, so there wasn’t enough verifiable income to secure a new loan for the house and pull out some equity for the remodeling projects ahead.

The best I could come up with was to do what we could with the money we had while I continued to look for a full-time job, so we could speed up the process. I had rarely seen my girl so optimistic, but she knew I was networking and trying to find a gig, so all she could do at that point is hope I was right and pray things turned out like I had planned.

Things didn’t even come close to what I had envisioned, proving God has a wicked sense of humor.

Before we would decide to put the house on the market and move to Los Angeles, I scheduled new windows to be installed on the front of the house. We also had decided to add a new front door as well since the one I had installed a few years earlier leaked like a sieve and was crooked in the frame. The deadbolt was also about head height which made it hard for Megan to lock it. It took half our available savings to get it done, but we had finally started to make progress on remodeling the house.

We allowed a former coworker of mine to crash in our guest room where his mattress had been stored since he left the country for Portugal previous summer. Jeffrey Lombardo was coming back to the states to secure a gig as a political consultant in advance of the coming 2014 election season. We had worked together for six weeks when I worked for the eCommerce site focused on liberal campaign marketing. He was the other guy brought in to replace a couple of staff members who had departed abruptly, one by way of casket and the other by way of an desk emptied over a weekend. Jeff had worked there in 2008 and was extremely excited to repeat the performance as he told me everyone had made out like bandits last time.

We both quit before the 2012 campaign season was complete as getting cut off at the knees while maintaining an impossible tempo is only acceptable when you are getting paid. Having served in the trenches with someone like we did forms a bond of brotherhood even if it was only for a short time. He invited me out to networking events over the last couple of years, so we had stayed in touch. Jeff assured me he only needed a couple of weeks to get his feet under him.

As a couple of weeks turned into a couple of months, my newly happy home became steadily less happy. Megan hadn’t liked storing his shit since June and was even less thrilled to offer him a place to stay. I was insistent because I was taught to help friends in need. It had led me to bring my dad to live with us when we were newly married. Giving my nephew a launching point to spreading his wings was another guest I agreed to without quite clearing it and turned out to be a bit of the disaster I expected but she never did. I valued my wife’s opinion on a great many things, but knew what the answer would be when it came to allowing someone inside our personal space in such a fashion without expectations.

I still wouldn’t have done anything different in hindsight and that would always be a problem for us.

Thanksgiving arrived and Megan pasted a smile on her face for her favorite holiday, but I could tell she was getting angrier by the day. No one else would have noticed, but when you live with someone for as long as we had, reading your partner becomes instinctive. It was for me at any rate. Megan was less skilled at figuring me out and making notes for the next time we ventured down those dark paths. The World’s Worst Houseguest would be there for dinner and was bringing a plus-one. No problem where I was concerned given the amount of food we typically cook for varied list of potential guests, but my girl wasn’t thrilled about that either. There simply comes a time when everything someone does irritates you and Jeff had crossed that point with Megan almost from the get go.

I certainly don’t blame her. The guy was a total nightmare to have in the house. He was out at all hours “networking” to find a gig and slept until three in the afternoon before hanging out and doing it again. The alarm turning off at oh-dark-thirty would wake Megan every time and finding sleep again was never a straightforward process. I sleep like the dead ten seconds after my head hits the pillow. I could take the dude’s idiosyncrasies in stride like I did with everything else, but well before Christmas I would become much more aggressive in ejecting our unwanted guest.

When the front door was replaced and all the locks along with it, his ouster became fait accompli.

My continued lack of interviews had rightly led my wife to believe we wouldn’t get the house remodeled in time for the baby that was growing rapidly in her still flat stomach. I could see the thoughts weighing heavy on her mind and finally asked her what the problem was because she would never tell me what “it” was unless I asked first. Turned out she wanted to sell the house because we couldn’t get the remodel done before June and she simply didn’t want to bring our son home to a place in that kind of ramshackle condition. I had always come down on the fact that we owned far less than it was worth and patience was required to realize the investment. I had also grown up in a series of strange and wondrous places, so my son coming home to a house that he would see remodeled over the years felt both comfortable and familiar to me.  

It was a thousand kinds of hell for Megan, so I was happy to acquiesce to her demands, but I wanted to leave Washington DC altogether if we sold the house. Her sister lived in Los Angeles and I could pursue my entertainment career. It sounded like a win-win to me, but she took some convincing. As far as we knew, our $100,000 second mortgage had gone away two years earlier when Chase stopped cashing our checks while still processing our first mortgage each month. What we didn’t know was they had stuck it in a drawer after taking a tax write-off, waiting patiently for the day we would need to sell the house. That day had arrived and that lien was getting ready to pop up like the homicidal clown from the Stephen King novel IT.

We assumed the house was worth about a hundred thousand more than we owed and that would be more than enough capital to give us a solid jumpstart in LA. Megan had no patience for putting the house on the market and desperately wanted to get settled before the third trimester started, so we set a bargain price and I found a buyer who would gladly pay cash and close quickly enough to satisfy my wife’s desire to close no later than the end of February 2014. I knew it was about the worst strategy possible to getting the most money out of the house, but my wife was anxious and pregnant. Those two data points combined to destroy my instinctive resistance to approaching such a huge decision in a state of ignorance and fear.

I was right about our self-imposed deadline screwing us out of the house’s true worth but didn’t really know just how right I was until many months later. We had underestimated the value of our fixer-upper by at least a hundred grand and possibly as much as two hundred thousand. I also drastically underestimated what the house might be worth with a remodel having been completed. Had I known the eventual sales price would nearly reach $1.2 million, I probably would have put up a stiffer fight to stay in our “wreck” of a home.

Or maybe not. I didn’t want to upset my pregnant wife any more than she usually was these days due to hormones and a husband with a less than predictable income. If we could make the expected profit from the house, starting our new life in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles would be a snap. Even if we didn’t make another penny, it would last us a year. I had never gone more than a couple months without getting paid, so I wasn’t concerned about our prospects. There was a ton of opportunity in the entertainment industry for a passionate creative with my particular and peculiar skill set. If I could climb back on the corporate ladder anywhere, it would be a perfect place to try. Megan was a labor and delivery nurse, so her skills were in high demand everywhere. Los Angeles was no exception and finding a well-paying gig would be a snap when she was ready to go back to work.

We scheduled the closing for February 12 and crossed our fingers that the title search would come back clean. My former paralegal wife wasn’t optimistic. I tried to be, but even I had my doubts that getting out of that house would be so simple. I had already started to research how we might get out of the contract we had signed should sometime come back during the title search. As far as I could tell without more extensive queries to my only lawyer friend Curtis Stone, we were well and truly fucked should we owe more than we thought we owed.

In fact, our entire profit could be wiped out and we would still be forced to sell the house at a loss.

Two weeks after signing the contract, the title company still hadn’t come back with any issues, so we breathed a huge sigh of relief and started planning the move west in earnest. We first arranged to have a POD delivered to the front of our house so we could leisurely pack over the next three weeks until our closing arrived the day before Valentine’s Day. We started paring down our belongings to what could fit in the eight feet long by seven feet wide by eight feet high shipping container that was comically delivered with great fuss and circumstance on our busy street in the middle of the week and required the project manager from a nearby renovation project to get done.

Since our former houseguest was now living on various couches in the area, he had appropriated one of our large travel backpacks as his own on the way out the door some weeks earlier and left the rest of his stuff in boxes scattered throughout my basement office as well as a king size memory foam mattress in the upstairs guestroom. He steadfastly refused to get his stuff or return my wife’s pack, though it turned out to be a blessing in very rough disguise.

 The first thing we packed was our Tempur-Pedic mattress since it would need to go against the back of the container and be held in place by the rest of our stuff. I am not sure why we made that decision in hindsight, but the extra mattress in the guestroom seemed good enough for the next few weeks. Room by room and floor by floor, we emptied out the house into the POD or into area Goodwill Stores. We were basically finished the week before closing and all that was left were odds and ends that could be tucked into the empty spaces left for that purpose as I worked my Tetris magic to make everything fit. As we cruised into the homestretch, the title search company called to tell us there was a second lien on the property and we would need to get it straightened out if closing was going to take place on time.

We went into immediate crisis mode. Megan was in no condition to tackle the frustrating runaround I was about to get from Chase Bank when the title company punted the ball to us as the most interested party in getting it cleaned up. Thus began my marathon phone journey to find our missing second mortgage and determine the disposition. Why had they simply stopped cashing our checks? It seemed odd and I found tantalizing trails on the Internet that hinted we might have been subject to some sort of government program that let companies write-off second mortgages that were a certain amount of time in arrears. We had gotten six months behind when my company imploded, which triggered some sort of automatic process that no one could adequately explain to me.

It quickly become clear that we owed an extra hundred thousand dollars and would be lucky to walk away with anything after the closing next week. More bad news came when we met with Curtis at his gorgeous mid-century modern home in Takoma Park. I hadn’t seen him in a few years and he had lost a dramatic amount of weight in the meantime. He laughed when I mentioned it and said he had been running marathons for a while now. He was down to 160 pounds now, which didn’t seem right for his six-foot-four-inch frame, but the man was the healthiest dude I knew and certainly seemed happier than I had ever seen him as he gave us the grand tour of his home before we got down to business.

I told him the attorneys we had consulted said we had no choice but to sell the house to the investors we found at the below-market price we agreed to or they would most certainly take us to court. Curtis thought that might be a bit of an overstatement since the law wasn’t supposed to be punitive in that fashion if there is a material difference in circumstances that changes the understanding of the contract. He took all of our paperwork and some extensive notes on a yellow legal pad before showing us to the front door. He gave us each a hug and asked to touch Megan’s stomach. She said yes with a smile that was echoed by the gentle man who had put her mind at ease for the first time in days.

Leave it to a Buddhist to instantly bring calm to chaos.

Too bad he wasn’t right about our legal prospects and it wasn’t long before he called to give us the bad news. We had exactly two choices in this situation. Sell the property and take a loss or hunker down and court a lawsuit. The case law was unclear if we decided on the latter course. He mused that maybe the buyer would bring their price up, so we didn’t take such a bath in the process but his tone of his voice clearly belied his belief that such a thing would happen. He wished me well and told me to keep up to speed. I promised I would and hung to give me already stressed-out mate the latest piece of this crazy puzzle we were constructing.

We started from the worst-case scenario as was Megan’s process when it came to these sort of things. I wasn’t feeling at my optimistic best just then, so I went down that rabbit hole of our savings being drained in advance of losing our house and being put onto the street. I knew my sister in Denver would take us in without a thought as would my family in Eugene, Oregon. It just depended on her preference because I had none. It had been years since I lived in either city and both seemed a far distant second to Tinsel Town.

We came down in favor of Oregon since being in such close proximity to my eclectic family was too much for Megan to process just then. We would be on the west coast at least and within easy striking distance of Portland where a burgeoning technology scene would provide a lot more opportunity than the Mile High City in my current field. We decided that very night we could limp into Oregon on fumes and throw ourselves on the abiding mercy of the Miller clan to make it through to the other side of this challenge. I was extremely excited by the idea because I had been brainstorming a reality television series with my Uncle Ethan called Getting to Know You. He would set out to meet all the different Ethan Millers he could find via social media and we would film the effort. I had also been talking with an old Navy friend who filmed rocket launches at an Air Force Base four hours from Los Angeles and drove down for open mic stand-up comedy shows on the weekends.

This could work with a little luck and a little daring, so we started to implement our plan right away. We redirected our POD to Portland and reached out to my uncles. They were happy to have us, of course, and would eagerly await our arrival. The vacation rental we secured in Venice Beach was prepaid, so we lost two grand to a woman who probably didn’t need the money and rented it out the second we cancelled. We eventually got our security deposit back but not without having to exchange a series of escalating emails to get it done. We informed Chase that we would be selling at a price that would satisfy the second mortgage and received an updated closing document with the final blow in black ink thankfully. We would walk away with a whopping $1,256.00 after everyone else was paid.

It was even worse than we thought. We were literally cast adrift without a net at the point.

In a Hail Mary desperation play, I crafted a humble and heartfelt letter to the two partners who had bought the property from us. I explained that we understood we were legally obligated to sell the house to them at the current price and walk away with next to nothing as a result, but I wanted them to know just how badly that would screw us. They had mentioned to me they wanted a good outcome for all involved. I wondered how they saw that happening when we would clearly come out on the short end of this deal. We scheduled a call to discuss the options as they saw them.

After the redundant recital of what we all already agreed was true, that we were fucked, the senior partner asked me directly, “What would it take for you guys to consider selling your house to us a positive experience?”

I replied without hesitation. “If we could make fifty thousand dollars when all was said and done, we would be extremely happy with this deal.”

He was silent for a moment and then thanked me for my candor as he hadn’t really been expecting such a precise answer to what he thought was a rhetorical question. He said they would be in touch as soon as possible, but he was sure we could come to an accommodation that would make everyone happy. Not more than a couple hours later, he called me back and confirmed they could increase the price by fifty thousand dollars and would that be enough to proceed with closing. It was my turn to thank him, which I did profusely before hanging up to share this ridiculously good news with Megan.

It was half as much as we had hoped to make, but since we had refocused on Portland as our final destination, it should go just as far as the original amount we wanted to have when we hit the ground in Los Angeles because the cost of living was half as much in Oregon. The math didn’t quite work out that way, but it was enough of a reprieve to restart the optimistic fervor with which we had started the adventure a few months earlier and to completely fulfill our obligations to Chase Bank. Our closing was rescheduled for ten days later than we originally planned, but we were basically back on track. We set the POD to be picked up a couple days before our new closing date and began to tick items off Megan’s list.

We finished selling our house on Friday, February 28, but the POD couldn’t be picked up until Saturday, so we negotiated with the buyer to let us stay overnight by paying a deposit and signing a contract at the closing table. The second snow storm in as many weeks was approaching the area and was expected to hit on Monday which meant the entire city started to lose their shit before a single flake hit the ground. We had to be on the road early the next day to stay in the crease between multiple storms moving across the country, so we crossed our fingers that the POD would actually be picked up during the scheduled window between 10am and 1pm.

In keeping with the rest of the last few months, the drive wasn’t on time and when I called, I was told he wouldn’t be there until sometime between 1pm and 4pm. We didn’t have to be present, though, so if we had a friend who could be there for us, we could still get on the road. Fortunately, our longtime neighbor Abigail was home with her new baby and her husband had been called off of work at a government agency even though a single flake had yet to fall. They readily agreed to make sure all of our worldly possessions made it on back of the awkward specialized “PODzilla” truck that took a significant amount of clumsy maneuvering to function in the tight confines of Washington DC streets.

Final detail taken care of, we locked our house on 8th Street Northeast for the final time and slipped the key through the mail-slot in the door as agreed. Our two large dogs and everything we would need to live for the next month was already packed into the back of the Prius, so Megan and I hugged it out with our friends and hit the road around noon, only an hour behind schedule. We wound our way toward Interstate-66 and headed west until we got to the Shenandoah Valley where we swung south for the North Carolina border. It was a trip we had done a couple times before, so it was déjà vu all over again.

We stopped for gas a couple miles down I-81 and that was when the first of our potential disasters took place. I had parked the car in a small lot beyond the gas station once we had filled up and inside to take a leak. I came back out to let Megan take her turn while I gave the dogs a piss and have a smoke near where dozens of big rigs were parked to wait out the coming storm that had yet to arrive in this part of Virginia. I wandered back to the car and got the pups back into their den. I sat and checked out Facebook while I waited for Megan to finish her business which didn’t too much longer.

Passengers all present and accounted for, I pushed the power button to start the Prius and nothing happened. It was as if the car had never worked. It didn’t click or whir or make odd noises to no avail. It did exactly nothing. The first words out of my mouth were “What the fuck is wrong with this fucking car?” and were quickly followed by “I think Sparky is dead, dear.”

The anxiety level went from All Systems Normal to DEFCON 3 in seconds flat.

I told my steadily growing wife to relax. I would go over to the gas station and see if someone could give us a jump. It turned out that no one could, but I was given a number of a guy who could be there in no time flat. He answered the phone promptly, knew exactly where we were and promised to be there in no time flat. He was there in no time flat in an enormous flatbed tow truck more suited to sixteen wheelers than our tiny blue Prius. The man was as big and burly as the vehicle he climbed out and joined me at the front of our car.

He admitted that he had never jump-started a Prius before, so while he got his truck prepared, I searched Google for some sort of instructions to help make sense of the owner manual’s cryptic instructions. A few minutes later, our car jolted back to life and purred gently as I paid the guy for his quick response to my call. He suggested we get the battery replaced before getting back on the road because it was pretty likely our battery was toast. I called the closest Toyota dealer, fifty miles down the highway in Harrisonburg, Virginia. They did indeed have the special battery we needed and could install it that very afternoon, but we needed to hurry because they would be closing at 4pm since it was Saturday.

We got there forty-five minutes later and it wasn’t much more than an hour before we were back on the road. We didn’t really plan out our daily destinations in advance since we didn’t know how quickly we would be moving or what kind of weather we might encounter. This was the first cross-country trip I had done with the benefit of smart phones, GPS and access to the Internet in the middle of nowhere in southern Virginia looking for a place to stay in the middle of nowhere in northern Tennessee where we hoped to stop for the night. It was surprisingly easy to find someplace that would take a last minute registration and didn’t mind our two large dogs.

We hoped to make it to Oklahoma the next day, but the powerful storm currently dumping more than a foot of snow beat us to it. We got as far as Arkansas’s western border before darkness and icy roads forced us to stop for the night in Fort Smith, a good twenty miles off Interstate-40. We had already reserved a room at the La Quinta and slid gratefully into a spot seemingly saved just for us near the front door. I peeled my fingers from the steering wheel where they had been white-knuckling it for a good three hours at that point and felt the tension gradually drain from my shoulders.

Megan checked into the room while I let the dogs do their business around the side of the building. I did my business as well and the last of the stress melted away. All I wanted now was a drink, dinner and bed. We found the first two at an Outback Steakhouse nearby. Rather than brave the treacherous, ice-covered parking lot with my now very pregnant wife, we got back in the bar and I skidded my way over to the restaurant. It was still sketchy getting inside, but eventually we were seated in a booth. I ordered a double Maker’s Mark, neat, and Megan ordered some herbal tea. The food was less memorable.

We thought we might lose a day hunkered down in the Fort Smith La Quinta while the area dug out, but Monday morning dawned bright and sunny, so we decided to push on at whatever speed the roads would safely allow. We were lucky we had gotten out when we did because the storm we avoided last night was pounding the District of Columbia today with multiple inches of sticky wet snow. Getting to my sister’s house in Colorado was totally doable if the weather remained as clear as the forecaster suggested.

Twenty painful miles took us almost an hour to traverse, but we eventually made it back to I-40 and pointed our wheels westward.

* * *

We pulled into my sister’s house in the Denver suburbs nearly thirteen hours later to find unseasonably warm weather and a lumpy mattress in the basement for our little family to share for the few days we would be in Colorado. Thus started the Death by a Thousand Couches portion of the trip where Megan was subject to varying degree of uncomfortable sleeping arrangements while we waited to unpack our Tempur-Pedic in whatever home we could find in Portland. It was actually a pleasure to pull into the La Quinta in Twin Falls, Idaho, after we said goodbye to my mom and step father at the iconic Johnson’s Corner restaurant and truck stop on I-25.

The last leg of the journey took us through the desert and mountain landscapes of eastern Oregon to my Uncle Ethan’s place in Eugene, where he lived with two rambunctious dogs and the ghost of a wife he had lost to diabetes a year earlier. Uncle Roy lived a few doors down on the alley behind his place, so spending time with both of them was a snap. We immediately started making days trips to Portland to secure a new house, only to find the rental market totally out of control.

After a frustrating day of seeing shit houses or being one a ten applicants for nice ones, we happened upon an open house in the Buckman neighborhood that very afternoon. We got there a half-hour early and were first on the scene when the homeowner arrived to accept applications. We had a couple of uninterrupted minutes to chat the guy up and find out he had recently had a second child which is what prompted his family to find a larger place and rent out their starter home. I smiled and rubbed Megan’s belly a few times, remarking how it would be the perfect size for our growing family and the huge yard for the dogs was a significant bonus. A couple more people arrived, so we took our cue to exit after leaving our information for the “draw from a hat” evolution he and his wife would do later to randomly pick who would be invited to submit a formal application.

Seemed like an odd process and I suspected they would be a bit more logical in their selection, but Megan was worried anew since the house was a cute little 1930s bungalow on a quiet street smack in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood. She was equally optimistic and pessimistic as we covered the two hours back to Eugene in a steady drizzle. By the time we pulled to the curb in front of Ethan’s house, we had already received the call from our soon-to-be landlord that they would be delighted to have us rent their home. Since neither of us had jobs, we had to rely on good credit reports, a fat bank account and our willingness to put up an additional month’s rent along with the first month, last month and security deposit.

We jumped through the various hoops and a week later the house was officially ours.

Two weeks later, we left Eugene before the sun came up with our stuff and our dogs packed into the Prius and completed the journey we had started a month earlier in Washington DC. The POD would arrive the same afternoon, so the first order of business was to hit Ikea for a bedframe since we needed somewhere to sleep and Megan wasn’t going to settle for an air mattress again when our ridiculously comfortable bed was so nearby. I spent over three weeks packing our all worldly possessions into the POD and just over three hours emptying it out. We arranged for our new couch and dresser to be delivered that same day, so our impersonal rental was a cozy home in very short order.

The nursery was completed only the day before our son’s scheduled arrival. Though I had two months to finish the dresser that would be the final piece, I was busy finishing a couple of websites with Caleb and east coast clients. I was also about a hundred and fifty pages into this book, so every moment not spent hanging out with my wife exploring our new city was spent on creative pursuits to pay bills both present and future. I was also trying to find a day job, so Megan could avoid going back to work once Zander was born. I even had a final interview with a firm that was perfect on paper but didn’t contact me after whatever it was I said that knocked me out of the running.

Our savings had taken a substantial hit moving our family across the country, so the fact that I couldn’t find a job right away started to cause serious fights almost immediately. I was still bringing in web work, but my freelance income had long been a sore point and did little to relieve her anxiety. The only thing that would do that is going back to work herself since finding a gig would be relatively easy. She secured her Oregon nursing license in a few short weeks and was hired by the first hospital she applied to as a labor and deliver nurse making a lot more than she had made in Washington DC.

I stopped looking for a permanent gig and settled into being Mr. Mom instead while squeezing in time for writing or contract work as it came in. Megan going back to work so soon after giving birth to our son was likely the straw the broke the back of our perpetually terminal relationship. Rather than relieving her stress, the pressure doubled. Her job is both physically and mentally demanding. Incorporating a newborn into your life is equally so but for very different reasons. Even though I took up most of the slack on the latter, the former didn’t allow Megan the freedom to be the kind of mommy she desperately needed to be. My inability to secure a full-time gig became the focus of the anger that resulted.

This meant predictable responses from me since I was being challenged like I never had before and felt like I was doing a pretty good job all things considered. Being a husband and a dad comes natural to me, for the most part, but being a mom has been the hardest thing I have ever done in a life filled with craziness and is a role I am happy to relinquish. I doubled down on trying to secure enough web business to keep my lack of a “real job” from affecting our finances while immersing myself in my steadily growing manuscript whenever I had a chance. My wife wanted to spend every moment not working or asleep with an amazing and fast-growing Zander, so it worked great for the first few months until it suddenly stopped.

Our first counseling session was in a trendy part of Portland called The Pearl District. It was Megan’s favorite area and we walked it frequently while pushing the boy in his bad-ass stroller we dubbed The Jeep. We tried counseling a few years prior and it had been a frustrating failure. All six sessions focused mostly on me until I blew up at the counselor for once again deflecting the “healing” away from my wife. With this counselor, I actually got a chance to discuss how it made me feel when Megan pushed my well-worn buttons in a pattern perfected over many conflicts before the doctor “diagnosed” me as probably having Attention Deficit Disorder. It seemed like an odd response given my ability to hyper-focus on multiple things all at once. He added that Megan’s job working permanent nights was also adding stress and she should find a new gig.

Zander stayed still for the 52-minute session, and promptly fell asleep when got him back into his safety seat in the car. I pulled away from the grand Victorian style mansion where the doctor had his office, already reading the tight muscles at my wife’s jawline. I thought the dude had seriously nailed all of our issues with time to spare for questions from us, but clearly Megan had different ideas about things went even though he had simply echoed conclusion she had already come to on her own.

“I think it’s time we considered something,” I started as an initial response as we stopped in traffic where Lovejoy Street turned to meet the Broadway Bridge.

“That we are just too different to stay together,” was her immediate response and I couldn’t disagree.

“Time of death,” I said and glanced at the dashboard clock before adding, “Eleven eleven.”

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