He sits there, taking his shoes off one by one. Losing change as it falls through the holes in the jeans. Laughing to himself as perspiration runs down the top of the can rolling onto his gravely hands. His next words were that of many married men insisting that his wife get him another beer. He argues with her because he believes that he shouldn't have to get another one for himself when he's been slaving over his boss all day. After a few more beers his wife, just like every night, walks into their bedroom slamming the door with authority. She holds her knees close to her, closing her eyes like floodgates to stop the tears from running out, begging God that her husband changes. He knows that she's not going to leave because where else would she go, from one broken home to another. All that she wants is a better life for her two kids that are 11 years apart from one another. The cracking open of the cans gets louder as if they are begging him to stop. TSK TSk Tsk tsk until he finally falls asleep, intoxicated to the ends of the Earth and the whole house is completely at peace.
There was a time, in the beginning of their marriage that he wasn't like this. There was a time where he was a six figure man supporting his family with a trucking job. But the very thing that is killing him now ended his life back in 2005. Now he drinks every night to punish himself for the very thing that put him there. He drove a truck all around the country delivering oil for Agland. One weary night, he drove with his brother to get a couple of drinks down at The Break. Everyone knew Rich at the break as the happily married man with two kids. Some nights, depending on the week, he would stay until close with many other people because he enjoyed their company. He was the man to be around, their leader. Just like in high school he was looked up to and he was very successful right off the bat because of his father. His father taught him that you shouldn't take your days for granted so spend them as if they were your last. At a very young age he started helping his grandfather and mother out on their farm. No matter what he never took handouts because he loved the satisfaction from earning it himself. In high school, he was the quarterback of the football team, a tremendous leader to his peers. He had that “go get it” attitude that was so contagious that he inspired people. People still looked up to him as that leader. After that night, February 6, he didn't show up to the break for weeks. Many of the guys questioned where he was and if he was doing alright. Truth be told, he couldn't even find himself and he wondered when his last day at Agland would be with a DUI on his record. Everyone could tell that his mood had changed and no one knew how to help him or if anyone even could. He was a walking shell. Rich still woke up every morning and on his way to the bathroom, he put on his fake smile as part of his morning routine. Like he was still the perfect dad or the perfect husband. On his way out of the door, he would kiss his wife and kids goodbye and start his car to leave back to the break and not to work. The bar would welcome him back with smiles and hugs but he didn't reciprocate. He walked straight to the bar and asked for the strongest drink they had to hit him hard right away, so that on his way back home his family couldn't tell that he was drunk before. On the way back home, he would reminisce about what he done not only to himself but to his family.
After a week, things started to become clear to his wife about what was going on. Every time she would ask if they could eat out or if she could go and buy some groceries for the family he would get frustrated. Nothing was ever his fault but only his family’s. “Rosie, I did not raise these kids to be needy why do we need to eat out when there is perfectly good food in the fridge to cook and eat?¨ Looking into the fridge, the food was sparse.“I'm not frustrated with you or the kids, I'm frustrated at myself,¨ Rich explained to Rosie. He’d bow his head in shame as if his father caught him in the act of mischief. No matter how much Rosie would plead with him to tell her what was wrong. “Please oh please Richard please tell me what's wrong.¨ He simply wouldn't because he couldn't bring himself to tell her what had happened. He was raised to believe that he should lie to the person he loves if he believed that the truth would hurt them more than the lie. So for two months his family believed that he was still employed.
At the end of two months, Rich came home to the children in the basement and to a wife that he couldn't tell if she was crying out of frustration or sadness. She was holding a letter in her hand that stated ¨ Dear residents, You have failed to comply with your payment to finish paying off the house for 3 months. Due to the fact you have failed to pay you will be evicted within 30 days. Please leave the premises before then. Any belongings left behind will belong to the state. Thank You.” Rosie threw the letter at his face with force and it cut him just below his eyelid storming into her room where she had locked herself many times before. Tears hit the letter like mortars of war on a battlefield and again he bowed his head in shame. For a week, he slept on the couch that was as comfortable as a bed in the hospital. Under mother’s rule no one in the house was allowed to say a word to him. He was surrounded by people but completely and utterly alone.
Slowly darkness overcame his feelings as he sat in sorrow staring at a blank screen, as if he were looking into the nothingness that was now his new life. Rich grew tired as he sat at home watching his soon to be ex wife and his daughter salvage for what little money that they could by working in the small town that they did. He didn't know who he was anymore because he didn't believe that he was a man at all.
In the middle of the night, he silently packed his bags with all the clothes that he could. Before he left he spent the past several days writing each of his family members a letter of apology. “Dear Rosie. My darling angel. I'm sorry for the pain that I have caused this family and more importantly to you. There is not enough sorries or gifts in this world that could explain my sorrows. I'm sorry but this time sorry isn't good enough. I want no, I need you to know that you are the strongest, most intelligent, most beautiful woman that I have ever ment. Lo siento mi amor.” He left his wife his wedding band. To his son he relinquished his father's dog tags from his Marine days in WWII and Korea. And for his daughter, a car with the keys on the seat. And without looking back, he opened the door and walked out, continuing his lonesome journey.