Starting anew in North Carolina, the simple life only complicates a relationship that proves that love is better kept at a distance, or at least while one of you is at work most of the time.
  1. Bitten by a tick on Day One, Victoria mysteriously develops Celiac, a disease no one had heard of in 2010.
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    I still think it's the tick, but she disagrees. Also, because we have a yard that we are responsible for, and at Victoria's request, I rake up the entire leaf-covered yard so that we can grow grass. It takes two full days and I'm convinced the last tenant left the yard like this for a reason, but I have the opportunity to absorb several albums I would not have gotten to listen to inside the house. Grass never grows and we let the yard repopulate itself with leaves.
  2. Filming the ending Free Throws Across America, in which I recruited my brand new neighbors to shoot baskets in the background (it's the good part), the camera picks up Victoria saying something nice about me to Sam.
    On take 2, Victoria backed up the "camera car" to the start, and just before action, she can be heard saying to Sam with amazement, "Your daddy did all of this." I hear it while editing and am glad I have proof that she was once impressed with me.
  3. Between Bojangles and our backyard, chickens were everywhere.
    Pretty soon after moving into the house on Apache Lane, we had a knock on our door. An attractive middle-aged woman had come to tell us that their chicken had gotten into our yard and asked my help to help her husband catch it. I went to the backyard just in time to see the chicken running right at me, trailed by a crazed-looking old man who screamed, "Get it!!" Not knowing how & where to grab a chicken, I let it pass. The old man cursed and continued pursuit up the street. Welcome to the South.
  4. Yes, one time I accidentally pulled Sam's arm off.
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    While my mom and grandparents were visiting from Pennsylvania for Sam's 3rd birthday party, Sam and I were playing on the bed. I started to pull him up by his hands, as you do, and he threw himself back suddenly. I knew instantly something was wrong. An hour and $82 later, a doctor flexed Sam's arm twice and popped it back in easily. Birthday crisis averted.
  5. The two of us became highly competitive in our desperate job seeking, but as a result, I spent far too much time in my "office" applying for jobs, as did she, her office being the living room couch.
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    Most of my pictures of her from our time in the house on Apache Lane are her on the love seat, with her eyes on her laptop.
  6. One night, taking a break from a job hunt that was painfully futile, I noticed that the first Twilight movie was new On Demand (in Standard Definition, woof). I turn to her on the couch and ask, "Hey, wanna make fun of this crappy Twilight movie with me?"
    She barely looks up from her laptop, saying, "Yeah, whatever." I knew if I could hook her with the funny, there would be a chance her lap could be warmed by me rather than her hard drive for once.
  7. During the first 20 minutes, she actually joined me in mocking how awful the movie was. Then, just beyond the point at which I had turned the movie off when last I attempted it in California, during one of Edward and Bella's first big scenes together, she leaned forward and slid her laptop onto the coffee table.
    I made a snide remark about insurance deductibles for vampire hand damage, and she leaned back saying, "Shhh shhh shhhh." I knew right then that I had made, yes, a huge mistake. She watched the rest of the movie in rapt silence. I left the room forty minutes from the end and alternated looking for work with Google searches for how to position my penis at night to best take advantage of the vibrations caused by her snoring.
  8. 2-3 business days pass and I'm waking up looking at a one-sheet of Edward and Bella.
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    Naturally the poster hangs on my side of the bed, mocking me via promotional material as I once mocked the movie itself. She got a $40 frame for it and everything.
  9. I finally get a job, as the online manager of a college book store, but it is short-lived.
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    I last all of three months and it is by far the worst job I've ever had, and I'm including the time I worked as a teenager with the captain of the girls' swim team at a local sub shop (she criticized my grill cleaning technique and I ceased to care what she looked like under her one-piece). With Victoria's blessing, I quit at lunch without saying a word.
  10. I start work as a temp at UNC Chapel Hill, which becomes full-time in a matter of months.
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    Between this job and the one I moved just across the parking lot to in 2014, I've worked on campus for five years. So yeah, I can maintain some relationships here.
  11. My First Elective Surgery
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    Since the move, I had developed an odd limp, which I immediately feared was polio, but what turned out to be some weird bone thing caused by all the tree football kicking I had done in the backyard of our Sierra Madre house. I had my first surgery only a few weeks into my temp job with UNC, and because I would be in a walking boot for weeks, I got a better parking spot than the Dean. (pulls at suspenders)
  12. The videotape marked "EVIDENCE"
    Two nights following my surgery, as I was drugged to the gills, Victoria thought it would be hilarious to videotape my barely-conscious thoughts. I would be falling asleep mid-sentence, attempting to hold onto that horrible Stephen King pulp novel, and worse, hearing music in the wrong key. That same night, she noticed that I had stopped breathing for way too long. She called the doctor and they asked what I took. 800mg of whatever it was. Turns out that it was supposed to be 200. I was ODing.
  13. We move AGAIN, this time to the first house we will actually own.
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    For those counting, this is the fifth time I have moved in as many years. Her dad is similarly nomadic. This house is co-signed by Victoria's mom and her stepdad, with a large down payment supplied by his father. The only stipulation is that we house their teenage daughter as she attends her last year of high school, in anticipation of in-state tuition at UNC one year later. We agree to this, as we both like the sister, and find a house that has a space all her own for her five years of school.
  14. I even get a space for my stereo equipment!
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    (Yes, that is a closet.)
  15. After one year, she is unable to find work, her film degree failing to have much pull in the RTP area, so instead she decides to go to grad school to teach drama.
    She had several interviews, but it was clear that they were just interested in asking for juicy on-set stories from her time on Grey's Anatomy. This continues to be the case to this day.
  16. Victoria's sister decides to attend UNC Wilmington, after failing to even apply for UNC Chapel Hill, and then doesn't get classified as an NC resident anyway, which makes the whole her living with us idea literally worthless to her parents.
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    We take a trip to Wilmington, where I help Victoria find Dawson's house from Dawson's Creek, another of her undying obsessions. Otherwise, her sister's time with us is uneventful, other than the time I woke in the middle of the night with a charley horse and she believed sex was being had. No, I tell her later, it was because she had eaten all the goddamn bananas.
  17. Victoria starts her schooling, and meets new friends in the drama department of her grad program.
    Victoria has always been swift to burn bridges, so because of this, she does not acquire or retain many friends. When I met her, she had literally three friends other than me. Just after we married, she was down to 2. Nevertheless, as these new people friend her on Facebook, I see that they're all guys. I check each of them out and determine that all of the theater guys look pretty gay to super gay. I breathe a sigh of relief, my maleness unchallenged.
  18. I notice an uptick in her nitpicking, where things as permanent as how I breathe are being critiqued. Another time she tells me I pee too loudly, that it sounds like an elephant is going to the bathroom.
    I tell her, "If the trunk fits." I am still proud of this line.
  19. During an otherwise meaningless night of Carolina Panthers preseason football, she leaves to watch the game with her school friends, despite her usually having zero interest in watching football with me.
    We had just gotten a brand new TV that afternoon, something I see now was a consolation prize. In a few months, I will have had that TV longer than our marriage. I ask whose house she is going to and she says the name Marc. Yes, with a fucking C. When she leaves, I look him up again on Facebook. He looks less gay and instead more threatening to me. It's like this Gaydar doesn't even work! Closing up all of the drawers she always left open, I find brand new underwear. Sexy, see-through underwear.
  20. The next afternoon, while Sam naps, she asks me to come into the bathroom and close the door. I have long told her that I do not want to know what she does in here, and from the look on her face, this is also not a sex op. She crosses her arms and tells me that it's over. I can only laugh. It is August 26th, the anniversary of the day we met.
    She has always had a way of accidentally commemorating happy memories by shitting all over them. I cry for two straight days. I am able to achieve this because I work right across from the Men's room. Following these two days, I begin a strict regimen of self-deprecation to get me by.
  21. Therapy
    In the state of North Carolina, you have to wait one year from the legal separation before a divorce can be granted. Before the separation, you have to try therapy. I agree reluctantly, and because my insurance covers it.
  22. "I'm Not Looking, She's Not Listening"
    Our therapist was at least 7 years younger than either of us, and looked like the wife of a friend, which led me to immediately distrust her views. Any therapist you see should have had an equal amount of life experience and pain in order to impart any meaningful wisdom. Another thing I had a hard time with: the series of low-cut tops she would wear. I wondered, was this a test? Because I wasn't looking. It's just a line of skin, after all. Later I would have 2 sex dreams about her in a row.
  23. Our busty, would-be sexpot of a junior high school therapist gave the two of us homework assignments before our appointment. Each of us were to make a list (hey!) of our desired traits in a partner, and ways we could change to meet those desires.
    I always came straight from work to the appointments, and because I got there early I knew I could procrastinate and finish my list in the car. When Victoria arrived, she said she forgot to do the list. She didn't know I had feverishly scribbled out my list in the car, so I could take the moral high ground and accuse her of not taking this seriously. Besides, we both knew she didn't want this to succeed. I stood and told the doc it was over. She closed the gap in her blouse with two fingers.
  24. Separate or together, we are both too poor to leave House 5. We decide to split the house. She gave me the master bedroom and took the much-smaller office and Aerobed for herself.
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    Which told me that she knew I was the one who had been wronged. I moved my stereo equipment into the master bedroom and listened to it as loud as I wanted, but as I was only interested in listening to plaintive acoustic songs, she never noticed. It is around this time that she begins to dismissively call me "the roommate" in phone calls I can hear over the hushed tones of early Elliott Smith.
  25. A month passes and I get a strange phone call from the therapist.
    She called from her unlisted personal cell, otherwise I wouldn't have answered. I was driving to the shared house, so I was able to have an uninterrupted 2 minute conversation with her. She started by asking how I was doing, but devolved into a series of awkward silences before she finally told me that if I wanted to come see her alone, that would be all right. At the time, I was still too upset about the whole deal, but thinking back, I probably could have had sex with that doctor. God damn it.
  26. Suddenly, our co-habitation becomes so poisonous, surely because she wanted to consummate her relationship with this kid Marc without it feeling like cheating, Victoria threatens to have the police remove me if I don't move out immediately.
    Sam draws up plans to build a staircase to the top of the house, so that I can live in the upstairs and Victoria can live in the downstairs, but they are summarily rejected.
  27. I move out and into the cheapest place I could find that would have me. The apartment is small enough that legally it can be hung on the wall of someone's house, but it gets me away from her and continues my streak of moving once a year on average (having lived under three separate roofs--rooves?-- in 2011 alone).
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    I could have moved in November 4th, but I requested November 5th for Back To The Future reasons.
  28. I find out from another friend back home that Justin, my co-worker from the day Victoria and I met, had written a follow-up column about us in the newspaper he was now Editor-In-Chief of, this one making fun of how sad my life had become in just 5 short years.
    I never found a copy in print or online, because the paper's circulation didn't even qualify them for a website, but what I heard second-hand wasn't very nice. Still, I appreciated the symmetry in his editorialization of my life's ups and downs.
  29. Sam
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    Because Victoria had been through divorce many, many, many, many, many, many, many times from a young age (her parents each on their fourth marriage), she asked 4-year-old Sam what he wanted (other than the two of us getting back together). He said simply that he wanted to see both of us every day, and that is the way it's been - barring vacations - since November of 2011. He sleeps here every other night, so he sees me either in the morning or at night every single day.
  30. One Year Later, in a Raleigh, NC Courthouse
    63 and a half weeks since the last time we kissed, we couldn't even agree to carpool to the Raleigh courthouse for our divorce. Victoria was one of about 50 women with furrowed brows, but I was one of the only husbands to show up. I wore the same clothes I was married in, partially a fuck you to her, but mostly, again, due to my love of symmetry.
  31. It was all done in public, so we had to listen to almost every one of the divorce proceedings before it came time for ours. One jilted wife slipped and admitted it had not been a full year since the separation, causing her to get thrown out of the courtroom. Victoria and I looked at each other and laughed.
    We stood together in what was normally the jury box, listening to the judge admonish a different angry couple for not being in the right courtroom (the contested divorces were the group next door). I silently gestured to my breast pocket, as if I had prepared a speech, which I hoped would make her nervous as we waited our turn. I did so very much want to walk around the table, fingers sliding off the polished wood all serious-like, and ask the courtroom, "What is...'love'?"
  32. The process of public divorce is fantastic if you like eavesdropping, but painful if you still have to work later that day.
    The judge seems impressed that we came together, if only for one last time. I feel the eyes of the 20 remaining women in the audience on me. I wonder if they are sizing me up. After all, in a few minutes, the lot of us would be legal. I sit and answer each of the judge's questions respectfully, never once reaching for the speech, and the divorce is granted in less than 30 seconds.
  33. At a crossroads.
    We take the elevator down together, neither one of us saying a word. As we get to the street, I ask where she parked. She points one way, I point the other. We part, but I watch her as she walks diagonally across the street. At 10:15 in the morning, the buildings around us are full and the streets are quiet. Feeling cinematic, I call out to her. "Hey!" I say. She looks back. "Thanks for marrying me that time." A large truck passes between us. She says "What?" but I decide to just wave. Goodbye.
  34. Three years on from the actual divorce, some days are like this.
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    Retconning our relationship on New Year's Eve, as if she never had feelings for me, even during The Glory Months.
  35. But others you get messages like this.
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    From this past Christmas. She does local theater now, and I take Sam to see all of her plays. I'm actually writing scenes for her right now, based on our actual arguments.
  36. (cont.)
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    Part of me will laugh if she doesn't get chosen to play herself.
  37. And yet other days, it's she who is there for me, canceling her therapy appointment to drive me to and from my colonoscopy.
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  38. So it's not all bad.