Weekly Roundup: A House Is Not A Home Edition

About five years ago, a friend of mine took a job in West Virginia. I had my concerns about the job, to put it mildly. And when I saw the house she’d bought to go along with the job, I had serious concerns. It was “vintage”, you might say. And a “fixer-upper”, you also might say. The first night I spent there with her, I had to take a shower in the basement because that was the only place any of the fixtures worked. She said she was going to make it her own, do most of the work herself. I nodded my head but privately I thought she’d bitten off more than she could chew.

While I traveled the world and got in trouble and crashed cars and fell in love and fell out of love and won races and lost races and got so drunk I couldn’t stand and spent money I didn’t have and learned how to be a kinda-sorta father… she worked on the house. One little bit at a time, neat and tidy just like she was neat and tidy, precise just like she was precise. After the crash in January of 2014, she rushed to the hospital to see me. Told me that she had the answer to all of my problems, that she could save me from this catastrophic thing that I’d brought down on my own head. She told me that she’d chosen that job, and that house, so the two of us could be together for the rest of our lives. I didn’t know what to say. I told her to leave my hospital room and never come back. It was rash and after a few days we had some conversations. Hard, unpleasant conversations, full of things that couldn’t be taken back. I did it on purpose. I wanted to scare her away. I thought — no, scratch that, I knew — that she’d be better off without me. Then we said our goodbyes, because that was all we had left to say.

A few weeks ago someone told me that my old friend’s house was up for sale. He didn’t say why. Didn’t say if maybe she was moving in with someone, maybe getting married, maybe just changing jobs. I didn’t ask. Didn’t think I had the right to know. Eventually, I yielded to temptation. I took a look at the listing. I wanted to see how far she’d gotten with the place before making the decision to give up. To walk away.

It never occurred to me that the house would be empty in the photos that accompanied the listing. That she would already be gone. I don’t think I was prepared to see that. It made me think about how lonely she’d been in that house, made me think about how lonely most of us are. How sometimes you can’t say the things you need to say to someone when they are right in front of you. It feels like you’re both covered in gauze, maybe. Like you can’t quite get the words out. It’s that same helplessness that you feel in dreams, where you could solve the problem or save yourself if you could just get the words out. But you can’t open your mouth, can’t say anything at all. Then you wake up and you have this unpleasant cut-glass clarity about everything that was so gauzy, so fuzzy, just a moment before. All the answers are right in front of you. It’s just too late to do anything about it.

I miss her. It’s not that I wish that I’d gone to live with in her house. She really is better off without me. No matter what’s happened since the day we said goodbye. I believe that. I have to believe that, just to continue getting up in the morning. But I do wish that I’d made better use of the time we had together. And I wish that I’d loved her the way she wanted to be loved. The way she loved me. Not grand and dramatic and sweeping and overpowering. Not the kind of love that makes you risk your life or cut your wrists or abandon everything you’ve ever known for some romantic dream. Just the kind of love that makes you paint a wall. Or fix a bathroom. Or keep a space empty in your garage, in the hopes that someone will come to visit. Or hold on to a house that you can’t really afford, for just another month or another year, hoping that you’ll wake up one day next to someone who loves you, too.

Without further ado, let’s see what I managed to get out the door this week.

For TTAC, I answered a question regarding cross-country rentals, told a tale of an advertising campaign that didn’t cut the mustard, and revisited the death of journalist Michael Hastings.

At R&T, I wrote about the subconscious minds of commuters and Porsche’s not-so-crazy scheme for selling manual-transmission cars.

Speaking of stupid things to put on the radio… I was a guest Thursday morning on 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee, talking to one of their reporters about the behavior of commuters and ways to stay safer in traffic. It was great fun and I hereby declare myself (and my squeaky, prissily-Standard-American-Accent-ed voice) to be available for any and all radio interviews in the future.

This weekend I’m back to the skatepark with my son for the third weekend in a row. Cross your fingers that I make it home alive, so I can write some more of the great stuff that you all love, and the comments that you all love to hate!

Just kidding, I’ll be following all applicable commenting policies.

Isn’t that great?

32 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: A House Is Not A Home Edition”

  1. Tomko

    I read this more than an hour ago and it’s still with me. Touching story about love lost and what might have been.

    How many more of these have you got, Jack?

  2. Bigtruckseriesreview

    “Or hold on to a house that you can’t really afford, for just another month or another year, hoping that you’ll wake up one day next to someone who loves you, too.”

    I live in NYC.
    I have a house in Queens and a rental property in New Jersey.
    Day-by-day I hear the updates from my childhood friends and acquaintances who’ve either moved out of NYC because of gentrification (skyrocketing cost of living) or because they just didn’t have the foresight/talent/conviction/endurance to make it here. Not that I can blame them: the Federal Reserve’s low interest rates, influx of Asian money, weak job market, and residual effects of the 2008 crisis have hurt a lot of people I know.

    There are at least 5 women I know who’ve gone in different directions who I would have gladly bed and wed. I see their Facebook updates in hopes they are doing “better”, but generally they aren’t.
    all of which are in their 30’s now…unmarried and in jobs I consider to be dead-end or low-wage. One of which: a single mom who grew up poor and fatherless. I miss her the most, but we can’t work it out cause I can’t deal with being a stepdad…

    The way I see it, from the way you talk about this woman in particular, you probably feel the same way about her I did about this specific girl.

    If you had it to do all over again- with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, would you have mated with her and supported her given the chance?

    Settling down with her into a house to brave the financial storms together?

    I know I woulda.

    The only things I have to keep me company round-the-clock are SRT vehicles, my Exo Squad collection and a shit-load of high-bandwidth electronics. I have a girlfriend but I’m not serious about her yet so I don’t want her moving in.

    Having anyone else in my house with me and my stuff is a matter of trust and faith…both of which I don’t readily invest in others.

    I was fortunate to get this house during the crash for $250,000…did about $30,000 in upgrades and now it’s worth over $400,000 due to the inflation in the NYC market. To have someone there bonded to me and helping me would have been nice. Especially if it was one of those specific girls.

  3. Bigtruckseriesreview

    Do you still have her contact information?

    I collect people’s social security numbers so if I need to look them up in the future, I can.

    So-long as they don’t enter the witness protection program.

  4. CJinSD

    It’s pretty terrible when you realize how much someone you hardly ever even think of cares about you.

    • Bigtruckseriesreview

      The fear of rejection is a powerful thing.

      I’ve learned to read body language.

      If you read body language well enough, can pick up on aural cues (how the person talks to you – different than others), and generally get a good read on someone you can usually tell.

  5. Ark-med

    “Oh come on, most of our lives are so boring, the CIA would have no interest in our quotidian escapades!”
    Until you piss off the wrong guy at a beltway Jimmy John’s beverage fountain.

  6. -Nate-Nate

    Good article Jack ;

    In the 1990’s I dated a CFO who waited several years in spite of me telling her not to .
    .
    Some years later she asked me to father a Child, I said I cannot be any part of a Fatherless Human Being and she replied ” you don’t need to ever see it again ” making me know I’d made the right choice to pass .
    .
    She’s still Childless, boy howdy did she want to support me in a lifestyle way beyond my means .
    .
    The Commuting article is good ~ I hope there are not as many plain old stupid asses in Ohio as there are in Los Angeles as some shitbag always needs to follow me or zoom past me then slow down after I pass his pokey ass .
    I enjoy your thoughts on relation ships past and present ~ lotsa of good info there for those willing to pay attention .
    .
    -Nate

  7. Tmkreutzer

    And once again, you write something that hits a little too close to home…

    Dammit anyway.

  8. Aoletsgo

    There are a lot of Miss Lonelyhearts out there and guys also. But sometimes I think living alone is better than living with someone you don’t love, or who doesn’t love you.

  9. Robert

    It’s ironic…one of the things I feared the most about getting divorced is how lonely I thought I’d be. It turns out the 19 years I spent with her were the loneliest of my life, I just didn’t know it.

    • -Nate-Nate

      Bingo ~
      .
      Fifteen years for me .
      .
      I don’t miss her one bit and we’re still Friends .
      .
      -Nate

  10. Robert

    I also can’t help noticing that she finished exactly half of the floor in the picture. Was she saving the other half your you?

  11. SIV

    North Central West Virginia is a nice place to visit. I really enjoyed working widely around Clarksburg for a few weeks at a time, on and off. It’s all hills and hardwoods with entombed immigrant miners still under the reclaimed ridges. I never realized WV had a significant Calabria-Italy descended community, the food is excellent imo. There’s gobs of good federal jobs, thanks to the late Senator Byrd. Those people seem to live apart from the rest of the culture though. I imagine you get transferred there for pissing the wrong person off.

  12. Wulfgar

    Much the same as too many others, entirely too close to home. I had a conversation with a (recently married) woman this weekend who put her husband out to figure out her feelings for me. Not sure I deserve that and told her to let him come back home. Strange how this life works sometimes. Do we dislike ourselves so much that we can’t accept such a love?

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      “Do we dislike ourselves so much that we can’t accept such a love?”

      If I got a tattoo ever this would have to be it.

  13. Hogie roll

    If only you could force yourself to obsessively dote on someone you wanted out of your life, they would remove themselves on their own. Alas, I’ve never been one for lieing or acting or doing anything I did not want to.

  14. Aaron Leech

    Wow. Makes me feel a little validated but foolish in my mistakes.

    A home is something really personal. She was fixing up something for you. This is a heavy metaphor. Thank you for sharing.

      • Doug

        A good listen….I love the article too. Gives me some helpful hints when someone is, as I call it, being a “pace car” on the highway. What is even worse is when two cars are backing up the whole interstate while driving right next to each other in the herd mentality for miles and miles.

        • Doug

          And I literally had a situation like this happen last week where I was on an almost deserted highway and the only other car was rushing to catch up with me, I was doing around 70. The Escalade passed me just enough for me to be in his blind spot for about 10 seconds…with her blind spot monitor blazing yellow mind you…she then cuts across my bow with the signal happening after she was 3 ft into my lane. The only good result of the situation other than me not creaming her is I have a great appreciation for how good BMW brakes are on the road.

  15. DirtRoads

    We all have stories something like that if there’s anything at all that’s redeeming about us. Artists and writers seem to attract the romantic types, but that doesn’t mean they are. Many French films have covered that topic ad nauseum.

    However, when I read these missives from your heart, Jack, I think of Mrs. Baruth and the the great depth of understanding and/or communication that the two of you must have. If I were to wax poetically about one who got away, my wife would want to shred the both of us. Then again, she’s a fiery Irish girl who can make a fist, and I know nothing of Mrs. Baruth other than part Indian heritage and she’s about 5’6″ IIRC.

    But real life intrudes, doesn’t it? I know Mrs. DirtRoads had some heart out there before she met me, and I had at least three times as many as she did, if she’s honest about her count. Do I think of some of those times now and then? Of course, and I am sure she does as well. But I know she wouldn’t want to hear about my aching heart any more than I’d want to hear about hers.

    Yet I read all these stories and can identify with some of them personally, which is what a writer needs to do with his or her audience.

    So hats off to Mrs. Baruth for being the understanding wife you need, for the person you are and the work you do, Jack. You are a lucky man, finally 🙂

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Danger Girl and I are pretty forthright with eachother. At times it causes a bit of heartache. But we are both creatures of imagination so if we didn’t know what was actually going on in the other person’s head we’d dream up far worse, I think.

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