February 6, 2020 – Arlington, WA
It’s been two weeks now since I packed up and left Arizona. Do I regret my actions? Absolutely not. The first week was the hardest, as I seesawed back and forth between feelings of freedom and nostalgia. I had to keep reminding myself of the bad times to keep things in perspective.
One of the worst was the night we spent in Reno, Nevada, on our way to Arizona. It was the day before my birthday, and we’d planned to go to the casino together. The argument had already begun a couple of hours before we arrived. It was the first time I’d driven the car with the trailer in tow and, in typical Brent fashion, he made what he thought were “suggestions,” but what I saw as criticisms of my driving skills.
“You’re not giving it enough gas. You need to get momentum going to get up the hills. Look.. everyone’s passing us.”
I wasn’t the least bit concerned about anyone passing. That was their problem, not ours. Yes, it would take me a while to get the hang of it, but Brent was notoriously impatient, and his nagging wasn’t helping matters. After the umpteenth critical remark, I’d had enough.
“Brent, you don’t need to tell me how to drive. I’ve been doing it for years, a lot longer than you have.”
I’d hurt his feelings and, when his feelings are hurt, Brent responds with anger. He digs down into his reservoir of hateful comments, bringing up every possible thing from the past that I’ve done to hurt him. Normally I’d walk away, but there was no escaping this time, so I sat there in the driver’s seat and tried to block out his nasty words.
Two hours later we pulled into Reno. Our plans to gamble together had evaporated into the dry night air. We parked the car and trailer on the side of a downtown street and Brent took off in the direction of the neon lights. What to do with myself, I wondered? I had no desire to gamble alone—to me casinos were depressing places, full of buzzing, whirring mechanical devices that devoured the money of those hoping, despite the odds, to make it rich. Maybe that’s cynical, but if there’s nothing else that living in a tent had taught me, it was that money was not the key to happiness.
It had been a long time since I’d listened to live music and danced, so I set off in search of a club. After an hour of wandering the casino district, I found only one nightclub, but the sounds coming from inside were punk rock, and I can’t dance to that kind of music. I headed back to the car, crawled inside the trailer and tried to sleep. Eventually I drifted off, but woke up with a start a short time later and looked at my phone. It was well after midnight and Brent still hadn’t shown up. He only had a small amount of poker money. Surely he couldn’t have made it last that long? I knew he hadn’t won much—if he’d hit the jackpot, he’d be back by now, anxious to boast about his gambling skills.
Finally, he called, but I could barely make out the words. Obviously he’d had one too many whiskies. “Where the hell is the truck…can’t find it.” I texted him the address, but he didn’t show up. I shared the location over my phone, but still no Brent. WTF was going on? Then I got a message, “Good night I’m sleeping behind the wall by…” the message trickled out and I panicked. Great.. he’s sleeping behind a wall somewhere. What if he gets picked up by the cops? I sent him another message, “Please come back…we need to move the trailer. Where are u? I called over and over, but he didn’t respond, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I grabbed Loki from the truck and we set off in search of Brent. He had to be sleeping somewhere nearby. Looking behind casinos and down alleyways produced no sign of him and I was getting a little nervous—too many drunks and weird people roaming the streets at this time of night and I didn’t want to be out there. We headed back to the truck.
Brent had somehow made it back by himself and was lying in our loft bed snoring away. I didn’t like sleeping next to him when he’d been drinking this much. His legs twitched and, every 10 minutes or so he’d kick. It was some kind of involuntary reaction to the alcohol, what the internet termed restless leg syndrome.
My birthday the next day slid by, unrecognized by Brent. Thank god for the phone calls from my family. By mid-day we were talking to each other once more, but the negative effects lingered for a couple of days, as they always did after his eruptions.
When I got back to Washington, I began writing in my journal, documenting every big argument we’d had since we set out on this adventure together—what caused them, the negative effect they had on my life. It helped put things into perspective.
My first week back was rough. I felt numb, shell-shocked, and I wanted only to be with close friends and family. I’d see something in the store that reminded me of Brent and the tears would start. It was as close to a breakdown as anything I’ve experienced. Now, a week later, my brain is starting to shake off the past year, and I’m able to look at things from a different perspective.
I’ve had little contact with Brent, other than a few brief text messages that are open to interpretation. He’s working, I do know that, and he asked me for the number of the guy who has the trailer we were renovating, so I’m hoping he’ll finish that job and make some money from it.
He’s expressed no feelings of regret that I left, but that doesn’t surprise me. I hurt his pride and he doesn’t easily forgive things like that. For all I know, he could be relieved to see me go—we’d been arguing non-stop since we’d been in our small apartment. When I pulled out of the motel parking lot that night, the last time I saw him, he was more concerned that I hadn’t left him food money than anything else. Does that mean he was only using me for my money? Not necessarily. He would never admit he needed me, especially when I was the one who was leaving him. His ego wouldn’t allow that. He has always had a sense of entitlement, and that bothered me. But maybe, as Ed believes, it came from being on the streets and existing in survival mode for so long. I’ll never know.
I suppose that the saga of Barb and Brent deserves a more fitting conclusion, but life doesn’t always work out that way. It’s full of loose ends and unspoken emotions. I hope we stay in touch, but that depends on Brent. If nothing else, I’ll always be tied to Loki. I’m his official owner since I adopted him last year. My name and phone number are linked to the microchip that’s embedded under his skin and if I got that phone call, I’d come and get Loki in an instant. I love that dog, and I miss him.