Thanks to the Hip and Knee doctor for editing assistance.
There was no doubt that I was going to miss my hobby-bench more than anything else. It was my sanctuary. The place that I could always come to when my soul needed healing. There was nothing wrong with my soul, it just seems like an interesting way to indicate that there was a degree of unhappiness in my life. Somewhere along the line, things fell apart. There was no specific time that I can pinpoint, because it came so gradually.
I am pretty handy about the house. I can fix almost anything. I hate to call in a repair man to do a simple task and pay him almost a whole day of my wages for a couple of hours of his time. Most of the time they do a shitty job anyhow. What I can't fix is my marriage.
The best way that I can explain it is to compare it to a fine piece of china. You can glue a broken plate back together, but it is never like the original. Once the marriage is broken, it can be repaired, but never returned to its original condition. I didn't want a repaired, broken plate.
After eighteen years of marriage, my wife, Tracey, decided that she wanted to experience other men; well at least one that I know about. By the time that I found out, it was too late to keep the plate from getting broken.
Being a little slow when it comes to relationships, I had assumed that things were fine. We married right out of high school and immediately had a daughter named Carly. Complications meant that there would be no more, but we were happy with what we had.
My job, as an auto body man, paid well, but there was no real future to it. I could always open up my own shop, but I never had a desire to own a business. Things were fine as long as the money was adequate. Tracey spent the evening taking night classes at the local community college. She was a little more ambitious than I was; actually a lot more ambitious.
When Carly started school, Tracey started to work. The extra money was nice and her job never seemed to affect our family life, except for the better.
With two incomes we were able to scrape up enough money to buy a small house. It was in a nice neighborhood and there was never any desire to move up to a bigger or better place. Everyone seemed happy for years.
Tracey never wasted money on frivolous things. She did dress and groom well, but always watched what she spent. My wardrobe expenses were usually limited to jeans and flannel shirts. She cleaned up well, but I always looked a little unkempt. I guess it was my bushy eyebrows and long hair. I wore my hair in a pony tail. I wasn't a want-to-be hippy or biker, I just liked my hair that way. Nobody ever teased me about it, because I had enough body bulk to intimidate them if necessary. There was only one downside to my grooming habits; sometimes I felt that Tracey was a little embarrassed when we went out. She never said anything, but I always felt it.
As Carly grew, Tracey started to spend more time at work. She was becoming quite the expert on the insurance claims business. She enjoyed her work because she was good at it. It wasn't long until she was bringing home more money than I was. I noticed it, but neither of us ever commented on it.
By the time Carly was in high school, Tracey had evolved into a sophisticated business woman. She was spending more money or clothing, but her income justified the extra expense. The trips to the beauty salon became more frequent as her status grew. She joined a local gym and spent several nights a week working out. She was turning into a well kept, attractive woman, and I was still a grungy, hairy embarrassment.
I guess the next step in the progression of our marriage was inevitable.
Over the years, my relationship with Carly grew. I was spending more time with her than her mother was and we developed a strong bond. Tracey was either at work or working at home. Family time seemed to go down as fast as Tracey's career went up.
Our personal time also went downhill. She was always too tired and I got the feeling that I was no longer the man that she used to dream about spending the rest of her life with.
I grew up in a public housing project. My mother was a single parent that raised my brother Robert and I by working as a waitress. It was hard for her, and we didn't make it any easier. We were constantly in trouble because that was the nature of life in the projects. A lot of my character traits came with me when I got married. I was rash and quick-tempered which landed me in juvenile hall a few too many times. Tracey was aware of the problem, but since we were married, I had kept it under control. I actually became a little placid.
As Tracey and I drifted apart, I started to spend more time in my basement hobby shop. It was a dank little hole, but I found tranquility there. I was upset about how my marriage was going, but had no idea what to do. I tried all the usual things like flowers and gifts. We would go out to eat at least once a week. I picked expensive places and got the good wine. Nothing seemed to work, so I crawled into my little hole at every chance that I got.
Carly was still the bright spot in my life, but I felt that I was letting her down also. I was defective as a father and a husband. Was it self induced or did Tracey impose those feelings on me? She loved me. She would never do that.
To keep my mind off of my shortcomings, I would sit for hours and make little electronic do-dads. They were gadgets that I could buy anywhere for next to nothing, but that were more fun if I made them myself. My first project was a fake video surveillance camera that moved back and forth and had a little flashing red light. It didn't do a damn thing, but I had fun making it. I know I could have bought the same thing for a couple of bucks, but there was no fun in that.
I made Carly a small panic button key chain. She never had to use it, but she let me know that she appreciated having it. As I got more experience the projects got a little more elaborate, but I never got to the point where I could be considered anything more that a tinkerer.
On weekends, Carly and I would visit yard sales and flea markets. She got retro clothes and I got old electronic and remote control toys. Tracey stayed at home.
It was two months ago when I started getting the feeling that Tracey was cheating. It didn't take me long at all to verify it. One of the men that she worked with, Todd Witcomb, was taking her to his apartment every Tuesday and Thursday for two hour lunches. I guess they could have been playing Scrabble or something like that, but I think we all know better. He was a good looking guy and drove a nice car. I had to assume that he was also articulate, well-educated, and good in the sack. I found it interesting that Tracey had not taken any great pains to hide this relationship. I didn't know if it was because she felt complacent or if she just didn't give a shit. The plate was broken. It couldn't be repaired. At this point I decided that something had to be done.
I spent the whole day getting things ready for my departure. Carly was starting college in three weeks. Everything was paid up for the first two semesters. I would miss her, but I felt that it was time to cut the apron strings. I took half of the savings account. I didn't bother doing anything about any of the other money matters. I didn't care. All I needed was enough to get away and get started over.
Filing for a divorce was too complicated and would not accomplish anything as far as I was concerned. I did have my lawyer draw up a power of attorney so that Tracey could sell the house. I also had papers prepared to sue Todd Witcomb and to sue Continental Memorial Insurance, since they both worked there. I didn't have much hope for either of them, but the lawyer was willing to try anything for a possible percentage. I told him to have at it.
I spent the most part of the evening working on my special alarm key chain. It was no longer a key chain, but it did have a quite loud alarm for such a little thing. It required a little modification to get it where I wanted it. First, I upped the battery to nine volts. This would make it louder and last longer. I rigged it up so that I could turn it on remotely and so that it could not be turned off. That little sucker would intermittently beep away until the battery died, or was killed. The whole thing fit into a three inch long piece of PVC plastic that had twenty holes drilled into it. A small antenna wire protruded out of one of the holes. When it was done, I fastened two PVC caps on each end and painted it flat black with BBQ paint. I don't know why I decided to paint it, but it did look a little sinister. If everything went as planned, the only way that it could be stopped would be to drop it into a toilet, or some other water. I tried making it water tight, but it muffled the sound too much.
Tracey had been in bed for a while now. It was no trouble at all for me to slide my homemade gadget into the lining of her purse, through a small hole that I made in one of the side pockets. I figured it would take at least five minutes for somebody to figure out where it was and then get it out of the bottom of the purse. That was long enough. All I was trying to do was piss her off before I left. I checked my work carefully and decided that there was no way that she would notice it.
I spent the next few hours loading things that I wanted into my truck. I picked up my body shop tools that afternoon along with my final check. I could get my clothing in the morning, after Tracey left for work. Everything was ready. I crashed on the sofa for the night.
.... There is more of this story ...