Growth, Stories told

$159 a week

This happened 10 years ago at this time of year.

We called it a trial separation. I took my brother’s couch while she stayed with the kids in our home. Ten days later, she said she didn’t want me back. My brother walked the line between helping and enabling, and stepped off on the side that said I’d have to go.

I landed at an extended-stay hotel, newly built but already reeking of the cigarettes and the sweat and the dank of the transient, with a faint whiff of ammonia and eucalyptus from scant cleaning efforts. I dropped my bags and walked the ten paces around the room. Turned on all the lights. Turned them off, then all on again. The room still dim, the lights straining at the shadows left in the corners.

The chair and the bed did little for the pain and stress gathered in my shoulders. When it was on, the heater did little but argue with the TV, drowning out whatever program was doing its best to distract me from what I didn’t want to think about, not drowning out my neighbors, their loud sex, the fellow cursing from foreplay to finish.

Twice after the office closed my keycard wouldn’t work, the all-hours number went unanswered, and I slept in my car in the cold in the parking lot. Twice I arrived minutes late to pay the rent, and they had already thrown away my food and put my belongings in storage. Grace was sparse and uncommon.

Meanwhile, I paid the mortgage and cable and utilities on a house I’d never live in again. My credit card paid for this room. I stayed just four weeks before finding a scuffed, dingy apartment that cost less than half. The apartment where the insomnia found me, the tears, the agony. In the extended-stay hotel, there was little room left to feel anything at all.


Thanks to my friend Christopher Newgent for helping me say this.

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12 thoughts on “$159 a week

  1. hmunro says:

    This is heartbreaking, Jim, but beautifully told. It’s truly one of the best short memoirs I’ve read in a long time.

    Here’s to happier times.

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  2. I was wondering why you were writing about this, but then I read the comments. 10 years and you are reflecting. I get it. I think it’s remarkable that you can write in such detail about things that happened so long ago. I hope the pain from that time is mostly gone and that your life is filled with love and peace. I enjoy reading your posts.

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    • I realized sometime late today, after this post had been up for hours, that it would seem to come out of nowhere. I have a few stories to tell (or retell) as this anniversary passes. It was an extraordinarily difficult October, November, and December back in 2004.

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  3. bodegabayf2 says:

    It took me more than a dozen years to get the strength, to draw a deep enough breath, to write about my Extended Stay experience. At the time, I didn’t think I’d make it out. Then, I realized the only way “out” was “through.” Well written my friend. Very well written.

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