Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | February 27, 2010

The Southern Gentleman

Well, I suppose I should start filling in some of the gaps in my story — thanks for the prod, Erika — and so I’ll begin by introducing another character. I’m sure that one of the reasons I’ve been dragging my heels on getting to this part of the story is that I don’t much like the idea of giving this guy any “air time.”

(Back when I worked in radio, pretty much everything was measured in minutes and seconds. A given news story was likely to only get about three sentences, at best, and so you had to be very choosy in what you would select to give air time — as in what went out “on air.” This fucker isn’t worth the time. Except, of course, that he did play a vital role at a key moment in the story.)

Here’s how I met him:

After graduating from University, I decided to take advantage of a fluke of my birth — I was born in Europe to American parents, thus allowing me to hold simultaneous citizenship in both the US and what would become the EU. My plan: work my way across Europe. So, off I went.

International tensions were high at the time that I lived overseas, as Iraq had invaded Kuwait, and everyone was holding their breath to see if the United Nations would actually do anything about it. When the US prepared to lead a UN invasion force, talk in Europe turned to conscription. I was of prime drafting age. If the country of my birth had chosen to implement the draft while I lived there, I would be in a Very Difficult Situation. Were I to be drafted by a European country and serve, I would lose my US citizenship. Were I to be drafted and refuse to serve (on the basis of my US citizenship), I would lose my European citizenship, and probably hinder any future European travel. If war was to come, better for me to face it as an American in the US, than as an ex-pat abroad.

Well, okay, there was that and… I was finding it hard to get a job. Interviews were easy to land, but I was “too young” for the jobs I was qualified for, and over qualified for the jobs I was the appropriate age for. The ‘old boy’ network was something I’d heard of, but never encountered until I went looking for work in the so-called Old Country.

So, I returned to the States. And if you know your history, you know that the Gulf War lasted about forty-five minutes. The US military didn’t seem to have any need of my services, and I was still carrying around quite a bit of distrust of authority.

After bumbling around for a few months, I decided to go to grad school — my intention was to teach at the university level — but the application process takes a while. I returned to the town where I’d gone to college, which would give me easier access to the professors I’d need to get recommendations from, and found work there that accommodated my crazy grad-school-applying schedule.

While in town, I encountered the woman who was my first Long Term Relationship. We reconnected, and went through an experience that shaped me in ways that took me years to understand. We parted ways as friends — very good friends, in fact, and we are still good friends to this day. But the ending of our romantic relationship would play a role in everything that followed.

It was also while I lived there that I chanced to bump into a fellow former classmate of mine. It was completely random — Penny and I bumped into each other while passing each other walking along one of the main drags in town. We caught up with each other — she had graduated one year before I had, and like me, had immediately gone overseas to the same country I had with the intention of working there and enjoying the culture there. Oh, we had so much in common, but that one common element was the one that started off the conversation that would eventually become our marriage.

“We’ll have to get together,” we said, as people always do after a chance meeting like this. And, of course, we didn’t. Until we kept bumping into each other over time in different cities, under different circumstances, and eventually, we did get together. I’ve already told you that part of the story.

The point is, the nine months or so that I spent in [college town] saw a lot of connections being spun like a web. While my second Long Term Relationship was in it’s “off again” phase, I reconnected with (and then parted with) my first LTR. A chance meeting began the conversation that would turn into LTR number three. And I also met the man who would contribute to the country song that was Penny’s and my big break up.

Like so many well-known assassins, he was a man whom you thought of by his full, three names. Lee Harvey Oswald. Mark David Chapman. This guy. (No, I’m not going to tell you his name, but believe me, his three names just roll perfectly together.)

See, already, I’m making him out to be more important than he really is. Was. The thing about this guy was, well, he was just a guy. A distinctive guy, sure, but he wasn’t evil. And yet….

While I was in [college town], I needed a place to live. I no longer remember how it happened, but I managed to connect with a friend of mine who was still a student at this point who had lost one of his housemates, and they needed someone to take over the freshly vacated room. They needed a sublettor, I needed a place to live. Perfect timing, and the price was right.

The three-story house was a perfect college house, sit-com style. Six or seven of us. All guys except for one girl, whose father had bought the house so that she would have a place to live. The renters essentially paid the mortgage so that the daughter could live there for free. She had the top floor apartment; the guys had the rest of the house (although she was often hanging out with the guys downstairs when she wasn’t with her boyfriend). Perfect sit-com setting.

And like any sit-com, we each has our distinctive roles. The daughter was the aloof rich kid. There was the athlete from the mid-west. The New England prep school guy. The computer nerd. The Southern Gentleman. There was, I think, another guy whom I don’t remember at all. They were all juniors. And then there was me: the recent grad, working in his old college town and not sure what to do with his life.

We all had our separate dramas. Now that I think about it, there were a great many distinct moments of my life that happened in that house. The funny thing was that we all had our separate stories, and they all just happened to play out in that house, with each other as observers rather than participants.

…except for years later, when the Southern Gentleman and I did become involved in each others’ drama.

Southern Gentleman, like the others I knew from that house, was blazingly brilliant. Intellectually honest. He walked with a startlingly stiff posture and a deliberate gait. Poised. And he had a bright smile that he would turn on and off in a flash the way others might wink or shrug. It was a funny mannerism. He had a sharp sense of humor, and was a good intellectual foil.

And he conveyed an air of integrity. Dignity. If he said something, you expected that it was true. He was from the Carolinas, but his accent wasn’t one of those hick accents — he was the Southern Gentleman, not the redneck. Or at least, that’s how he came across until later events.

That was how I met him. That was how I knew him.

Flash forward a few years. A New England city. I’d fled my grad school experience and was working in high tech. I needed a roommate. The Southern Gentleman, who had also relocated to this city and was also working in high tech, also needed a roommate. We got together, and made lists of what we wanted and needed in a new apartment, and began the hunt for a new place.

We found the perfect apartment in the perfect house within walking distance of a subway station, giving us full access to the city, and not too far from the highway system, giving us access to our respective jobs in the suburbs. We were within walking distance of a supermarket, a post office, and lots of great restaurants.

He and I were ideal flat mates. We enjoyed doing things together — watching certain TV shows, sharing the occasional meal, etc. — but we also gave each other space. We had similar tastes in pop culture, and we enjoyed swapping stories. And we had a healthy respect for each other.

It was during this time in my life, when the Southern Gentleman and I were sharing an apartment, that I once again bumped into Penny in a random encounter (our third or fourth, I think), and she and I started dating. We started this relationship just as she was about to leave town for her own grad school misadventures — another thing she and I would come to share in common was our tortuous grad school endeavors — and just as I was about to leave town for Seattle for the first time.

And, as I mentioned in a previous post, I would again return to this New England city. As luck would have it, I would return to living in that very same apartment. By that point, I could afford to rent it all on my own. The Southern Gentleman had, in the meantime, taken a smaller apartment downstairs in the same house. We were once again housemates. And we enjoyed being housemates. We were very sympatico as housemates.

The Southern Gentleman. Ruggedly handsome. Brutally honest. A man of charm, wit, and integrity, who could (and did) turn his smile on and off like a light.

But scratch below the surface, and it turns out that his neck was still red. He would teach me the value of Southern integrity.




  1. I’m riveted. Keep it coming!! I want to hear all about this fucker!! LOL!

  2. Hmmmm. I am thinking that all these years you’ve perhaps misplaced the blame on this guy, when it should have been placed squarely on Penny.

  3. Frankly, I am with Leah on this one. You are better served by focusing on Penny’s need to seek physical and emotional comfort a stone’s throw away from her man…and even this now is her own problem.

    Also, the circumstances under which she came back, and you took her back have far more hidden lessons for you to assimilate than Jeeper Creepers brief role in your lives ever will.

    The clear hostility and resentment is understandable, but clearly many emotions have been left unprocessed inside you. This all should have been aired, hung to dry and put away when you got back together with Penny. It seems to me this never took place.

  4. The one thing I notice from this chapter is that you have a pattern of bumping into certain people and then drifting apart again only to renew the acquaintance at a later date. Could it be that you were sending out non-commit signals all along?

    As with the above comments, I also think that you are projecting something on Southern Gentleman that he doesn’t merit and that you should be focusing on Penny’s motivations. The comments of santaslil says pretty much everything I would have to add about this.

    Have you ever discussed with LTR #1why you kept coming together and then splitting apart until there was no more romance? Something got used up even if your basic liking of each other remained. I know that it isn’t an easy thing to open yourself up to reviewing the past with an eye toward understanding it, but are you brave enough to try?

    • @ToppHogg — regarding your last paragraph… the answer is “Yes, LTR #1 and I talked,” although I’m beginning to think I might need to address that on this blog, too, before too long (as you suggest). It may explain a lot. But, as with some of these other posts, I’ve been resisting getting to the heart of the matter. Some issues don’t wish to go quietly….

  5. I look forward to reading more!

  6. […] with some demons that escaped the dungeons of my mind while writing my post about the “Southern Gentleman.” The few comments I received on that post so far have been right on the money. More on that […]

  7. Leah, ToppHogg, and santaslil — I agree wholeheartedly.

    INRIS, you ARE placing too much blame onto this one person. While I agree that he violated some pretty basic rules of being a friend/room mate, I think everyone is on the money in that he didn’t DRAG Penny, kicking and screaming, from your arms. Something was already amiss.

    I’ve mentioned this before, but your marriage really seems to have been fraudulent from the beginning. God knows why she came back (something wasn’t working with SG), but you took her back KNOWING you weren’t her first choice. Whatever lies she fed you (which may have tasted like truth at the time) have contributed to the cancers which ate away at your marriage. You need to sort that out ’cause it appears to have been in the back of your mind for a very long time.

    I agree with the others. As hard as it is, you need to examine your head space then and now. ‘Cause it’s time to sort out the lies you told yourself too.

    • @Suzanne — Yes, I agree with you: our marriage was a fraud from the beginning. And I don’t think it was based so much upon overt lies as it was built upon self-delusion. On both Penny’s and my parts.

      But I also realize that part of the reason I don’t want to drag all this stuff out is because, well, it’s painful to see just HOW MUCH of a fool I was. Can’t we just nod and agree that I was a fool, and agree that I must not be similarly foolish again in the future, and leave it at that?


  8. I think Southern Gentleman and The Pilot might be related!

  9. Um…was that a character sketch? Or was it just a tease? I’m curious but not overwhelmed. Pass out the passwords baby and let’s get on with this. 😉

  10. […] as I mentioned in my post regarding my former roommate (the “Southern Gentleman” who wooed Penny away from me, leading to our big break-up all […]

  11. Yes, I can stop harping now that I know you heard me. I’m pedantic as well as judgmental. I have so many character flaws, I feel fortunate (stunned) to be adored. 🙂

  12. Tantalizing… I’m ready for more now! Still reading and catching up.

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