It’s how far I drove to regain my sanity.

A gentleman I met in Dothan, Alabama, who had a reel-to-reel tape recorder (back in the time when such contraptions were ‘reel’ important) offered to sell me his wonderful machine for $150.

I didn’t have 150 anything.

But because he trusted me, he let me take it, asking that I commit to send him five dollars a week via the mail. I was moved by his generosity and openness, and immediately agreed to the terms.

I was faithful for ten weeks. I paid $50 on the tape recorder debt with integrity and sensitivity to the calendar.

Then I just pooped out.

Sometimes I convinced myself I did not have the $5 to send. Other times it was the inconvenience of trying to find a stamp.

I avoided his calls and stayed away from Dothan, Alabama.

One night a gentleman, in an act of extreme benevolence, gave me a hundred-dollar bill. I started thinking about all the ways I wanted to spend that money.

Then it occurred to me that I was in Alabama–181 miles away from the gentleman who had afforded me the tape recorder, which I now used in assisting me to make my living.

I had a choice. After all, the tape recorder really wasn’t bought yet, was it? It was borrowed, and seemed to snarl at me every time I looked at it, whispering, “Dead beat.”

It was two o’clock in the morning.

I climbed in my car and drove 181 miles down to Dothan and was sitting outside the door of my friend’s house when he emerged after his breakfast to begin his day.

I handed him the hundred dollars and said, “I’m sorry. I was an asshole.”

He cried.

I cried, too.

It was time to cry.

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Published by Jonathan Cring