Rich was different He spent most of his childhood with his father. He could fix any machine that broke. He loved and admired his dad. However he loved and adored his mom too. A tiny ember of understanding smoldered deep in his mind- it was not right how his dad treated his mom, how the world treated his mom, how the world treated women.
It took a marriage therapist to draw that ember out. Rich and Michelle’s ten-year marriage was coming apart. Rich had been treating Michelle like dirt. He knew it too but would never admit it. He drank every night so he could sleep. When Michelle told him she would leave if he didn’t go to counseling he had his moment. He admitted to himself that he was failing. He almost didn’t need to go to counseling. But he went and the momentum of their marriage carried the fight along a while. It didn’t take long though for Rich to change. I’m sorry, he said to his wife. I respect you and I love you. She wept.
Rich had worked his way though college. He’d gotten a marketing degree and eventually an MBA. He got a job in sales at Honeywell a week after graduating and bounced around and up- always up- so that at the time of his Awakening he was a Strategic Marketing Director based in Minneapolis. There were countless people at his level and above throughout Honeywell but he reported to a vice president who reported to the president. Rich Feller was doing well.
Rich’s family was doing well too. A year after wrapping up with the counselor Rich and Michelle were talking about taking their girls (Kylie, 7, and Addy, 4) on a spring vacation. They had money in the bank. They could go to Disney World.
Michelle wasn’t crazy about flying, though, and they decided to put off a big trip until Addy was a little older. Michelle didn’t want to put herself through that for a
trip Addy would hardly remember. Then she did something she couldn’t have done a year earlier. She looked tenderly at her husband.
Michelle had been on her way up in the corporate world herself when Kylie was born. She had never intended to quit working when she had kids. When Kylie was born, though, that changed. She found that her anxiety wouldn’t allow for daycare. Either she or Rich was going to have to stay at home at least until Kylie was in school. Rich was earning more money at the time and had better benefits. It was an easy decision. Michelle grew to love staying home and by the time Addy was born she was happily a stay-at-home mom.
Michelle had just gone to Florida (by car) in January. Her mom and sister and she had driven down for a few days of sunshine. So as she sat next to Rich on the couch and looked tenderly at her husband she told him he should take off alone. Maybe call his old friend in Georgia and take the motorcycle trip they’d talked about for 20 years.
Rich called Bill, who needed no convincing. He could even round up a few of the old gang. It took some doing- cancelled appointments, changed plans- but the friends found a week they could all be available. They scheduled the trip for the first week in April. Bill would make all the arrangements. They would leave their phones with their wives, get on the bikes March 31st and head off into parts unknown.
Rich went to work the next day as happy as he’d been in years. It happened to be his 41st birthday. Doug Emory, Rich’s boss, greeted him in the lobby. Doug walked up
deliberately, his head shaking slightly.
“Hey, Rich,” he said, “check this out.”
“What’s up?” Rich asked.
“I need you to go to Moscow in a few weeks.”
“Moscow? What’s going on?”
“It’s a mess over there. They need training. I want you to
spend about a month with them.”
“Ok. When is it again?”
“Yeah, ok. Thanks, Doug. I’ll talk to you later,” Rich said.
He walked to the elevators and went up to the 15th floor. He was glad when he got up there and saw no one. He was not in the mood for small talk. He walked to his office, closed the door behind him, and sat down at his desk. “Fuck,” he said. He pulled out his phone.
“Hey, Birthday Boy,” Michelle said.
“Hey, Babe,” Rich said. It was in his voice.
“I’ve gotta cancel the trip. Doug is sending me to Moscow
April 1st. “
“What? Oh, Rib, I’m sorry. What’s going on in Moscow?”
“I don’t know. Training I guess. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”
“Well I’ve heard it’s beautiful in Moscow that time of year.”
Rich chuckled. “In Celsius maybe. I’ve gotta go. Maybe we can change the trip. Later,
“Later, Rib. Love you.”
Rich sighed, looked at his phone, and pressed Bill’s number.
“Hey, Bill. I’ve got a problem here.”
“Just found out this morning that my boss wants me to go to
our office in Moscow for a training. I leave April 1st.”
“Yeah. Where are we at? Can we move the trip at all?”
“Uh, damn, I don’t know, man. I’ll look into it. We were lucky to find that week you know.”
“Yeah, I know. Well see what you can do?”
“Of course. I’ll call you later.”
Bill called Rich at home that evening with the bad, not-at-all-surprising news.
“That’s really the only week. I’m sorry,” he said.
“That’s ok. I figured. You guys go. Have fun.”
“Ok. We’ll miss you buddy. Maybe next year?”
Rich woke up early on the morning of April 1st though he didn’t need to. His bags were already packed and by the front door. The car service was scheduled to arrive at 11 am. He read the texts from his friends for the tenth time. They’d gotten together the night before they left and the texts approached illegibility by about midnight. He wondered how far they got yesterday, their first day on the road. He wished he was with them.
His phone rang. It was Doug.
“Morning, Rich! Bags packed?”
“For the trip to Moscow, eh?”
“Umm, yeah. For Moscow.”
“Yeah. About that…you can unpack! You think I’d send you to Moscow? Haha! What? We don’t have trainers in Europe? April Fool’s buddy. Now get to work. You’re already late!”