As a general rule, I try not to pull wholesale from my own life when it comes to Unlife. There are a few exceptions, but even when they share a name with someone I know, the Unlife characters exist in their own separate universe dictated by Zack’s and my direction. Still, I draw my ink from the well of familiarity, and so readers and friends often speculate. The most common question is whether Karrie is a version of my wife, Jena. The simple answer is no. Totally different person.

But their relationship is inspired by our own.

Before you ask me if she punches me, I don’t mean like that (and, no, she doesn’t… she bites). It’s more the basis, the platform, that Karrie and James’ relationship is founded on – Second Chances.

Long ago, I first met Jena as part of a well-coordinated ambush. My friend Seth asked her to meet him for lunch, where I just “happened” to show up, and after I was established as a member of the lunch party Seth pulled the old “Oh, hey, look at the time, somewhere to be, I’ll just leave you two, kthxbai!” Now, if you’re taking notes on how to meet a wife of your own, this is not how to do it. Jena was not happy about being tricked. Still, it is undeniable that there was an immediate chemistry between the two of us, especially when it came to dialogue. She’s tongue-tyingly gorgeous, so the fact that I maintained any kind of conversation is a wonder in itself, much less the innate flow and connection we had from the very beginning. It registered fast and slowly gained charge and momentum with every word. I remember leaving that lunch with a smile on my face (after get-get-get-getting them Facebook digits (so her name, I guess)), and a future date on the horizon.

A date that never happened.

I can run you through the details of the miscommunications and social anxiety, but in truth, these were just excuses. A better explanation is that both of us were too young and, not ready to engage in that kind of relationship, we instinctively separated. We grew on our own and dealt with our own shit with minimal contact for almost 3 years. It wasn’t until that very same Seth that set us up was having a party that we reconnected. Blame it on the wine or just our more advanced age, but that old chemistry was still there, and this time we were ready. And a few months later…

That was back in 2009. On August 25th, we’ll be celebrating our fourth year of marriage.

I think of all the things we’ve been through together, charting a course through the jungle of ourselves, and intimately opening it up to each other… my relationship with Jena is one of the first parts of my life I fell like I got right. I hate when people say that I got lucky when I found her, because our relationship works because we work on it. We gave it that chance. We just needed a second one.

But yeah, I got lucky. (Ed. note: And so did I.) And so did James, and so did Karrie. Sometimes two people need to separate, to find themselves, in order to find each other. And if not in this life, maybe they’ll be lucky enough the second time around…