Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bob comes home -- Part II

In yesterday’s exciting, if a bit self-absorbed post, Bob was eventually warned by Betty not to come back to Chicago until August 15. Betty told Bob that she was going to be out of town on a couple of different trips during the first two weeks of August.

So I guess I should not have been too surprised when I found out from Betty that Bob would be here by August 2. The earlier departure was necessitated by the fact that Bob’s landlord was unwilling to provide any further hospitality beyond the 31st of July. That Bob was behind in his rent had previously been made clear; it was only now that we learned that he was in imminent expectation of eviction.

Bob was hoping to drive to Chicago, but his driver’s license had been suspended for failure to appear in court on a traffic ticket. Betty advanced the money to pay the ticket.

But Bob still couldn’t drive to Chicago because he was afraid his car would not survive the journey. It was old, and in delicate condition, he said. So he was hoping we could advance the bus fare.

Betty said she was tapped out. And I already mentioned that my own mortgage was unpaid. I suggested that Bob might sell the car.

It was at this point that Bob finally called me direct. (The phone in his apartment continued to work right up until the moment he vacated the premises. Don’t ask me how.)

Bob wasn’t happy with my logic, but it seemed to me that, since he did not think the car would survive the trip, and since he couldn’t afford the gasoline for the journey even if the car survived, bringing the car was not a smart idea. Bob suggested that he could store the car with friends. I pointed out that the car would not improve during a long period of disuse. I remained firm in my advice: Sell the car.

That’s when Angel called. Angel has apparently been Bob’s one and only real friend in recent years. She’s fed him when he was hungry; she’s been a confidante; she encouraged him to reach back out to his family when things really got bad. Angel is married and she and her husband are expecting their first child. Long Suffering Spouse raised both eyebrows when these facts were recited, but Betty is confident that Angel is only what she says she is: A friend. And Betty says she’s spoken with Angel’s husband, too.

Angel had called my house before, some months ago; Younger Daughter took the call. She asked if we’d heard from Bob, if he was OK, if we knew how to reach him. She told Younger Daughter that she was worried about Bob. But Angel didn’t leave her name or number, and she didn’t ask for me by the name by which I am usually known; she used my given name, which no one who knows me ever uses. I therefore dismissed the call as a new collection tactic. While it was never a daily occurrence, Bob has received collection calls at our house before. Younger Daughter was so worried, however, that I sent Bob an e-mail – and he promptly responded that everything was “fine.” I didn’t believe that – but I was satisfied there was no immediate crisis.

Now Angel was on the phone telling me that Bob was not fine, and had not been fine for some time. She was certain he needed to leave Texas immediately, to get away from people who were “bad influences” on him. She told me that Bob didn’t want to sell the car; it was the one remaining thing he had of his parents’ (he’d had a rather large truck full of things at one time, but I didn’t bring this up). She understood that my finances might be tight just now, but could I put up just half the bus ticket? She’d put up the other half.

I told Angel why I thought it best that he simply sell the car. And Angel agreed: It turns out that the car was so delicate it was in fact non-functional. It did not run.

Various numbers were discussed in subsequent conversations. When Bob and Angel told me of one supposed offer, I looked up the Blue Book values for the car – and told Bob to grab the offer with both hands and leave town immediately. Of course that offer fell through. Or never existed. But Bob did sell the car. I think. Angel took the money; she gave Bob some pocket money and bought the bus ticket; she wrote a check for the difference. The check was made payable to Betty; Angel didn’t trust Bob with the money. That was telling.

There was still some question about where the car title was located. There was also some question about where the car was located. But I think Bob sold the car. And not to Angel.

Bob was unhappy about selling the car, but he called me one night to tell me his travel arrangements. Betty was out of town, so I would meet the bus. Bob was calling from a woman’s cell phone. “A friend,” he said. But it wasn’t Angel. Bob sounded fine – no slurring, no slobbering. In fact, he was kind of eloquent. He complained that Betty was treating him “like a piece of broken glass.” Yes, he’d had some problems, he admitted, and he’d made some “bad business decisions.” Who wouldn’t be just a little bit crazy after all that?

But Betty had told me that Bob was sobbing when he first called her. Desperate. Out of options. Suicidal. Bob may have not realized how much Betty and I had spoken of his situation. So I was resolute. When I met the bus, we would go immediately for an alcohol assessment. You told Betty about your problems, I told him. Those problems are more than Betty and I can take care of. All we can do is try and get you help. That’s not treating you like “broken glass,” I told him; that’s trying to be helpful when you ask for help. The conversation ended, positively I thought, and I hung up the phone.

Two minutes later the phone rang again. I looked at the Caller ID; it was the same Texas cell phone number from which Bob had called minutes earlier.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Gary?” asked a woman with a shrill southern accent. She was also a trifle loud.

“There’s no Gary here,” I said. “I think you have the wrong number.”

“Gary’s my neighbor,” she announced, stretching out the syllables in ‘neighbor.’ “He’s over here!” ‘ Here’ acquired an extra syllable and at least another ‘h’ when she pronounced it. There was a pause. Then the tone changed; she put an edge on her shrill Texas twang. Suspicious now: “Who is this?”

“This is Bob’s brother,” I told her.

“Oh!” she said, clearly relieved. Then in a sing-song: “Bob, it’s for you!”

Bob took the phone. “Bob, did you call me back?” I asked. “No,” he said, sounding chagrined. He felt some need to explain: “Some friends are over helping me to pack.”

“OK,” I said. “I’ll talk to you later.” I hung up.

Oldest Son and Middle Son could contain themselves no longer. As soon as I terminated the connection, they were rolling on the floor, braying like donkeys and barking like hyenas. “Sure, it’s real funny,” I told them. “Your uncle is 45 years old.”

That sobered them up. And I use the word advisedly.

And so the Bob watch began.

1 comment:

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Very well written post, here.