It Must Be TruePosted: July 21, 2012
Bob Dylan once said: “This is a true story. It comes from the newspapers. Nothing in this story has been changed but the words.”
In that spirit, the following is an actual event. None of the words are the same as when they first tumbled out of out of the players’ mouths, yet somehow these things did actually happen.
So who are the players?
Bobby was a forty-year-old Greek man. He was obese. He looked like the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk (both in height and girth), but unlike that giant he was endlessly sweet and gentle. He also had such rampant psoriasis that some would have looked away and gossiped to others using words like tragic and horrifying. His size and skin condition, however, have only a slight bearing on this story. They are the what’s so about Bobby. They are a part of him, and now you know. He is simultaneously the protagonist of my story and the antagonist of his life. This makes him complex and layered, much like a properly made baklava.
Bradley was close to forty, if not older. As previously mentioned, his brain (and presumably the entirety of his insides) had been fairly damaged by an irresponsible level of alcohol consumption. I had always assumed that this made him look older than he was. Suffice it to say, be it from either unfortunate familial breeding or wormwood abuse, his brain was like a piece of driftwood ravaged by termites. In plain words, he was stupid. This plays an enormous role in this story. Every story needs a fool, which is just a cruel word for a comedic hero. And in this story, Bradley is our hero.
I neither drink too much (at least not at work) nor am I excessively overweight. In fact, my grandmother (who was long ago massacred by age, along with millions of other people born before 1910) constantly told me that I needed to eat more, that I was too thin, that I looked like a twig. She was relentless. And, like me, she was Jewish. This, too, has only a slight bearing on the story, but moreover it is key to understanding the genesis of her obsession with me being underfed. Also, as you will learn in the next paragraph, I was a bit of a nerd in high school. Not in the I-love-science-and-will-go-to-a-good-college sort of way. I just didn’t always have a lot of friends. This is another useless fact, but it is part of me, and now you know.
While there is neither dancing nor singing in this story, there are two other people who play minor roles. They don’t matter much, and you’ll barely notice them. I understand that in the theater they call these people the Chorus. In high school we called them nerds. As previously mentioned, I know this because I was one of them, and to call someone a nerd is just plain mean. So we’ll go with Chorus in this playbill.
And without further wasting any more of your time…
The scene: At a Mexican restaurant near our suburban office where the waitresses wear whatever they woke up in and there are never any specials because to call the food special would be a lie so grand that even the owner wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night. Bobby, Bradley, and I are sitting in a booth, eating.
“What’d you close last month?” Bradley asked Bobby. What this question means to someone whose income is 100% commission is: how much money do you make? While this would be rude in most professions, in the sales world it is like asking your date if she has lip herpes; it’s everyone’s business.
“More than you,” Bobby said as he slid his third taco into his mouth. Did I mention he’s obese? It’s one of the rare side effects of eating insane quantities of food.
“How do you know?” Bradley asked.
“Because everyone knows,” I said. And they did, because it was tracked on a large white board in the conference room and updated weekly. “Bobby’s a hustler, and I mean that in the most admirable way.”
“Well you better keep making that cash,” Bradley said. “I hear skin cream can get pretty expensive.”
Bobby stopped chewing and stared at Bradley. Both men were silent. Bradley’s raised eyebrows and slightly agape mouth betrayed a growing fear. After a long beat, Bobby slowly began chewing again, eyes still on Bradley. He raised his thick arm and reached for his glass of water and washed down whatever Chihuahua cheese was left between his teeth.
“I didn’t mean nothing by that, Bobby,” Bradley said. He actually seemed sincerely apologetic. So in his attempt to fight awkwardness with more awkwardness, he said: “I just meant I hear it costs a lot. I read it somewhere. Yeah, in the newspaper. I figure it’s true what they say.”
“And what do they say?” Bobby asked.
“You know,” Bradley said. “That it’s a real bitch. It’s real expensive for that sort of thing you go going on.” He motioned his hand around his own face in the spots where Bobby’s affliction was most ablaze.
“You’re a very stupid man,” Bobby said to him.
“What? How do you know I’m stupid?” Bradley replied.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked.
“I read it in the papers,” Bobby said. “So it must be true.”
The scene: Same place, about 45 seconds after the end of Act I. Important background information: As previously revealed, Bobby hustled, and it paid off for him. He made around $20,000 every month. However, he made most of his income from his side job. It was known to many that he was the distributor of copious amounts of cocaine.
“Where do you live, Bobby?” I asked. My intention had been twofold: (1) to change the subject from the previous conversation and (2) to simply learn what part of the city he lived in.
“In my old man’s basement,” he said.
“For real?” I asked. I was beyond surprised. My eyebrows were raised very high, a common side effect of great shock.
“Yeah,” Bobby said. “For real.”
“Oh wow,” Bradley said. “I didn’t know you were Italian.” Both Bobby and I looked at him with blank stares. Bradley was the sort of guy who received a lot blank stares, and they seldom alerted him that anything was amiss.
Bobby’s situation confused me. In my all-too-judgmental judgment, a forty-year-old man who made the kind of money he made should probably not be living at home. There are, of course, always exceptions.
“Is your dad sick?” I asked.
“Nope,” Bobby said, and went about sticking the bienvenido end of a burrito into the black hole above his top chin.
“So your dad probably has a big house, huh?” I tried again.
He shook his head side to side as he chewed.
“So then you two must just be pretty tight,” I said.
“Me and my old man?” he replied. “Not at all.”
“So, I gotta ask,” Bradley said. “What about the ladies?”
“Where are you going with this?” I interjected, understanding that the only ladies in Bobby’s life were the ones that tickled his undercarriage in trade for a free sample of his pixie dust.
“Well,” Bradley ventured to explain, “When you’re out at a bar or something, what do you tell the ladies when they want to come back to your place?” Again, two blank stares. He continued as I writhed with discomfort: “It’s gotta be a little embarrassing, right? Bringing them back to your dad’s place and all. That would suck. I could never do that.”
“So what does your dad do for work?” I asked Bobby, again desperate to change the subject.
“He’s a cop,” Bobby said.
Eyebrows lifted again. Super high this time, like above my hairline.
“A cop?” I asked.
“Yeah, a cop,” he replied.
“Like at the mall?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “Like at the sixth district on South Halsted.”
“I heard the cops in that district were all pretty dirty,” Bradley said. Bobby and I both slowly looked up at Bradley.
“What’s wrong with you?” I asked Bradley.
“What’d I say?” Bradley asked.
“You basically just called his dad a dirty cop,” I said.
“Who told you that?” Bobby asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You hear these things.”
“Yeah?” I asked. “I never hear those things. So where’d you get that garbage from?”
“Hmm…I’m just not really sure guys,” he replied, pretending as though it wasn’t something he had just made up. “I probably read it somewhere.”
“Of course,” I said. “In the newspaper, right?”
“No,” Bradley said. “Definitely wasn’t the newspaper.”
“You sure?” I asked, mockingly.
“Yeah, I’m sure” Bradley said, scratching his chin in deep though. “Definitely not. Who even reads the newspapers anymore?”
The scene: Same place, exactly 3 seconds after the end of Act II.
“So, Bobby, back to you living with your dad,” I said. “How does that work?”
“Well,” he said, “the place is pretty much paid for and my mom died back when I was in high school, so it’s just the two of us. I get the basement, and he’s upstairs.”
“Yeah, sounds organized,” I said. “But I meant about the other thing.”
“What other thing?” Bobby asked.
“That side business of yours,” I said. “How does that work when you’re living with a cop?”
“Oh, that,” Bobby said. “It’s a great cover, right?”
“Uhh,” I stumbled to come up with a reply. “I guess it is. Just seems a bit risky. I mean, if I were looking to escape from Auschwitz, I wouldn’t hide my escape plans in the Nazi’s barracks just because no one would be looking for it there. But, okay.”
“Wait a minute,” Bradley said, his hand pointing at Bobby’s chest. “Your dad’s a Nazi?”
“Who’s a Nazi?” said an old man in the booth behind me. I hadn’t noticed him before that moment, and he hardly mattered.
“I thought he was a cop?” Bradley said.
“He is a cop,” Bobby said.
“Was a cop,” said a woman walking by who was known by no one at our table.
“But now he’s a Nazi?” Bradley asked.
“Nobody’s a Nazi,” I said. “Right, Bobby?”
“Nobody’s a Nazi,” Bobby said.
“See?” I said, looking at Bradley.
“Yeah, not a Nazi,” Bobby said, chewing on the last of his burrito. “But if I’ve ever met a man who’d love to kill a few Jews, it’s him.”
As previously revealed, Bradley’s father was not a Nazi. He was, however, a dirty cop. He would steal cocaine from the evidence room at his district station. He would then supply that cocaine to Bobby, who in turn sold it and split the profits with his father. You know how I figured that out? I read it in the newspaper.