I’ve known Rob for longer than I can remember. Literally. He’s told me before how he made fun of me in 8th grade and felt terrible about it ever since. You’d think he was in the middle of a 12-step program, because I had no recollection of such an event, which made it easy to shrug it off and claim that I probably deserved it.
Rob and I didn’t talk much in High School. He was just some guy who was around. It wasn’t until I hung out with him and Nick on one of my last nights in Kansas that we cosmically locked ourselves together. I told him to let me know if he ever visited Florida and needed a place to crash. I didn’t mean it, not in the sense that I wouldn’t have let him, but more in the sense that I didn’t think he would ever take me up on the offer. Low and behold, sitting in class one way too warm November morning I received a text from the aforementioned acquaintance who was a soon-to-be friend.
“Hey man you guys in need of a roommate?” Living with Misty, and knowing that she hated outside forces knowing how terrible she was, I jumped at the opportunity to have a third party there to help curb her attitude. Rob’s fiance had cheated on him and more sympathetic, I could not be. I talked it over with Misty, but only as a formality. Rob arrived just 20 days before Obama’s inauguration. His first night we drove down to Tampa with Kevin for a New Year’s Party at my Dad’s wife’s brother’s mansion.
What a great night that was. Hanging out at a place that would forever be above my pay grade with an ocean for a backyard. A homemade karaoke had been set up, although I had yet to discover the temptation of the beer and spit-stained microphone. I had also yet to drink, so I left the liquor consumption to my guests. Rob had a decent amount, albeit far less than I expected from a broken hearted man. Maybe it was the natural intoxication of an environment consisting of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, a bunch of middle aged filipinos singing poorly and a sea breeze at his back.
Kevin took one shot and spit it right back up. His wild days were behind him. Misty, however, proceeded to make a fool of herself. She drank so much she was literally crawling to the bar. I tried to lock her in the dog cage but to no avail. On the drive back she kept trying to flash everyone in the car, and we had to stop halfway home so she could spend two hours in a bathroom trying not to throw up. Rob had received a pretty accurate impression of her.
Rob was the first of my friends to see just how psychotic Misty was. The constant fights about things I couldn’t have less control over sent me defeatedly into the living room where Rob was watching something on standard cable. “Just tell her there’s nothing you can do. It’s not your fault.” He would offer up as a suggestion. I laughed, not at the notion but at the thought that misty would ever listen to any sort of reason or logic. Rob helped, at the very least, keep Misty’s temper temporary, but come February, he made the decision to return to Kansas with the intent of going to college. I all but begged him not to go, offering up schools such as UCF or jobs at GNC as viable options. But he had made his decision and when he left I looked at Misty with that fear. That fear I imagine abused children felt when a teacher caught a glimpse of their violent parents’ actions. “Just wait until we get home.” Funny enough Misty had actually said those exact words to me before.
Well, mouthed them when friends weren’t looking.
As if hitting upon a perfectly poetic beat in a story, the tables had turned four years later when Rob took me in after he and his girlfriend moved to Chicago. With no particular place to go after finishing an unsuccsessful film, I found myself in a new city, and slowly began to put my life together.
Rob had taken to politics and if this were a roleplaying game, he would have added +30 to intelligence. We engaged in debates/arguments about the way things run or should be run. I was McNulty, he was Daniels. Our biggest debate came from his philosophical viewpoint that books were more important than their digital counterparts. I respectfully disagreed. My view was that the only thing books had a leg up on was a post apocalyptic event. We never reconciled on our differences in that regard, hence why I call it a philosophical viewpoint. To come to the other side is to change your core self. A universe where Rob agrees with me about books vs. e-books is a universe I probably wouldn’t want to live in. It was a minor thing anyway, considering we both owned kindles and books alike, and last I checked Syria’s weapons were chemical, not nuclear.
Rob reminded me often of my father. He had a strong knowledge of politics, the news was his go to channel, even when it wasn’t cool. Rob’s knees were weak, just as my father’s wrists were. Nine out of ten books that sat on Rob’s shelf matched my father’s, and I can only hope that Rob has a better life in store for him than my dad did. Rob is a man of few flaws, but one is his memory. He would often repeat himself without the slightest idea he had done so. He could mimic a thirty minute rant word for word and wouldn’t be the wiser that he had said it all before. One day, we sat in his soon to be abandoned apartment shooting the shit like we always did. He pointed out that the bike in the corner of the room was a donation from a work friend, and that he had been fixing it up. He found a new seat for it, and put on a new back wheel.
“Now all I have to do is get a new tire for the wheel and I’m set!” He looked down near the bike chain. “Oh…and pedals…those are important.” and took a swig of Whiskey. We watched a couple TV shows and before I left we discussed the great deals he’d been getting on various food, liquor, accessories and the conversation swung back to the bike in the corner. “I mean look at that! I got that bike for free. The seat and the wheel I found and fit perfectly! All I need to do is put a new tire on the back and I’m all set!” He looked down near the bike chain. “Oh…and pedals,… those are important.” He took a swig of whiskey and I lost it. I couldn’t stop laughing. When he asked what was funny I told him that he knew himself too well. Now every time I see a bike pedal I think about how important they are, especially to Rob.
I hope to one day return to New York City for good, but if that day never comes, I know I can at least make it in Chicago. As long as I can go on my city romps and crane my neck at the protective blanket of city skylines, I’ll be all right. Hell, through one romp I may glance down to see a stray bike pedal lying in the gutter. It would only be right then to feel sorry for the individual who lost it, and what Rob would say about it. On this particularly brisk day, someone would open their window ten stories up to bring in their AC unit. They’re new to the devices, however, and failed to properly brace them. When they open the window sill, the unit falls out, ripping itself free of the outlet, plummeting right on the back of my neck just after I feel a stray bead of water from it. My eyes are now level with the orange reflector on the pedal, and the sunlight glares perfectly right into my pupil. My rods and cones do not register it, however as they have ceased instructions to continue. My blood slides down the gutter as I drift into nothingness thinking about the importance of pedals and my friend Rob.