Bobby had been inside for three years, and he’d learned a few things. He was a smart guy. That’s why I liked talking to him. When he asked for my story, I didn’t even lie about it. Nobody in that place tells the truth about how they got there. I guess I trusted Bobby. I knew that he was crazy, but at least he was up front about it. I respected that. He was a lot of things, but Bobby wasn’t a liar.
“Mostly man, I liked to feel like a big shot,” it felt good to admit that. “I started selling, you know, spreading it around. I was Mr. Party.”
He laughed when I told him. “That’s not the stupidest reason that anyone wound up in here,” he mused. “It is pretty fuckin’ stupid though.”
“I liked the girls, man. I know, but it was stupid, man. I get stupid over pussy. Who gives a fuck that I fucked a bunch of girls who don’t remember me? You know who’s coming on visiting day? Fucking nobody, man. My sister won’t even. They’re all ashamed.”
Bobby mocked my sorrow with a demonic giggle. “So anyway, you got busted. It wouldn’t have happened if you were careful. How did they get you?”
I remember thinking, ‘Fuck. He’s going to make me say it.’ “Aw man, I sold to an undercover. I got lazy, I know,” Bobby clucked his tongue. I couldn’t see his face. He was on the top bunk; I was on the bottom. It was after lights out, but neither of us could sleep. “She was totally smokin’, man. I knew better, but I didn’t y’know?”
“Wow. So when you say you get stupid over pussy, you really mean it. I wish I had an excuse like that,” he sighed. “Or something, anyway. They got me on bullshit. They had no fucking idea who I was or what I’d done. I just rubbed some police the wrong way, I guess.”
“You mouth off to them, man?” I asked, cautiously.
Bobby’s giggle evolved into a maniacal cackle worthy of a cartoon villain that’s just tied his nemesis to the railroad tracks. “Something went off, baby,” he seemed to enjoy that. “They didn’t know anything, really. It was all, what do you call it, circumcised evidence.”
At the time I rolled my eyes, but now I know better. Bobby knew what circumstantial meant. He loved to play dumb. He was sneaky like that.
“But I mean,” I knew it was a bad idea but I had to say it. “There was stuff, maybe, that would have-”
Bobby leaned over the edge of his bunk and looked me in the eyes. His face was stony and serious. It’s normal for this place, but strange for him. Nobody smiles inside. Nobody but Bobby. “Fuck, no,” he said. “I’m innocent, baby. Believe that. What about you? Why did you stay into what you were into for so long that you got sloppy?”
“I fell in love, man. Stopped being careful, tryin’ to be a hard ass for the lady,” I sighed. “You know how it is, man.”
“Wait, you were in love, but you were hot for the undercover? Or was she the one you were in love with?”
“Nah man, it was this girl Rita-”
“Well then what the fuck, baby?”
“I said I was in love, not dead. You know how it is, man.”
“I don’t doubt you. But I’ve ever been in love.”
“Really?” that actually didn’t surprise me, but ‘really?’ seemed like the polite thing to say.
“There was this one chick this one time I guess. She was fuckin’ dynamite in the sack. This nerdy girl with really big tits. She totally hid them, though. I was blown away the first time I got her naked.”
“Big tits are okay,” I mused. “I like that ass though, man. Big eyes, round ass, and freckles, man. I love those freckles.”
“Sure, whatever,” Bobby pretended not to care about what I was saying. “I have one word for you, baby, and that word is tits. And this girl had ‘em.”
“But you weren’t in love?”
“I should have been. I was good to her, don’t get me wrong, but my extra-curricular activities interfered with our relationship. We had these incomparable differences,” he started fumbling with the hole in his mattress in which he had secreted his cigarettes. “I kind of wanted to die and come back as her tampon though.”
“Jesus Christ, man.”
“Captain Redbeard needs a smoke,’” he giggled and dropped his lighter on the floor. “So you’re here. What are you thinking right now, anyway?” he seemed genuinely curious as he scrambled to retrieve the object.
I wasn’t sure exactly how to answer. “You know man, I guess it’s all… like, ‘why me?’ and shit.” Bobby giggled some more.
“You can lay there and ask yourself ‘why,’” he said as he was climbing back onto his bunk, lighter in hand. He rolled over on his side and lit a furtive cigarette, the smoke from which would be blown directly into the mattress to hide the smell. “But there’s no point. ‘Why,’ doesn’t matter. This is what the fuck is happening. You think ‘why’ is gonna have something to teach you? ‘How’ is the only thing that matters, baby. I know mistakes. You make mistakes your whole life. You can bullshit around trying to fix that, but you just go on making mistakes. Then you feel shitty about it. That’s lame. Just accept the fact that these are your mistakes and go on making them. Fuck it. Own them. Let them be yours. The same thing happens both ways, but this way you don’t have to feel shitty.”
I glanced at the thick glass that separated us from the narrow hallway. “I don’t know about that, man. If we can’t change, we’re fucked.” The judge’s words were still fresh in my mind. I felt strongly about this. “I just don’t know, man. I think we can change if we just, you know, put our minds to it or whatever.”
Bobby thought about it. He exhaled into the mattress, sucked hungrily on his cigarette, and exhaled again.
“Kind of,” he admitted. “Not really, though. Not like you’re thinking. You might change what mistakes you make, but you’ll always make mistakes. It’s like-” Suck. Blow. Suck. Blow. “It’s like you got twelve pounds of shit in your life. And that’s that. They can be twelve pounds of shit about girls, or twelve pounds of shit about your weight, or twelve pounds of shit about heroin, well actually,” Suck. Blow. Suck. Blow. “There’s gonna be twelve pounds of shit about a bunch of different things. The point is that no matter what it’s about, you got twelve pounds of shit. If you shovel two pounds out of one spot, life just takes a big dump on you somewhere else. You just gotta sit back, admit that you got twelve pounds of shit to deal with, and stop looking forward to a day where you don’t. Because-” Suck. Blow. Suck. Blow. “That day ain’t gonna come.”
I had to accept his basic premise. “I hear you, man. You just roll that rock ’till you die. So might as well make a day of it, right?”
“Exactly,” Bobby was pleased. He got the analogy, although he would never admit it. “Don’t kid yourself, even with whipped cream and a cherry on top, shit is shit. But that doesn’t mean it has to ruin your day.”
“I don’t know, man,” I felt the old stoic spirit rear it’s head. “Maybe you can learn to love it, even if it is shit. You know? Just make the best of a bad situation, man.”
He really laughed at that. Bobby was trying to say something for a while but he didn’t seem to be able to get it out. I continued.
“Okay, so life’s shit and you die, but if you learn to love shoveling those twelve pounds of shit, at least you die doing something you love, man. Right?” The laughter suddenly stopped. There was a long silence.
“I never thought about it like that,” Bobby’s tone was solemn. “My brother did that, you know. Died doing something he loved, I mean. I guess it never occurred to me before, but you’re right.”
“What was he doing, man?”
“Smoking crack and shooting people,” he erupted into another fit of giggles that went on for a long time. “Corey loved that.”
“That’s not really what I mean, man,” I was a little annoyed, but I tried to keep it out of my voice. No need to start trouble.
“Yeah, it is,” Bobby was practically out of breath. “You just don’t see it. That’s where that acceptance shit takes you. That’s the path to inner peace. You’re fuckin’ peaceful in the ground, baby! REAL motherfuckin’ peaceful.”
“So we’re just supposed to bounce from one problem to another so we can… what? What do we get out of this?”
“We get not bored,” Bobby explained as he ground his cigarette out against the bed frame. “If you’re looking for more out of life, then baby, you’re asking for too goddamn much.”
“That’s kind of depressing, man,”
“Don’t be a jackass. Just get your priorities straight and you’ll be fine. Shit, you might even be happy for a minute or two! Imagine that.”
I felt as though Bobby had hit on something important here. I wasn’t sure what to make of his twelve pounds of shit, but we were definitely making progress.
“That’s it, man,” I thumped my fist on the mattress. “That’s it, right there. My priorities were all fucked up, man. This shit never should have happened.”
We were both quiet after that. After a while, by the regularity and depth of his breathing, I could tell that he had fallen asleep.
That was our first night together.
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