I have this good friend that drifts in and out of my life. We have know one another for years and still manage to check in now and then even though our lives have both taken very different paths. He frightens me a bit so it is nice that our relationship is not one that I have to work very hard at maintaining. He can slink off for a year or so, but always checks back in. I can call him up at any point and leave a message and he is back in touch in a few days. I think we help each other out. He tends to do silly things like say... gamble all his money away. He calls me the next day and I admonish him to go get a legit job for a few months. He agrees and sulks his way back into mainstream society with a promise not to injure the 30-something Manager named Josh who makes the schedule. The relationship works for me because I have someone close by that can break knees if knees need to be broken.
Last year we were in Stowe, VT on a family vacation. There is a gourmet food store up there that is run by Cabot cheese. In the middle of the store there is an enormous long wooden table filled with vats of cheese cubes and toothpicks. Everyone comes in, snacks on free cheese samples and admires the quaint Christmas ornaments and antique snowshoes. I was at the table this year spearing a sample of Mango Bacon Monterey Jack for my cheese loving son. He still needs to be closely monitored around toothpicks. They are easily smuggled weapons for Lego mini-figs. My phone started to ring. I eased past the throngs of stoner snow borders wearing their smelly woolen Nomad hats tasting a Horseradish Cranberry Cheddar.
It was my friend and he had just heard some troubling news and needed to call me. According to his source I had just returned from Italy. Italy had not been kind to me, the story he was told was one of ruffees and rapes. Bad Italian men making the naive pushing-40 American drink tainted Limoncello. I waved at my daughter who was showing me an elf hat she was trying on through the store window. Mommy is just dispelling international rumors, be right in sweetie!
My initial reaction was to ask him who the hell had told him such a ridiculous thing. He said in a quiet gruff voice that he had to apologize but there was no way he could reveal his source. Of course. How completely Soprano-like. I had a vision of him sitting at a desk filled with receipts and a 1/2 an eaten eggplant parm sandwich. He unfolded the sordid tale to me as he cleaned out under his fingernails with a paper clip. I assured him that I had not been in Europe since the late 90's and the last time an Italian stranger bought me a drink was so long ago that I did not even want to attempt the math. I told him I was intrigued and a bit horrified however his source was dead wrong. He was relieved. I encouraged him to tell me where he had heard this bizarre tale, but he would not give it up. I stood there in the parking lot surrounded by Audi wagons, Range Rovers and Ugg wearers as he told me how enraged he became when he heard this tale of misfortune. He reminded me that he was a phone call away and would be on the next shuttle if I needed him here and those involved would pay dearly. I ducked behind a tree when I saw the couple glancing over at me as I said, "no no, there was no date rape drug, there is no need to come to Boston." with a bit too much fervor. I was stuck in the midst of this mountain resort with little to no cell service as I walked around the lot desperately checking my phone for bars. Yelling into the phone was no longer an option. "Listen carefully," I stood perched on a bench trying to get the best signal. "Nothing had taken place, there was no concern. Please stay where you are and do not come near me or my family.
It will make me crazy forever to know who it was that delivered such a ridiculous story. He will never tell me. In true gangster fashion he protected his source. The only satisfaction I get is that after expressed my horror over the sheer insanity of it all, he most likely slapped the source around for spreading filth about his friends. I hope he left a mark.