What to do about Bob

Mary Pat and Bob drove over from the coast today, she to attend a club meeting with Peggy, and him to spend time with me. I took him to the natural history museum and to a bookstore. After four hours, we returned home to reunite with Peggy and Mary Pat, but they weren’t back yet, so Bob and I visited. I’m not much on sitting and talking, but he didn’t want to do anything, and the conversation did pass enjoyably enough except for two problems. One was that I hadn’t slept well the night before, and had drunk six cups of triple strength coffee in order to maintain my scintillating social presence. The other was that Bob weighs over 400 pounds, and I was afraid he would break the furniture. He always sits in my most expensive chair, only he’s too wide to fit so he perches on the edge while I wring my hands—metaphorically speaking. Then, when he goes to the bathroom, I worry that he will break the toilet, so I examine both toilet and chair as soon as he leaves.

I feel bad about being so fearful and petty, but feeling bad about how I feel does not change how I feel. Along with my mundane concerns, I also worry about Bob’s health. “How much longer can he last?” I ask myself. “Poor guy can hardly walk…” I know of nothing other than his weight that I might criticize Bob for, yet that alone keeps me from being as close to him as I would like. I see no point in talking to him about it because what could I say? “Bob, you need to lose weight”? “Bob, would you mind sitting on a packing crate when you visit, and going to a service station to take a dump?”

Yeah, it’s pretty bad to wish that someone I care about would go home because I’m worried about a chair and a toilet. “Stop being so fussy, fussy, fussy,” I tell myself. “He doesn’t break his own toilet, so he must know how to go easy on them.” But then I respond, “Well, I guess he doesn’t break his own toilet; for all I know he might break it all the time …It’s not like he is going to say, ‘Damn, Lowell, broke my frigging toilet again—fourth time this month.’”

Like a lot of men, Bob’s not the most intuitive guy in the world. I also think he’s reasonably thick-skinned, but Mary Pat knows that something’s not right with me when they’re here. God knows, I try to hide it, but she’s sharp enough to notice, and I’m sharp enough to know that she notices. This means that I feel the need to do something reassuring to make her doubt her perception. For example, Bob told me today that he likes Stellar Jays, so I found some Stellar Jay pictures on the net after he left and mailed them to him. I might have done this anyway because I like Bob, and I also liked the idea of commemorating what was mostly a good day…I probably even like Bob more because I feel so guilty about my fears that I have to like him in order to feel better about myself.

The day after I last saw her (two months ago), Mary Pat came down with viral meningitis and almost died. Everyone worries about Bob dying because he’s so fat, and then what happens but Mary Pat drops flatter than a pancake and lingers at the doorway of death for days. You just never can know, and that’s the only thing you can know.