When Dan, Rob’s boss at the pie shop, called to say that Rob hadn’t come in to work, my first thought was that he was right on schedule.
Fall was when Rob would often get himself into serious trouble. He first went off the deep end a few days before Halloween when he was 17 (I’ll tell you more about that some other time). That’s when he was formally diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, and in the years that followed, I was always particularly worried about him from October through December.
So it wasn’t entirely surprising to hear that Rob had gone AWOL a few days before Thanksgiving. After talking with Dan, I tried calling and texting Rob a bunch more times throughout the night but to no avail.
The next morning, I drove to the pie shop, hoping to find him there, and that’s when I found out that he’d been in a car accident two nights earlier. According to Dan, who got the scoop from one of the bakers, Rob was out with a few other pie shop employees doing who knows what, and I’ve forgotten most of the details other than that the car had flipped over, no one was seriously hurt, and Rob supposedly was the driver.
I finally heard from him later that afternoon. Rob confirmed that he’d been in an accident but shared details that were entirely different from what Dan had told me. I didn’t dwell on that. Rob said that he was okay and, don’t worry, he was still planning on coming to our house for Thanksgiving.
That, of course, worried the hell out of me because I didn’t know what level of Rob drama to prepare for, though I knew from experience that you can never really prepare for any of it. Part of me (my head) didn’t want him to come over at all and part of me (my heart) felt sorry for him. That’s how it always was with Rob, and nine times out of 10, my heart won out.
This time around, I just had to guarantee that there would be no losers. Maura’s brother and sister-in-law and their one-year-old daughter were going to be there, along with our friend Allison and her five-year-old son, Otto. I assured Maura that I’d keep a close eye on Rob throughout the day.
I picked him up in front of his house the next morning so we could watch the Vikings–Lions game together before everyone else arrived, and the moment he stepped into the car I knew he wasn’t right. Not only did he look all banged up, but he also seemed to be on something, or it could have been that he had a concussion. He was slurring some of his words, to say nothing about him being cranky as fuck.
He and I got into one of our annoying, perfectly timed fights right before I pulled into my driveway. Apparently, I had asked one too many probing questions, to which he responded with one too many sarcastic answers. It was just like old times.
Luckily for all of us, he pulled his shit together as soon as he walked through the door. Maura greeted him warmly, but I was still pissed and felt the tension in the air. With Rob, there was always the threat that something could go south at any moment, and I had lived on those tenterhooks for as long as I can remember.
He proceeded to tell us his version of the car accident story (he wasn’t driving, they were doing donuts, his phone had died and blah blah blah) and proudly showed us his cuts, scrapes and bruises, which looked far more serious than he had made them out to be. So much so that Maura insisted on tending to his wounds right then and there.
We went upstairs to the bathroom, and when he took off his shirt, she became even more alarmed. He was a complete mess and still bleeding from a few deep cuts that obviously needed stitches. Maura removed a few tiny shards of glass from his shoulder and back and bandaged him up the best she could. We told him that he really should go to a hospital, but Rob being Rob, didn’t want to hear it. It was Turkey Day, a time to hang with family, watch football and pig out.
And that’s pretty much what we did, which is what I was most grateful for on that Thanksgiving Day. He cracked a few jokes but was otherwise uncharacteristically quiet. Later in the afternoon, he even nodded out for a few minutes and it was obvious to all of us that he wasn’t himself. I’ve often wondered if Rob was capable of seeing himself the way others saw him.
When it came time for dessert, I brought out a few pies that I had picked up from the shop the day before, and that’s when Rob confided that he thought there was a chance that he still had a job there. He was going to speak to Dan about it on Friday. I knew right then that this was not going to end well.
Unfortunately, I was right. A few days later, Rob’s landlady called to say that she was about to call the police.