The Jew boy who lived in the Christian sober house stayed there for about seven months, and I wished he had never left. I really thought that this was his best opportunity to turn his life around, and for a while it seemed like he was trying to do it.
I could see it in his eyes. There was a clarity and blue sparkle that I hadn’t seen for a very long time, maybe even going all the way back to when he was a little boy playing with Zach. During this brief time period, this Rob was my favorite of all the Robs.
He sometimes looked tired, particularly after he started working the graveyard shift at the casino, but there was a new lightness about him that helped ease my anxiety and concern. When we hung out on Saturday afternoons, we fell into a natural rhythm of cracking sarcastic jokes and goofing on each other. He’d also surprise me by how much he knew about things that I had no idea about, although I’m having trouble recalling exactly what those things were. I momentarily stopped walking on eggshells and it almost felt easy, which, as I’ve noted before, was not a word I’d ever associate with Rob. I even allowed myself to feel the slightest bit of hope. This was the Rob that I had imagined he could be.
That’s what I often did with Rob. I viewed him through the most hopeful lens because viewing him any other way hurt like a bitch. (Small digression: You know the little pocket above the regular pocket on the right side of a pair of jeans? Rob used to call that “the bitch pocket,” which always made me laugh. I was going to write a story about it, but it’s not nearly as good of a metaphor as the sand and the water, and Rob would’ve hated being the little bitch pocket, so never mind.)
The best thing about Rob living in the sober house was that I didn’t have to worry (as much). I knew he was safe. He had a roof over his head, he was going to AA meetings (maybe even working the Steps), he had a job, he was even going to church on Sundays, which still makes me smile, picturing him rolling his eyes during a sermon.
I just had the feeling that he was giving it a shot, even if it was mostly by osmosis. Maybe he’d pick something up in a meeting that would eventually lead to some positive change. Or maybe his sponsor would help keep him on the straight and narrow. Or maybe he’d finally start to grow the fuck up and take some responsibility for his life. That was the way my hope saw things, but my fear was well aware that Rob was mostly complying with whatever rules they threw at him because living there was better than living on the street.
I’d sometimes go into the house with him after we had lunch. He’d introduce me around to his roommates, whose names I’ve forgotten, and I saw how proud he was of me and that memory is making me cry right now. I often said how proud I was of him for doing this very hard thing that he was doing, and it always got a little awkward between us when I did, but not in a bad way. Maybe it was that neither of us totally believed that he was actually doing it.
As time went by, Rob regrettably stuck to the Rob script and started to complain about the going-to-church thing, and the Pastor Dan thing, and how a few of his friends in the house had left, and how the vibe changed afterward, and how he was thinking of moving out and into another sober house just a few miles away where one of the other guys recently went to live. This was always his go-to move. He’d say he was “thinking” about something for a few weeks, and then he’d tell me that he had already done it. That’s what happened when he moved into the second sober house, which if it had a name, I never knew it.
It was a similar setup, only larger and a little more expensive, but by this time Rob was paying his own way. There were maybe 18 guys in the house, most of them considerably younger than he was. This place sounded a little stricter, with mandatory drug testing and an enforced curfew, but Rob seemed happy about his decision. Happy Rob mostly made me anxious because that meant that it was only a matter of time before one of the troubled Robs would appear.
I was concerned in a don’t-fix-it-if-it-ain’t-broke kind of way, but I couldn’t do anything about it. We still did our thing on Saturdays and I don’t remember many specifics about this particular time, other than that he was there for maybe two months before he started “thinking” about moving into his own place.
Two weeks later, he was chillin’ in his new apartment in Long Beach.