Thomas Wictor

My friends are…

My friends are…

…pretty amazing in terms of what I don’t know about them. Joe Cady hadn’t found it necessary to tell me the story below until we had a conversation about cigars.

When I was in high school, my friend Bobby-Bob-Bobby and I stole a couple of his father’s cigars.

The day my family met Bobby-Bob-Bobby in 1978, his mother introduced him as “Bobby.” We’d been invited over to their house because our respective fathers worked together, and we were new to Stavanger. In the basement I played Foosball with Bobby, who would be in my class at school. I addressed him as Bobby, and he screamed, “STOP CALLING ME BOBBY! MY NAME’S BOB!”

He was the bus-puker in this fiasco. We then lost touch, since he was embarrassed that he’d left me to die in Yugoslavia.

When he came out here for my sister’s wedding in 1994, it was the first time I’d seen or heard from him in thirteen years. I called him Bob, the way I had in high school. After a few minutes, he screamed, “STOP CALLING ME BOB! MY NAME’S BOBBY!”

I wasn’t a drinker anymore, but Bobby-Bob-Bobby got bombed and cried, reminiscing with me about things we’d never done together. He had me confused with someone else. His life in New England was like a Stephen King novel. He told me this endless story about a fistfight he’d had with a “big, really mean bully”—his words—at work. They were both in love with a woman who was legally blind but coped by wearing inch-thick glasses and a miner’s head light. She’d also had rickets, so she was bowlegged and walked with two canes.

“Her legs are like two parentheses,” Bobby-Bob-Bobby said dreamily.

A day after he left, his parents called. In Stavanger I used to get drunk with his mother in the family’s kitchen. She’d pour me double scotches on the rocks and tell me how much her children disappointed her. I was there trying to woo Jennifer, the Second Ghost of my memoir, who was a clone of the young Shirley MacLaine.

Jennifer just wanted to be friends, so I drank with her mother instead. Jennifer is a ghost because I did something that ruined her life. After I die and I face the guy with the clipboard and the list of my sins, I won’t argue with him. I’ll do whatever they say is necessary for me to be forgiven. I’ll never forgive myself, but I can ask others to forgive me.

Bobby-Bob-Bobby’s parents were frantic that he hadn’t returned from California. They insinuated that it’d been our responsibility to get him on the plane, even though he was a man in his thirties. My extremely irritated father called the airline. When they told him that they couldn’t give out information on specific passengers, Dad proved yet again what a brilliant man he was. Without a second’s hesitation, he said something that wouldn’t have occurred to me in a billion years:

Dad’s Stroke of Genius

That changed everything. They revealed that Bobby-Bob-Bobby had gotten even drunker in the airport bar, missed his flight, slept in the lounge, and was going to catch the next plane. Dad called Bobby-Bob-Bobby’s parents, and they were greatly relieved that soon they’d have their son back in their arms. Alive. Essentially.

But when Bobby-Bob-Bobby and I were alcoholic high school seniors, we stole two of his father’s cigars and a bottle of Aquavit. We went out to Little Stokka Lake, got roaring drunk in the bushes, and fired up the cigars. I was a cigarette smoker at the time, so I inhaled. Ten minutes of that made me the most nauseated I’d ever been until 2011, when I had my first Meniere’s rotational-vertigo attack.

I put out the cigar and tried not to barf. Half an hour later, I belched, and a cloud of cigar smoke came out with the Aquavit fumes. I was horrified at the idea of all that tar still swirling around in my lungs, maybe forever, so I made myself belch about thirty times. Smoke came out the first twenty or so.

Did I stop smoking cigarettes? No. Not until 2001.

Shut your piehole. Who asked you? Yes, when I get cancer, it’ll be all my own fault. I know. Since both my parents got cancer, the oncologists tell me it’s a lead-pipe cinch that I’ll get it too. Lung, mouth, tongue, gum, head, throat, and neck cancer, and they’ll hit at the same second. It’ll be like this R. Crumb cartoon, but instantly.

I’ll try to catch it on video and post it here.

So I told Joe Cady about my one experience with cigars, and he sent me the following e-mail, which he allowed me to publish with the proviso that I remove the name of the actor involved.

I once found myself in possession of a box of 25 Cohiba cigars. It was the result of an odd series of events that involved [my wife] Violette disappearing into the night on the back of the motorcycle of [a hulking, internationally famous French actor]. Violette had intended that our little group follow them in the car, but [the actor] didn’t catch on to that subtle aspect. So I dropped off the other person in the car and went home. Anyway, [the actor] finally caught on after they had arrived at his apartment (or one of them) when Violette asked if she could use his phone to call her husband.

“Your husband?!?

So pretty soon they show up at our place—now with a motorcycle cop who had stopped them for riding without helmets, but had decided to tag along instead—with [the actor] holding a plastic sack. He pulls out the box of cigars and says that he got them as a gift from “my friend, Fidel Castro.”

Long story short, he stuck around maybe 30 minutes, the time it took to suck down what little alcohol there was in the cupboard. Then he took off like a bat outta hell, cop in tow. The cigars took a couple of months to smoke. Shared them with my friends, but Violette and I smoked most of them ourselves (didn’t inhale). We used to joke that we had more money in the fridge (we put the stogies in there to keep them fresh) than we did in our bank account.

Christ, Joe. We’ve known each other since 1981, and you never told me anything like that before. Nocturnal motorcycle jaunts with hulking, internationally famous French actors? You’ve been holding out on me.

Is there a memoir in you? Want an amanuensis?

You know my number.

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