Charlie was the “friend” that, when someone asks you, “have you ever had a rich friend,” you think of him, roll your eyes and say, “oh yeah.”
Unfortunately, he was not the type of rich friend that when you say, “nice sunglasses,” he’d say, “have them.” The opposite in fact. Charlie relished in his wealth and its power over people to the point where he would, at all costs, avoid lifting anyone else up financially.
Once, I actually saw him place a four-thousand-dollar watch into an empty bag of chips, roll it up and shove it to the bottom of the trash can, no joke. Only my comfortable middle-class upbringing prevented me from diving after it.
Now, you’re probably thinking “why would you be friends with a guy like that?” and I would respond by shrugging, then spend the next week asking myself the same question.
Charlie called me two weeks ago. “I got to show you something,” he said.
He was excited, per usual, probably some new toy, per usual. And, finding myself with nothing better to do, per usual, I take the train uptown to his apartment building.
Charlie has to come down and get me since he lives in one of those buildings where the security is on constant alert for villains wearing faces they’ve seen a thousand times.
“All good Jim,” Charlie tells the domesticated ex-marine behind the desk.
“See you soon Jim,” I add. Jim gives me a blank look.
“Wait till you see this,” Charlie says once we are in the elevator. He bounces on the balls of his feet the whole way up.
We step inside his place.
“A hot tub?” I say, unimpressed.
“It is The Fountain of Youth!”
I roll my eyes. “You’ve nicknamed your hot-tub the fountain of youth?”
Charlie sighs at me, “No, idiot, I had them turn it into a hot-tub.”
“The Fountain of Youth! Don’t you ever listen?”
“Charlie, The Fountain of Youth isn’t real,” I remind him.
He gives me a pitying smile as he begins to undress, “everything is real if you pay enough,” he reminds me.
He strips off his socks, walks over and turns the jets on in The Fountain of Youth.
“Okay, so, say I believe you, what do you want The Fountain of Youth for anyway? You’re thirty-two.”
“Yeah, but don’t you want to go back to being a teenager?”
I shake my head “Hell no, I hated being a teenager.”
“Ah, you were one of those.”
I narrow my eyes at him. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Charlie climbs up next to the pool, “Oh you know, those people who are always bitching about high-school and how anyone who was cool is now a truck driver or some bullshit like that. Not true. I tell you, I was cool as shit and look at me now. Bet you wrote poetry, didn’t you?”
I glare at him.
“Thought so.” He grins.
“You going in or what?”
Charlie rubs his hands together, looks sideways at me and grins. “Bet your poetry was rubbish,” he says before slipping into the water and dipping below the surface.
Then it happened. It was so fast. A boy’s head appeared above the water, it screamed, then disappeared again. I ran over to the edge of the hot-tub, reached my hands in and pulled out a newborn baby boy. It coughed up a bit of water then cried like hell.
“Shit,” I told the baby, it cried some more.
I carried it downstairs at arms-length, the shrunken pin-up girl tattoo growing more disconcerting as I went.
All I could think was, what the hell am I going to say to Jim?