“You spent $30,000 on those rare fish for your aquarium last month!” I exclaim.
“Don’t drag my fish into this, they are innocent,” my dad retorts. “Besides they actually have the chance of paying me back when they start popping out $5,000 babies.”
He doesn’t even care.
“You probably have $50,000 lost in the sofa!”
I notice how strange this idiom is as soon as it comes out of my mouth. Cash and coins hardly exist anymore… no one loses money in the sofa. “Dollar” is just a unit of measurement, not one specific currency. But I’m too angry to consider where exactly I pulled the reference from.
“You won’t keep your kid out of prison?” I continue.
“It’s the principle,” my dad says. He’s not yelling, he never yells.
“Dad! If you just pay 40 of the 70 thousand, they’ll let me work the rest off without confinement.”
He’s shaking his head slightly, and making that tucked-in-lip face; the one people make when they pass a stranger on the street.
“I’ll pay you back…” I try, exasperated. Nothing. “Don’t you have insurance to cover things like this?”
“We self insure for things like this. So imagine me as your insurance agent. I deny your claim for violating the terms of the agreement,” my dad says. “Remember how I told you that you should look into buying defense insurance for yourself? Maybe you could have got the renegade plan, or something, and they would cover things like this, I don’t know.”
He is not budging. Not even showing any emotion. That is what is so frustrating. If he was pissed-off I could work with it. Emotional responses cool down and things change. But my dad’s decision isn’t going to change. He’s not upset. There is nothing to cool down. He just made a logical decision.
I’m nothing like him.
“I’m going to prison! And you could stop it without even noticing!”
“You know this affects my business Dege. Who knows how much you cost us by insulting Francesco? He’s a big buyer.”
“Are you hearing me?! PRISON!” I pronounce the word with emphasis but I’m not quite yelling. “And all you care about is your business?!”
“Oh stop being so dramatic,” my dad says, breaking eye contact. He takes a sip of his drink.
“Dramatic,” I repeat indignantly. “Do you know what happens in prison?”
“Yeah, you learn some discipline,” he responds.
“No,” I say shaking my head, “You get raped! Is that what you want, for me to get raped?!”
“Rodigio, this isn’t 2000. Statistically, you’re more likely to get raped at those clubs you frequent.”
“Well it’s still two years on an island with all men.” I shoot back, “Don’t be surprised when your son comes home hanging off the bicep of Buff Jimmy, the reformed pirate.”
“We should be so lucky,” my dad scoffs. “A stern man is what you needed in your life all along. I blame myself. But anyway, there’s actually an island for female confines, and you all get to meet up twice a week. Haven’t you even checked out the website?”
I turn to my mom. “Is that what you want?” I say slow and serious. “For me to come home with a bull-dike-looking prison bitch named Ricky?”
“Oh you have such an imagination!” She says, “You’re such a natural storyteller, with your creative names and flare for drama. You should spend your extra time on the island writing stories! Or maybe work on your acting? You were always so good in those plays, you loved them.”
She’s serious too, not even trolling. She will always side with my dad. He convinced her a few years ago that she was an enabler of my “irresponsible behaviour.” This is just how she tries to stay positive.
My mom forces a smile, “Maybe it will be like camp,” she sort of laughs and shrugs.
I put my face in my hands realizing that my parents are about to abandon me to a prison island.
“I can’t believe you two are doing this to me!” I whimper.
“We aren’t doing this to you, Dege,” my dad says with candor, “We just aren’t bailing you out this time. It’s two years, less if you actually learn to do something people want to pay for.”
My mom is shaking her head in agreement, looking between my dad and me.
“It will be good for you sweetie. Don’t you want to learn a meaningful skill, go out on your own at some point?” Then she adds quickly, “Not that you’re not always welcome here!”
My heart is beating faster. It’s sinking in that I am about to go to a prison camp for two years. And that means missing New Year’s Eve in Barracuda. That means being separated from Majorie.
“Why do you both hate me!? If it was Raji you would pay it!” I am desperate and lashing out.
“You know what,” my dad says, “your attitude just proves all the more that it is high time you take a little responsibility for your actions.”
“Who buys a glass ball that costs more than I make in a year!? And I didn’t know his stupid statue would break.”
“Exactly. You didn’t know. But that didn’t stop you from doing something impulsive and destructive.”
“I was drunk!” I shout indignantly.
“That’s not an excuse,” he says, still infuriatingly calm.
“And that’s the other reason this will be good for you.” My mom adds. “They don’t allow alcohol on the island, and I think it will do you some good to stay sober for a while… clear your head.”
“You better get packing,” my dad says.
I’m back in my room. I still cannot accept it. I have one more thing I could try… I can ask Dean. But I don’t want to.
And yet, I make the call anyway.
“I can’t even believe you’re asking me this Rodigio.”
“Dude, I’ll pay it back with interest! I know you have the money!”
“Dege, it’s not like all my money is just sitting in a wallet somewhere. I do things with it. It’s invested all over, diversified. To give you that money would be an opportunity cost.”
“If I give you that money, it means I can’t do something else with it.”
“So you care more about making more money than you do about your friend?”
“You know where the last $35 grand I threw down went? To a start-up bringing rule of law to the parts of the world that still have oppressive governments.”
“That’s just the last 35. I know you put at least that much in the virtual reality porn company!”
“I remember you being pretty excited about CyberNut at the time. But it still doesn’t matter Dege, because even CyberNut deserves the money more than you do. And I deserve to put my money in the places that I want, and make money back for my risk. What do I get risking that on you? Because please don’t try to tell me it’s not a risk…”
“I just thought maybe you wouldn’t want to see your friend in prison for two years. But I guess you think that’s what I deserve.”
He sighs. “Dege, I love you like a brother. But yes, you deserve to be held accountable for your actions. Me bailing you out wouldn’t help you in the long run.”
“Now you sound like my dad.”
“Well your dad is a smart guy Dege. Maybe it’s time you start listening to his advice. I mean you keep saying, two years, two years. Have you even considered the fact that you can make that much money in two months if you really wanted to?”
“Maybe you could…”
“I’m glad this conversation went this way. I’m now convinced that this will be good for you.”
We hang up. I am alone in my room.
I walk out on the balcony, overlooking the pool and tiers of grass that lead down to the white sandy beach, gently sloping into the ocean between large stone jetties.
It’s dark, but most of the palm trees and tropical ground cover are illuminated from hidden lights in the lava-rock-mulch.
I’ve lived here all my life. So accessible, always available just outside my back door. And suddenly I’m a visitor, just here for the night. So I might as well take advantage of it. I walk down to stroll through the pristine grounds.
I want to see Majorie but am not sure what to say. That’s what has kept me from messaging her. That and the stomach churning reality that I am going to prison.
A message comes in. Its from Majorie.
“Can I come over?”
Her drone lands about five minutes later. She walks down into the backyard garden and sits down next to me without saying a word. We look at each other and force a smile. And for a few minutes we just sit listening to the waves roll off the platform.
I sigh, “well apparently this place doesn’t have any alcohol. So… want a beer?”
We grab a couple from the outdoor kitchen and sit at the tiki bar.
“I have to say… Your platform is way nicer than mine,” Majorie says.
“Well you’re closer to the center. And… you get to stay.”
“What are you going to do?” she asks.
“What can I do?”
“I mean to earn the money.”
“I guess I’ll keep working my bug catching job. Maybe if I put in enough hours I can cut it down to a year and a half.”
She looks down, “That’s a long time.”
Silence. Faint lapping of the ocean. Distant windchimes?
“I understand if you want to just forget about me and move on,” I blurt out. “I mean we just met anyway, I don’t expect you to…” I trail off.
Majorie takes a long swig of her beer. “We did just meet. Which is why this is so weird. Because I’m not just going to ditch you.”
“Look, it’s not your fault that I broke the statue. I don’t want you to feel attached to me out of guilt.”
“It’s not guilt. Definitely not guilt. It’s… well I don’t know what it is. It’s you, you’re different. I don’t know how yet, but I know a good thing when I see it.”
Now we’re staring into each other’s eyes. And it’s probably the only thing at this moment that can make me feel better. She’s right, there is something else going on here. I just hope the separation won’t ruin it.
We kiss across the bar. It feels so good to just enjoy each other’s company for a minute or two, sipping our beers.
Then I remember the burning question on my mind (when I’m not distracted by my impending incarceration).
“So what’s the deal with your job? You worked for Elijah Braze?” I ask.
“Well yeah sort of, but I barely knew him. Ben Rupert, his head of staff is–well was–my boss.” Majorie sighs, “But they already revoked all my permissions and sent an official severance notice so… looks like I’m a free agent.”
“What did you do for him?”
“Mostly data gathering.”
“You mean like marketing data for one of his businesses?”
“More like,” Majorie says slowly, formulating the right way to explain it, “Data gathering of a more personal nature.”
She only goes on after laughing at my blank expression.
“Sometimes it is digging into personal character, other times it’s confirming where someone lives or sniffing out conflicts of interest.”
“You’re a spy!?” I exclaim, only half joking.
“Well, I guess you could say that. Intelligence gathering.” She winks.
Suddenly an image of Majorie seducing a business contact to get some confidential pillow talk pops into my head. She seems to see the gears turning.
“It’s really not as exciting as it sounds,” she assures me. “Usually it’s pretty boring grunt work. The paid travel is nice… well at least it was.” Swig.
“Do you have other clients?”
“Yeah, but that was by far my largest chunk of income. I’m going to need to find something to replace it. All my other stuff is more routine digging. I can do most of it online.”
Another silence. It’s a wave of reality that keeps washing over me, anxiety about my fate tomorrow. I know Majorie can feel it too every time it hits.
“So when do you have to go?” Majorie asks.
“They pick me up at 9 tomorrow morning.”
She gives a sympathetic smile. “Any plans until then?”
I manage a laugh. “If you want to keep me up all night, I don’t mind arriving to prison a little groggy. Who do I have to impress there anyway?”
We spend the night laying in the grass, looking up at the stars, midnight skinny-dipping, and pre-dawn moonbathing. Majorie and I fall asleep in each other’s arms curled up on a large plush piece of patio furniture as the sun breaks over the horizon.