TOM

By Jay Forman

I have a question that maybe you women can help me answer. I need to know why so many of you found a certain friend of mine so enticing.It is a mystery to me, and perhaps if I can gain a little insight into this I can better understand what it is that I am doing wrong.

 

I do not understand the mechanics of attraction. I do not understand what it was about this man that made women want him. His name is Tom, and this is his story.

Tom came to visit me in New Orleans for a couple of weeks, but ended up living on my sofa for eight months. I wasn’t surprised; the fact that he “dropped by” driving a U-Haul stuffed full of his personals pretty much betrayed his intentions.

Tom was a very enterprising and opportunistic person. He wasn’t a junkie, but he had a junkie’s mind – a highly developed reptilian proto-brain which endowed him with the cognitive ability to swing successfully from vine to vine through the jungle of his life. He was kind of like a lounge lizard with superpowers. He had about the most finely tuned survival instincts I have ever encountered. It was like he was impossible to kill. Not that I tried, but in the ensuing eight months a couple of other people actually did. He was forever scheming, plotting, manipulating, and stealing my change. He lived life on the edge. He lived on my sofa. I sort of loved him for it.

Tom was a good-looking guy. He was about six foot three and 200 pounds. Broad shouldered and rawboned, he was big-handed with a boyish face, a charming smile and pale blue eyes. He also rode a motorcycle, a Kawasaki LTD 350. As motorcycles go it was on the small side, which just made Tom look all the larger while tooling around on it, popping wheelies in front of the local Catholic high schools and inviting the seniors for a ride. This seemed to be his angle: I’m kinda badass and dangerous, but beneath all this bluster I’m just a lost little boy who needs to be loved and will you, could you love me? Women flocked to Tom like honeybees on sweet clover. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. He got laid every night, and this is no exaggeration. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

After the novelty of having Tom living on my sofa wore off, I suggested  he find employment. My friend Jamie got him a job as a line cook at a local pasta joint called Semolina. This of course meant that Tom ate Semolina’s for breakfast, lunch, and diner every day for the next 3 months, which I was to discover was the maximum length of time Tom was constitutionally capable of holding a job. Tom’s culinary specialty was Triple Smoked Gouda BBQ Chicken and Sausage Alfredo Pasta. He invented it himself. He bring home pounds of it in these white cardboard Chinese takeout-style containers. To this day I cannot forget the ungodly plopping sound the stuff made when Tom inverted one of his cartons, and a shiny, gelatinous cube of cheese and spirochete would slowly ooze out and thump quivering onto a plate. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom’s diet was to take a turn for the worse after he “left” his job at Semolina. I never did find out why he was fired, maybe he was fencing stolen Gouda or something. I never got the whole story, though there were rumors of underage hostess diddling. In any case his next job was at The Candy Barrel, a mall-based chain store where consumers purchase sweets by the pound. The way it worked was that you walked around the place with a bag, scooping up whatever caught your fancy from these enormous barrels, and Tom would ring you out up front. As you might imagine, inventory management is somewhat mushy when operating under such a business model, and doubly mushy if you happen to employ Tom. Within two days Tom had enormous candy deposits located port and starboard of his sofa. I’d come home from class to find a shirtless and helplessly stoned Tom sitting there watching Incredible Hulk reruns, eating candy by the fistful from huge brown paper sacks.

After a week or so Tom, weary of having to unwrap individual pieces of candy, concocted a new method of ingesting sweets. He’d shoplift jumbo tubes of raw cookie dough from the supermarket, peel off the wrapper and, using it as a giant dipstick, dunk it into a sack full of jellybeans and gnaw off the ends. Served with a glass of milk this was Tom’s lunch; served with a glass of my beer it was Tom’s dinner.

Three months later Tom was fired from the Candy Barrel. When pressed, his only explanation was that his boss was “a pigfucking bastard,” and that the world was unfair. There were dark utterances concerning false accusations, though what they were he would not say. This only served to reinforce his spiritual fulcrum and single guiding principal: Watch out for #1. 

 

As his ill gotten candy deposits dried up, Tom became increasingly sullen and withdrawn. He squatted scowling on his sofa, cursing the world for days at a time. But then Mardi Gras rolled around, and Tom began to perk up. One day we went to watch parades over by my mom’s house, which was ideally located right on the parade route. During the celebrations Tom got the bright idea of trying to open a Heineken bottle with his teeth, doubtlessly to impress some sweet young thing. He succeeded only in tearing open his gums, then began to bleed profusely. I was standing outside my mom’s place when a shirtless and blood-soaked Tom staggered out of the crowd, begging for medical assistance. He had in some amazing way managed even in that state to find a girl willing to doctor him. How he accomplished this I cannot imagine, for Tom looked very rough indeed. Blood and drool were pouring out of his mouth and down over his candy-swollen belly. I admitted him into the house, where the girl attended to Tom’s various medical and non-medical needs, while I went back out to watch the parade. I returned to discover that Tom had managed to drink the greater part of a handle of my mother’s Jim Beam.

 

I confess I grew angry with Tom for this, and I was harsh on him. I tolerated Tom smoking my pot and guzzling my beer and even coveting my sisters, but I was upset with him for mooching off of my mother. I blame myself for what happened later. Tom considered me his best and only true-blue friend; a blood brother, a running partner. When I chewed him out, it was emotionally traumatic for him. A liter of Jim Beam didn’t do much for his mood, either. However it happened, I am the one who unleashed an extremely drunk, horribly bloody and emotionally distraught Tom on the streets of New Orleans that night.

About 3 a.m. I received a call from (a now remorseful) Tom, who was in jail. It seems that the police, unfamiliar with Tom’s emotional needs, had unjustly arrested him for preemptively defending himself. Though he claimed it only happened once, apparently Tom fit the description of another bloody lunatic who had been performing preemptive defensive maneuvers outside strip clubs up and down Bourbon Street all night. It was mistaken identity, he claimed, either that or there were several look-alikes who shared the same Personal Shopper running amok that night. Tom did, he informed me, have a brother who bore a striking resemblance, though he lived in Florida. Whatever the case, I bailed him out. I forgave him for drinking the Jim Beam, he forgave my lack of understanding, and we both moved on.

 

The day eventually came when Tom moved from my sofa into his own personal rented bedroom in an apartment not far away. He shared the place with two young women whose names I forget. 

One night one of Tom’s housemates let a stranger crash on the living room sofa. Later that evening, Tom was rudely awakened and asked to come check out the sofa guy because, according to the housemate, “he don’t look so good.” Tom went out and, discovering that the guy was blue, immediately swung into action. He ordered his roommate to call 911, rolled up his sleeves, then went to work on the victim. Tom wasn’t actually certified in first aid or CPR, but that didn’t stop him from trying because, as he later informed me, he had in fact “once dated a nurse.” EMS arrived as Tom was violently pounding on the poor man’s chest screaming “LIVE, DAMN YOU, LIVE!” Tom later revealed that, while willing to perform chest-thumping CPResqe maneuvers, he was unwilling to “suck another man’s face.” Therefore, his CPR technique consisted of simply beating the patient until the patient “got better.”

 

Personally, I think Tom just liked to hit people. EMS, having assessed the situation and incorrectly assumed that Tom knew what he was doing, asked him to lend a hand. Tom responded enthusiastically, grabbing a gurney from the ambulance and running it up the stairs. Then they told him to “keep doing what you’re doing,” with regards to his ad-libbed CPR. As the EMS guy was fixing to get Tom’s patient onto the gurney, Tom in his newfound medical enthusiasm pressed down a bit too hard in the wrong spot, and the poor fellow’s ribcage collapsed with a sound Tom later gleefully described as “like snapping a bunch of green twigs; real wet and crunchy.” Tom admitted to looking up with a guilty start at the EMS guy at this point because well, what can you really say to cover your ass in a situation like that, anyway? Even Tom was at a loss for an excuse. Thankfully, the guy said that “You probably killed him, but that’s okay because he has already been dead for at least an hour.” Tom was relieved. But the important thing here is that Tom tried. Tom also wanted to try using the defibrillator paddles, but had to be forcibly restrained by EMS, after word got around regarding the chest-crunching incident. Poor Tom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually Dr. Tom ended up living in an apartment above Waldos, a popular Tulane watering hole. Each night Tom would creep down the stairs, seduce some bright-eyed freshman coed, and lure her back up into his Den of Sin. He did this on a nightly basis. Each night with a different girl. How did he do it? Was it the motorcycle? The lack of a job? His horrible smoker’s cough? How on God’s green earth did this boy get so much nookie? I may never understand. Maybe these girls simply hated themselves. But I still didn’t get any.

 

As Tom amassed more debt, parking tickets and enemies, leaving a trail broken homes and neglected girlfriends in his wake, he awoke one morning and finally understood that it was time to move on. When Tom left, he left like a thief in the night. Actually, he really left a thief in the night since he split about 4:30 a.m. with a rental truck full of things that did not technically belong to him. On his last night in town he got an acquaintance to front him a large amount of cocaine, and then he borrowed a keg from the bar downstairs and threw himself a goodbye party, though none of the guests knew he was actually leaving at the time. In retrospect Tom seemed unusually misty eyed and introspective that evening. It was a poignant experience for him. Yet somehow he managed to host the party, pack all his belongings secretly while it was going on (thanks to the cocaine), and simultaneously seduce a 17-year-old girl all without anyone figuring out what he was up too. Tom was masterful that evening; in rare form. He brought out every trick, scheme and roguish device in his employ to mask his escape. He was especially attentive to his housemates, to whom he owed much money. To compensate, Tom traded his huge TV to one of them in exchange for a leather jacket. That soothed some ruffled feathers. What a great guy! 

In the morning, when my phone started to ring (Tom had forwarded calls to my number), I began to realize how much I was going to miss him. I covered his tracks as he made them, thinking about the good old days of Candy Barrel. I was in on the joke, of course…the only one that knew he was leaving. As I went over to his old apartment to comfort his hysterical roommates, I was treated to an informal testimony to the life and spirit of Tom. Coke dealers and bar owners, having heard the news, were stomping around grim-faced and demanding answers from terrified roommates, who were in turn preoccupied with rent money, which just wasn’t going to happen. Various small but valuable items were missing, including a natty collection of original Burger King Star Wars Glasses. But the icing on the cake was when this girl showed up asking for her TV back, because Tom said she could swing by to pick up this morning. As Tom’s roommate and the girl began shouting it out, I smiled, and hoped that leather jacket would keep Tom warm wherever that long lonely road swept him next.

 

So then, ladies, I ask you now…what is it? Do you find this man attractive? Does he possess a certain raffish charm that makes his irresistible to the more cuddly sex? Please help me answer these questions. And if you find yourself intrigued by this man, drop me a line and I’ll send you his phone number. He’s living in Arizona now, and he told me he is ready to settle down. 

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