Favorite

Jim Something 

Back during grad school, way down in Louisiana, The Observer met a man who — and we're a solid 85 percent sure on this one — was probably in the witness protection program. We can't remember his name anymore after all these years, but we do remember that it was a name as white as mayonnaise. John Something. Or maybe Jim Something. The last name wasn't anything as milquetoast as Smith or Jones, but we do remember that it was beige and forgettable, hence our forgetting, and hence the reason we suspect it may have been selected for him. This is a country full of forgettable names, and we're sure an agency that would go to the trouble of disappearing a whole, live man surely has the best forgettable name generators in the business — supercomputers crunching blandness and spitting out pseudonyms so slick and unmemorable that they slide right back out of your ear the moment you hear them.

In spite of his pasty name, Jim Something was, without a doubt, the most Sopranos-grade Italian dude to ever tread the dirt of South Louisiana. Never have we met someone who made us more guilty to describe him, because it's pretty much inevitable that it will sound like we're making him up while sticking closely to the basest of stereotypes. He wore tracksuits and a gold chain with a medallion on it. He was muscled and stocky to the point of cartoonishness, with a luxurious and awe-inspiring crop of chest hair. He was devoid of neck. He's the only real-life person, outside of Scorsese movies, who we've ever heard use the plural pronoun "youse." He was — and this set off some alarm bells — a transfer student from a university in the Dakotas, and seemed to have zero interest in keeping his grades up, even as The Scholar Observer sweated bullets deep down into the night translating Old English into Middle English into Modern English and generally busting ass. He talked incessantly about New Yawk, pining for the women and streets and nightlife and food of that city in a kind of plaintive, heartbroken wail that made The Observer pine along with him for our own home back in Arkansas. His homesickness was contagious and airborne. Even so, as far as we know, he never went back there. As if that wasn't enough, he had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of criminal behavior, once schooling Yours Truly on the process for turning powder cocaine into crack cocaine.

Beyond that, though, Jim Something seemed to be a man without a past. He never spoke of his life before he'd appeared there, never of his family, never of his childhood, never of his dreams as a young man. He was simply a bundle of pained desire, wrapped in white paper. He was a conglomeration of wishes to be elsewhere, and all those wishes orbited around a city to which he seemed unwilling or unable to return. Any time The Observer has read "The Odyssey" since then, at the moment we see Odysseus weeping alone in want of his homeland on the shores of Ogygia, we always see the face of Jim Something: shipwrecked sailor, marooned in a far land, a man who exists solely in the now.

When he disappeared from our classes and life at the end of a semester, The Observer came home to Spouse and baby Junior in our tiny, on-campus apartment and said: Jim Something is gone, flown away, but surely not back to where he came from. By now, we thought, he's Jack Whitebread or John Bland or Steve Nothingtoseehere in some new, safe, Coney Islandless hell, eating his pasta with ragu and watching the Yankees on TV.

Memory is a funny thing, and The Observer has scolded himself over the years for making up a dramatic and dastardly past for Jim Something, whose only real crime that we know of was wearing those tracksuits. There's every chance in the world that he was just some guy with an itch of wanderlust that took him to North Dakota and then South Louisiana.

Try as we might, though, we can't stop wondering whatever happened to him. We can't stop thinking: He's still out there somewhere, lost in America, adrift and heartbroken on the becalmed Flyover Sea. We think: By now, he could be anywhere. We think: By now, he could be anybody at all.

Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • On Walmart and state money

    No they don't need state help. Any conservative legislator who is true to their tea party principles will crow on about crony capitalism. I look forward to deafening silence.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • On shitholes

    The Observer is at home today in our kitty cat socks, weathering a combination sick day and snow day. Way down in Stifft Station, we live at the top of a hill that slopes away in all directions. That's good in a flood, but piss poor other than for sledding during snow and ice, especially when you only have access to a two-wheel drive car.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The job

    The Observer and Mr. Photographer were headed across town on our way to another press conference the other day when we got to talking about The Job. Newspaperin'.
    • Mar 15, 2018

Latest in The Observer

  • Belief

    I believe there is no better smell in all the world than old books, a lifelong addiction that keeps The Observer rifling through pages at pretty much every moment when we're not rifling through old bookstores and haunting book sales, even though our shelves back home in the parlor and study and specially constructed Reading Toilet of The Observatory are already groaning with enough tomes that I'll never get 'em all read unless I live to a well-seasoned 306.
    • Apr 1, 2019
  • Beginnings

    • Feb 1, 2019
  • The Getaway

    It's been 10 months since The Observer hung up our cleats after 15 years as a reporter and took a job with a little more pay, a little less stress and a lot better insurance to take care of our various health bugaboos.
    • Jan 31, 2019
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation