Robert’s Paranoia

Robert has talked occasionally about a photographer he used to work with who he calls Doc Holliday. A lot of their work involved photographing military personnel. Through these military contacts they accumulated a book filled with sensitive information and photographs. Doc Holliday held onto this book when he moved to Burbank, California. The book gives him the power to call in any number of favors from people who wouldn’t want its secrets to get out. So far, it seems, no one has had to use this power.

My heart sank the first time he told me this. I’d never known Robert to carry his ramblings off into any paranoid fantasies.

Doc Holliday isn’t getting any younger – “He’s in the 70’s,” as Robert says. So he’s asked Robert to take responsibility for it. Robert wants nothing to do with it. The book scares him. Once your fingerprints are on the book, they will know who you are. You see there’s this computer –

When he started talking about the computer, I interrupted him. “Robert . . .”

He looked at me shaking my head. “I know this sounds hard to believe . . .”

“This isn’t real. It’s a story that you made up or that someone else told you.”

“No. It’s real,” he said. He dropped the subject.

He stopped by another time and started talking about his hopes for the future. Once he gets back onto his feet, he wants to save up enough money to buy a building that he’ll open up to the homeless. From the building he’ll provide services to help the unemployed find work. When drug addicts and drunks stop in, he’ll somehow get them to quit. Everyone will be happy, especially Robert, he really likes helping people. Some Italians have offered to come up from Burbank to help anytime he needs it. You see, he finally caved in and accepted the book from Doc Holliday.

My face fell in disappointment and he noticed.

“I know you think it’s just a story. But this is serious business.”

He’s too trusting and good-natured. I assume a senile friend told him some version of this story and he embellished it further with his own misunderstandings. Written words confuse him, so it makes sense that he would believe that a book could hold so much power.

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