MY PAL, LUCA

5 - 10 minute read

I was sat down, shitting out my ass, when my phone went off.  The text was from some asshole on that gig asking me where I was and I think I replied something overtly factual like, "I'm shitting." It was one of those days that I tended to have a lot of back then. I don't even remember why I took the job. Probably filling in for someone more talented, or less drunk, or both, and I must've really needed the money.

What happened was I passed out in the porta-john and went over my lunch. I was sweating my fucking ass off from the heat, the withdrawal, and the physical exertion, and I stepped out to a harsh Sun and a sea of frowns. That is, aside from Luca.

You know on set, anybody that's gotta point out Luca, they all say, "He's the guy that looks like Anthony Bourdain," but I disagree with that entirely. He had way broader shoulders and a way stronger jaw. I don't know. I just never saw that comparison. Luca looked like Luca to me. It was other mother fuckers that looked like him.

So anyway there's this fucking Italian guy behind the camera, who's tall as shit, flashing those pearly whites at me while everyone else is pissed as all hell and it was just really fucking weird to me. Luca's got a killer smile for a guy, you know, and I guess that was the first time I really noticed him. Like, not met him, but really noticed him. It wasn't like he was laughing at me, it was like he was pleased to see me. I don't get that a lot.

So everyone's waiting for me to be told what to do, including me, and Luca gestures to the set and I turn around and see what's happened. While I was napping on the shitter the Sun moved and was throwing this gnarly beam of light off a window, right into Luca's shot. We didn't fucking talk about it, I just took care of it and that was that. Now I know I look like a pit stain fucked a bag of hair but I also know what the fuck is going on some of the time and that's what I got from Luca. Just some real simple interactions between two people who knew what the fuck was going on. Luca just made life seem less complicated. Like you don't have to be a certain way. Like you can fucking let people be who they are and this whole world will keep spinning regardless.

A lot of people think I'm lazy but I'm actually a very determined person. Only back then I was determined to get evicted from my apartment and die in the street. So yeah, I guess that could look lazy from the outside. He kept offering me work and, no shit, he was the only fucking guy that would call me. I kept telling him he didn't have to stick his neck out for me, and I think part of me hated him for not letting me just fall off the face of the Earth, but he didn't listen. I guess he was determined too.

Then we started hanging out. Doing fucking weird shit too. Helping out at fucking soup kitchens, park clean-ups. One time we circled up in front of some old lady's house and stopped the cops from evicting her. That was fun. She still lives there for all I know. And I started feeling weird, but like, good, you know? And I remember telling Luca, I said, "I'm feeling like my shame is twisted inside-out," and he gave my grubby ass a big old hug.

I don't think Luca knew that he was saving my life and I don't even really think he meant to. To be honest, I think he just liked working with people he didn't have to order around. Called it his rejection of hierarchy or some shit. But saving my life is what he was doing, not because of some grand plan, but because he chose to live his life in such a way that he could. And it wasn't the money he put on my table either. No, the best thing he did was put some fucking faith in me. When every other mother fucker in this town decided something about me; that I was too dumb, or too rude, or too fucking ugly, Luca let me decide something for myself. And I decided I was gonna pay that back by being fucking reliable. By fucking being there for the guy who, instead of looking down on me, lifted me up and looked me in my fucking eyes and said you belong up here. Not because you're fucking dumb, and ugly, and rude, but because you're a fucking person. And all the sudden I was thinking whoa shit, I actually have a friend.

But anyway I'm a class "A" fucking idiot with a self destruct button and I can't ever let things go too good. Like I say, I'm determined. So we got drinks after a job one night. It had been a hot-ass day and I was sun-battered and shit-housed. I had five beers before I had to take one piss and when I finally did I felt like one of those cherubic fountains that empty themselves until they crumble from erosion. So I'm hogging the bathroom and I hear a pound on the door. I say, "come on in," because I don't know why, and there's Luca telling me to get out the way. Now I wouldn't consider myself a blessed person in many respects but at any given moment I'm slinging eight ounces of junk between my legs. So I cut off my piss, turned around and draped my cock over my wrist like I was presenting the world's most gold Rolex. Asked him if he wanted to see my wares. Luca started laughing, wrapped me up in a big bear hug, kissed my head, and slapped my cheek. He said something too but fuck if I can remember what it was. I felt like a little fucking kid again. Then he started pissing in the sink and I went back to pissing in the john. And I remember thinking here we are, pissing back to back like our ancestors.

Anyway. You don't ever get to choose the last moment you spend with someone. But at least I put a smile on his face.

That night went bad for me. Not like anything bad happened but the hangover was fucking brutal. I drank it off in the morning and drank the next one off too. That's what you do when you're in a fucking hurry to check out. I guess for some folks alcohol is like an eraser but for me it's more like a fast-forward button. "Keep 'em coming," you know? "I'm trying to get to the good part." And even though Luca made me feel better, and all that shit we were doing made me feel good, that feeling never went away. I got hair on my nuts and no will to live. And that's just two things I'm always gonna have.

I've thought a lot about how Luca was during those six weeks I spent drunk. About how I should've been there for him. About what I could've done. About how I failed to be fucking reliable. I didn't even fucking know he had cancer. But, as it turns out, I didn't know a lot about the guy. What a fucking idiot I felt like to learn that his name wasn't even Luca. Luca Scapaldi? What kinda fucking name is that? Fucking Lucas Capaldi was his name apparently. Fucking guy never even corrected me. Come to find he's got two kids with a woman he's been with for seventeen years. They never came up either. So I figure all this shit out when I called Luca up to ask him where the fuck he's been and why he ain't call me. I mean, I was heated. I'm thinking this guy let me fucking fall off. He let me do the thing I fucking wanted to do in the first place. I was on my fucking way out until he gave me hope. Fucking asshole. Then some lady answered his phone and gave me the whole spiel. I thought I was low before that. I wasn't even fucking close to low. I asked her, "What gives? Why would he let me think he's someone else? Live this double life?" She knew who I was from the jump. She said he liked meeting someone new late in his life. "This guy who calls me Luca." Because, "Luca isn't dying. He's just a really good friend." 

So I'm like what the fuck, you know? It ain't like I found a new meaning to life. That's not something he left me with. But when I think about it; I'm the only person on this Earth who ever really knew Luca. So I guess I gotta keep going. Because he lives only as long as I do.

Originally published in Issue 7 of The Bear Creek Gazette in November 2021.