You Seemed So Real
On a bright, unseasonably warm afternoon in early December, Brandon Trescott walked out of the spa at the Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod and got into a taxi. A pesky series of DUIs had cost him the right to operate a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the next thirty-three months, so Brandon always took cabs. The twenty-five-year-old trust-fund baby of a superior court judge mother and a local media mogul father, Brandon wasn’t your run-of-the-mill rich kid asshole. He worked double shifts at it. By the time the state finally suspended his license, he was on his fourth DUI. The first two had been pled down to reckless driving, the third had brought him a stern warning, but the fourth had resulted in injury to someone besides Brandon, who escaped without a scratch.
This winter afternoon, with the temperature hanging just below forty degrees, Brandon wore a manufacturer-stained, manufacturer-faded hoodie that retailed for around $900 over a white silk T with a collar dragged down by a pair of $600 shades. His baggy shorts also had little rips in them, compliments of whichever nine-year-old Indonesian had been poorly paid to put them there. He wore flip-flops in December, and he sported an insouciant mop of blond surfer’s hair with an adorable habit of drooping helplessly over his eyes.
After drinking his weight in Crown Royal one night, he’d flipped his Dodge Viper coming back from Foxwoods with his girlfriend riding shotgun. She’d only been his girlfriend two weeks, but it was unlikely she’d be anyone’s girlfriend ever again. Her name was Ashten Mayles and she’d been in a persistent vegetative state ever since the top of the car compacted against the top of her skull. One of the last acts she’d attempted to perform while she’d still had use of her arms and legs was to try and take Brandon’s keys from him in the casino parking lot. According to witnesses, Brandon had rewarded her concern by flicking a lit cigarette at her.
In possibly the first brush with actual consequence that Brandon had ever known, Ashten’s parents, not wealthy but politically connected, had decided to do everything in their power to ensure that Brandon paid for his mistakes. Hence the Suffolk County DA’s prosecution on DUI and reckless endangerment. Brandon spent the entire trial looking shocked and morally outraged that anyone could get away with expecting personal responsibility of him. In the end, he was convicted and served four months’ house arrest. In a really nice house.
During the subsequent civil trial, it was revealed that the trust-fund baby had no trust fund. He had no car, had no house. As far as anyone could tell, he didn’t own so much as an iPod. Nothing was in his name. Things had once been in his name, but he’d fortuitously signed them all over to his parents one day before the car accident. It was the before part that killed people, but no one could prove otherwise. When the jury in the civil trial awarded damages in the amount of $7.5 million to the Mayles family, Brandon Trescott emptied his pockets of the nothing that was in them and shrugged.
I had a list of all the things Brandon had once owned and was legally prohibited from using. Use of said items, it was deemed by the court, would constitute not just the appearance of ownership but the fact of it. The Trescotts protested the court’s definition of “ownership,” but the press beat the shit out of them, the public outcry was loud enough to lead ships ashore through night fog, and they ultimately signed off on the deal.
The next day, in a wonderful “fuck you” to both the Mayles family and those loud voices of the great unwashed, Layton and Susan Trescott purchased their son a condominium in Harwich Port, since the Mayles’ attorneys had not covered future earnings or future possessions in the agreement. And it was to Harwich Port that I followed Brandon early on a December afternoon.
The condo smelled of mold and rug beer and food left rotting in the sink on crusted plates. I knew this because I’d been in there twice to plant bugs and swipe all the passwords off his computer and generally do all the snoopy, sneaky shit clients pay top dollar to pretend they don’t know guys like me get up to. I’d gone through what little paperwork I could find and hadn’t found any bank accounts we didn’t know about or any stock reports that hadn’t been reported. I hacked his computer and found pretty much the same—nothing but his self-serving rants to ex-frat buddies and some pathetic, never sent, letter-to-the-editor screeds rife with misspellings. He visited a lot of porn sites and a lot of gaming sites and he read every article ever written about himself.
When the cab dropped him off, I pulled my digital recorder out of the glove compartment. The day I’d broken into his place and hacked his computer, I’d placed an audio transmitter the size of a grain of sea salt under his media console and another in his bedroom. I listened to him let out a bunch of small groans as he prepared for the shower, then the sound of him showering, drying off, changing into fresh clothes, pouring himself a drink, flicking on his flat screen, turning it to some soul-crushing reality show about stupid people, and settling onto the couch to scratch himself.
I slapped my own cheeks a couple times to stay awake and flipped through the newspaper on the car seat. Another spike in unemployment was predicted. A dog had rescued his owners from a fire in Randolph even though he’d just had hip surgery and his two hind legs were strapped to a doggie wheelchair. Our local Russian mob boss got charged with DUI after he stranded his Porsche on Tinean Beach at high tide. The Bruins won at a sport that made me sleepy when I watched it, and a Major League third baseman with a twenty-six-inch neck reacted with self-righteous fury when questioned about his alleged steroid use.
Brandon’s cell rang. He talked to some guy he kept calling “bro,” except it came out “bra.” They talked about [_World of Warcraft _]and Fallout 4 on PS2 and Lil Wayne and T.I. and some chick they knew from the gym whose Facebook page mentioned how much extra working out she did on her Wii Fit even though she, like, lived across from a park, and I looked out the window and felt old. It was a feeling I had a lot lately, but not in a rueful way. If this was how twentysomethings spent their twenties these days, they could have their twenties. Their thirties, too. I tilted my seat back and closed my eyes. After a while, Brandon and his bra signed off with:
“So, a’ight, bra, you keep it tight.”
“You keep it tight, too, bra, you keep it real tight.”
“Nothing. I forgot. Shit’s fucked up.”