A Filter song seemingly inspired by some American politician who shot himself dead on TV or something. Though there was a rumor it was really about Trent Reznor's well-beloved pet dog which jumped out of a high window and died (perhaps by impaling itself on spiked railings)...

Whatever they say the song's about, it's yet another Filter magnum opus about the alienation of the individual in today's society and the apparent meaninglessness of life, powerfully rendered in eloquent riffs, emotive lyrics and soul-searing vocals.

I had met Bobby, but it had been a long time. Growing up we had been best friends. From when we were seven until some point in high school we were like brothers. Then something happened. We stopped being able to relate to each other and we hung with different crowds. While I visited with the "downtown crowd" that dealt drugs and made alcohol plentiful, he was attached to them. It didn't seem to make sense that he had entered into a downward spiral, spending the bulk of his time with users and losers, but eventually I would understand. For almost ten years I thought Bobby and I knew everything about each other. We did science projects together in grammar school and regularly slept over each other's houses. What I never managed to understand was the nature of his father.

They think that your early ending
Was all wrong
For the most part they're right
But look how they all got strong

Fred always scared me a little as a kid, but I figured it was because he was extremely outspoken and said things I never heard an adult say before. He ran a fish market and owned apartment buildings in the most rancid parts of town. When we were thirteen he payed Bobby and myself to help him wallpaper one of his buildings. After we were finished he brought us to a hole in the wall bar and handed us both a glass of beer saying we "deserved it." He had a room in the basement with a film projector. Bobby showed it to me a couple of times. The films were the most raw and disturbing form of porn and we thought we were stumbling upon something crudely special. When Bobby told me the woman in the films was his mother when she was younger, I felt sick to my stomach and told him I never wanted to see them again. I never gave much thought to Fred again, but we always went to Bobby's house for Christmas Eve. One year after Bobby and I had stopped talking regularly Fred came up to my mother in the kitchen, firmly grabbed one of her buttocks and asked her if she was "getting enough at home." My mother, being about 5'10" and not at all slender, threw him against the wall. That was the day I began to seriously wonder what Fred was all about. I was sixteen.

After high school I went to college and Bobby went to work at his father's fish market. A few years later he opted to join the United States Army. I had since dropped out and was working for the post office. His family and mine remained close, but as Bobby's mother came by our house for afternoon coffee I could hear my mother telling her to leave Fred. There was much said in muffled tones and they stopped speaking when I entered the room. My mother, being a one woman army when necessary and a kind and gentle person when matters called for it, told me one night that I had to help convince Bobby's siblings to move out of their house and to support her in convincing Bobby's mother to divorce Fred. I didn't understand and told her that Bobby and I rarely talked, but my ever-perceptive mother knew that I had a kind of relationship with Bobby's sister Monique. I had my own problems to deal with at the time and thought little of it. Then it happened. Bobby went AWOL from the Army and was found huddled in an abandoned shack somewhere in Tennessee. He was put under psychiatric care.

During his period in the psychiatric ward, Bobby revealed the dark truth about his family. Fred had been systematically raping his children for years. He had also used physical violence and the threat of murder to keep them from speaking. Bobby told the entire sordid tale and then went public with it. What my mother knew from her talks with Bobby's mother became clear to me, and nothing could be hidden. Bobby's brother lived in a brooding silence. His sister was living with a coke dealer who regularly beat her up and kept her paychecks as "rent money." Their lives were in chaos, and what I knew about Bobby from our childhood became clear again. Bobby would always sacrifice himself to save others he cared about. He was about to do it again, but no one had any idea how far he was willing to go.

Bobby was released from the hospital and assigned a social worker and a psychologist who visited him regularly. Bobby's mother divorced Fred and rescued Monique from her coke dealing boyfriend by offering her a safe home. It might have all worked out, but soon after, Fred went to live at his father's house. Bobby's grandfather had died the previous year and left a large peat moss farm to his son. Fred now had multiple businesses and was regularly entertaining prostitutes and other seedy characters out on his father's farm.

That's why I say hey man, nice shot

Bobby and his psychologist became romantically involved and moved in together. They talked about getting married and I saw him briefly at my mother's house. Everything seemed just fine except there was this look in Bobby's eyes that I would not understand until years later. Fred started coming around his ex-wife's house, visiting his kids and bringing them presents. He told them he was well and wanted them to forgive him and welcome him back into their lives. They did, just a little bit too easily, and that was where I think Bobby snapped.

Bobby abruptly broke things off with his psychologist girlfriend. He moved out and went, of all places, to his grandfather's farm. He moved in with his father. No one understood why he would do such a thing. We wondered if he believed his father was truly "cured." We should have known better. Less than a week after moving into his grandfather's farm, Bobby walked out behind the house and put a gun in his mouth. He probably never even heard the sound of his own hand pulling the trigger. Bobby had checked out for good.

Those who showed up at Bobby's wake talked endlessly about the tragic loss. Everyone was dressed in black and sadly wondering if there was anything they could have done to save him. At the center of it all was Fred on the receiving line. With his boy his a coffin, closed because there was no way to reconstruct his face, Fred was smiling and shaking hands with those who had come. Bobby had done what he had done to try to make his father feel some of the pain he felt all his life. He did what he did to wake his family up. His father felt nothing and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was the monster at the end of one the worst books ever written. I wouldn't shake his hand. I just stared at him trying to find any sense of humanity in his eyes. There was none. A man as an empty shell, and that is why I still say, to my childhood best friend, "Hey man, nice shot." He died believing he would finally hurt his father and he doesn't know any better. I do. This is the greatest weight I carry in this lifetime. I can never tell him, even when we see each other again.

One day I will tell Bobby his father wept at his funeral. How could I possibly tell him that his father laughed?


Lyrics sample from lyrics copyright the band Filter
As appears on their 1995 album Short Bus
And in no way was written about these events
But will always make me remember
Because that is the way things are...
Listen to the song while reading this. You'll get it.

In 2005 I went back to Bobby's house and saw his mother again. The house is filled with pictures of the kids and his mother now lives alone in the house they all grew up in. There isn't a single photograph of Bobby in the house.
There also isn't a single photograph of Fred.

Nickel bag remix.

We hadn't talked in fifteen years.

Bobby had been my closest friend from early on in grade school until the ninth grade when he began hanging with a crowd that was juxtapositioned to my crowd. We were like combatants on a battlefield who looked across the neutral zone at each other and never engaged. We were both followers in those days but we both knew it was not the role we were meant to play.

His sister, three years younger than he was, had the kind of beauty that tends to launch fleets of ships. She was impossibly beautiful and drove boys to madness. It was made even more painful by the fact that she was very open about sharing her body with neighborhood boys. She seduced both my brother and myself, but in different ways. On a family vacation to Disney World my brother was reported lost after spending hours searching for a present to buy her. I wrote her bad poetry.

Neither of us understood that Bobby's depression and his sister's sexual openness were products of being fathered by the face of evil, a man who ritualistically abused and raped them throughout their childhood.

Fifteen years after we stopped talking, Bobby came up to me at a party that was being held for reasons I cannot remember. He spoke very plainly to me and without emotion, simply saying, "You have to help me save my sister." I had no idea what he was talking about and assumed he was drunk. He then rambled on about a project we did together for school when we were in the sixth grade for a science fair, which happened to be the project we were working on when I was first drawn into his sister's room to play "lets explore."

It was later that year, the year of the party for no reason I can remember, that Bobby would commit suicide. His departure from his fiance and the home they had built together was inexplicable to everyone I knew who knew Bobby. I had my suspicions but I held my tongue. I knew before he killed himself that he was planning something, although I found myself wondering if he was going to kill himself or his father. Moving in with his father in the house of his grandfather was simply too obviously symbolic. This sort of abuse is passed down through the generations and I knew Bobby well enough to know how he thought. To cut the head off a snake one has to go into its lair, and in this case it was the lair of generations of snakes.

He shot himself in the garden outside the house, which I later learned was where his grandfather had molested his grandchildren, before the father had ever crossed the line. It was symbolic in the way I remembered Bobby's thoughts always working in the old days. And that act was the first time that anyone in the family ever started talking about what had been going on for so many years, for so many generations.

Fifteen years passed between conversations between myself and Bobby. Fifteen years have now passed since his suicide.

At the time of Bobby's suicide his sister was living with a drug dealer who treated her like his personal whore. Six months after Bobby's suicide, his sister's dealer boyfriend was shot dead outside a bar. They had a son together, and perhaps in part due to that fact she entered into therapy and began to deal with the past. She has since gone on to marry a very good man who adopted her son and treats him as his own. She has become a nurse working with abused children.

Last year the surviving children went to Florida where their father was living and soon to die of a very painful form of terminal cancer. My mother, who has always held a great hatred for this man who beat on her best friend and abused his children, could not understand why they went.

"They went to see if perhaps, in the end, there would be some sign of humanity in him before the lights went out. They went to see if maybe he would, in the end, actually be their father."

I doubted a man who laughed and told jokes at his son's funeral could ever show humanity, but to me it did not really matter.

Bobby had saved his sister. He never needed my help.

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