113. Randolph Lambert, Pharmacist

This is a man who ended up holding a very special and prestigious job. His world was the laboratory of a very large pharmaceutical company. He was very good at it. He came up from nothing. Or so he claims. He had no father, at least none that was ever in his life. And his mother more or less skipped out on him when he was four, leaving him in the care of a disinterested aunt and her endless stream of exploitive boyfriends. But it was pretty clear. even from kindergarten, Randolph had a pretty good brain. He started reading about as soon as someone put a book in his hand. He seemed to remember everything. And he also seemed to figure things out.  He loves crossword puzzles. He always got them. Usually in record time. Math problems too. Even when he was little, he could beat a lot of people at chess. When asked how he did it, he claimed it all made sense to him if he just closed his eyes and let his mind go to work. So, no surprise, his grades were exceptional right through school.

He wasn’t quite as good at making friends though. He was very impatient and very demanding when he was involved in group projects. And, if he didn’t like an activity — like sports or music class – he just wouldn’t do it.  And he often called kids who didn’t get grades as good as his dumb. They may not have been as smart as him but they were often bigger and stronger. Randolph got beat up a lot. When he got home from school, he’d never go out to play.

Up until junior high, Randolph was pretty normal when it came to weight. He started getting heavier in the seventh grade and got called “fatty” a lot. He was teased constantly by a few of the nastier kids in his class, especially those who he had called “dumb” or worse. He had always been a mistrustful kid. Getting teased about his weight didn’t help. Getting beat up didn’t help either. He kept to himself more and more. Guidance counselors got called in. His aunt was called in for conferences but, most of the time, she didn’t show up. By the time he was in his last year of high school, Randolph was turning into a very quiet and very lonely kid. He kept gaining weight and didn’t take much effort in the personal hygiene area. His acne made things even worse.

He was pretty much written off as one of those weird kids no one wants around. But not by everyone. There were a couple of people who put up with him and maybe even liked being around him. There was another kid, Lenny. Like Randolph, he was considered “a weirdo” by most of his classmates.

Lenny was in Randolph’s advanced placement math class. The only other friend Randolph had was a semi-retired science teacher, Alvis Rockwood. Mr. Rockwood was going on 75 when Randolph first met him. He had lost his wife to cancer the previous year and he was very lonely. He and his wife had been very close. They had a daughter and a couple of grandchildren. But they lived abroad. Before she died, Mr. Rockwood had spent all of his free time making his wife as comfortable as he could.

In the months after his wife’s death, Mr. Rockwood clung on to his teaching job for dear life. He had no other idea what to do with himself. But even that would soon disappear. He’d been told he had to retire at the end of the current school year.

So, when this overweight and clearly troubled kid stumbled into his advanced math class, Mr. Rockwood took a strong interest. Randolph was strange, even disagreeable, but clearly very bright. Mr. Rockwood lent Randolph books, encouraged him to study, and took him on interviews at local colleges. Mr. Rockwell’s recommendations along with his grades that got Randolph into all three schools he sent applications to. And one gave him a full scholarship.

Randolph’s friendship with Lenny, the only other student in Mr. Rockwell’s class, didn’t end well. It started out as a competition and turned into hanging out together.  And, then, suddenly there was sex. One day after class, Lenny grabbed Randolph and kissed him on the lips. Not just once but a few times. And it went from there.

Years later, Randolph told his shrink, “I was screwed up enough as it was. And then Lenny. I couldn’t handle it. I guess you could say he raped me. I didn’t know what the hell to think. It never dawned on me that a boy would kiss, let alone make love to another boy. And he did it more than once. I just took it like I took getting beat up after school. Back then, I just let a lot of things wash over me. But I was so ashamed. And terrified someone would find out what was going on. I wasn’t gay then and I’m not now. Nothing wrong with it but I’m not.”

The sex with Lenny ended as quickly as it began at the end of the school year. Randolph got a summer job working in the stock shed of a building supply company.  Lenny went on a car trip with his parents and a couple of friends. Randolph lost track of him and never tried to find out what happened to him.

Randolph’s job at the building supply company was keeping inventory records. But he started helping out with other stuff, hefting bags of cement and loading stuff on the back of trucks. It was the first time he did any physical work and he liked it. By the end of that summer, He’d lost a lot of weight and put on a little muscle. His acne had pretty much cleared as well. That summer may have been one of the happiest times of his life.

But college was another matter. It wasn’t the course work; it was the people. He was still very uneasy around people and his social skills were still not very good. He stayed in touch with Mr. Rockwell for a couple of until he learned Mr. Rockwell was sick, maybe dying, and was moving away to live with his daughter and her family.

Randolph did very well academically right through college. He graduated with honors. His social life was less successful. He had a few casual friends; he rarely saw them outside of class. Never went to any school related social events. Had only a few dates. Those were always initiated by the woman involved. Since his days in working at the building supply company, he kept up his physique and was not bad looking. None of these dates amounted to much. No long-time relationships. One of the women he dated tried to take him in hand and make him more sociable. That lasted about a month.

The high point of his academic career was his undergraduate job in the biochemistry lab where his work led to several important papers in professional journals and to a fellowship and teaching job as a graduate student. Randolph was a thorough and demanding but unpopular teacher. His lectures were called informative but “really boring.” Randolph agreed and decided he hated teaching.

Randolph did not want to become a pharmacist. It sounded monotonous and unpleasant. But it might be less awful than being a college teacher, the only other thing he could imagine doing with a master’s degree in Biochemistry. And he could get through the pharmacist licensing coursework easily and the pay wasn’t bad. He could get a second-hand car and rent a small apartment. And in a lot of ways, Randolph didn’t really care what he was doing. He could go to work, go home to his small apartment with some fast food and spend the evening staring blankly at the little TV he got cheap until he dozed off. And he didn’t need to spend much time talking to people. Prescriptions were called in, he filled them, and people came in and picked them up. Once in a while, people would ask questions and Randolph would give them technical information.

But, after a while, Randolph decided there was something about pharmaceuticals that was intriguing. He took a Ph.D. in biochemistry, specializing in pharmaceutical research and found himself working on cancer drugs for a very large company. There wasn’t any plan. He had not notion about how to get ahead in a large company. Just like college, he had a few acquaintances but no friends. But he got ahead in sheer brains and hard work So what could be called a “brilliant career” just happened. Along the way, he has a bunch of patents to his credit. While he made a lot of money, he never seemed to do anything with it or care much about it. He routinely gave lectures at prestigious conferences and universities. But he was still very alone. And in some many ways, very lost. 

Randolph attended one of those conferences two weeks ago. But this one was special. Randolph was the featured speaker. Everyone attending agrees; Randolph did a great job. His lecture was very well-received. Randolph was not just informative but an animated speaker, helped in large part by the presentation courses his company gave him as well as by his subject, a revolutionary new diagnostic technique for the early identification of pancreatic cancer. The conference was held at a seaside resort on Florida’s Gulf Coast. After his lecture, Randolph joined the attendees for cocktails and dinner. During the cocktail hour, Randolph seemed to be enjoying himself. He never drank alcohol but had several lemonade spritzers while answering questions and receiving congratulations for his lecture. He smiled a lot and seemed to be getting on very well with everyone. At dinner, he was seated at the head table. About half way through the meal, Randolph got up, excused himself, said he would return shortly. He never did.

They found his body two days later. Apparently, he walked into the sea. There was no note.

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