"And do you think that's true?"
"No! That's a lie! See—that's a lie."
In Paquita's view, this is why her mother left Pop. Not because he was sick, but because he wouldn't admit it.
By all accounts, it has been many years since Pop saw a psychiatrist. "So you're not on some sort of psychiatric medication?" I ask.
What Pop takes is malt liquor. Also Newport cigarettes. They are his self-prescribed medication. He can buy them with his every-other-day cash allowance, but he would rather get them for free. This morning he asked me to stop at the New York Mini Mart on Nixon Street and buy him a pack of Newports and a 40-ounce jug of King Cobra. I didn't want to, because it felt wrong to support his habit. But he kept asking, with gentle determination, and finally I gave in. The same thing happened to Dwight Pettiford, the old college teammate who visited Pop in the summer of 2010: They couldn't have a conversation until Pettiford made a beer run.
We walk into Pizza Hut. This is a major step for Pop. Normally he insists on take-out because of his constant fear of being improperly dressed. Now he has a bounce in his step that I've not seen before. As Fleetwood Mac's Say You Love Me pours down from the overhead speakers, Pop dances the Carolina Shag alone on the carpet. A lovely young waitress approaches. Her nametag says ELIZABETH.
"Can you help me with my shag practice?" Pop asks.
"Oh, I can't dance," she says. "I wish."
He finishes dancing and comes to the table. When the Rolling Stones' Beast of Burden comes on, Pop sings along his own improvised lyrics in the rich growl of late middle age, somewhere between Bob Dylan and Tom Waits: "You can put me out, with shoes on my feet. Pu' me out, pu' me outta misery. Place me outta misery."