Author's Note: With Lino Rulli gone on vacation and no new show, it gave me plenty of time to . So I thought, What is Lino's life like when he goes on vacation? The following story is fictional, but it's something I enjoyed writing. And it's fun to imagine what Lino's life away from radio is really like. I hope you enjoy it!
"After all these months, I'm suddenly back in your life. Why?"
The voice had a stern, yet vaguely loving, tone to it. Departing from a set of 56-year-old vocal chords, they traveled across the moldy psychiatrist's office, lit with a single 60-watt bulb and filled with the smell of generic air freshener. The kind, yet-tired words passed the dirt and smudge-stained window and the book shelf full of important things nobody ever wanted to spend their time right into the ears of his fidgety Minnesota-born Italian patient, 38-year-old Lino Rulli.
Lino, a lanky man wearing baggy "I'm cooler than thou" Sean Jean clothes, sat comfortably in a chair, staring down at his white sneakers. He had gone through this drill before twice. For nearly two years, he had visited Dr. Henry Rice (or Dr. Patzo, as Lino had nicknamed him) every week in his tiny Brooklyn-based office, trying to figure out what he could do to make his brain work better. Rice had quit on Lino for a few years before allowing the sessions to resume a few months ago.
Lino didn't know exactly what the problem was, but he reasoned $50 a week was worth taking a shot at it. Sure life had it's ups and downs, and Lino could easily see more of the positive than the negative. Still, it just felt like something was missing.
Was it faith? Lino didn't think so. He went to Mass each week, sometimes daily Mass, made Confession a priority, and spent three hours each day talking about faith on his Sirius XM Catholic Guy radio show. Sure Lino thought he could be a better Christian, but even the Pope thinks that about himself.
It wasn't family. Wasn't friends. Security? Everyone has their doubts from time to time, so moments of worry weren't a reason to put down $200 each month just to hear someone reaffirm that.
Was it love? Lino had no problem getting dates, often taking a different girl out each week and putting her through the same boring dating routine. The dates were great entertainment wise, but they just weren't the same. Sure, having someone in his life permanently was a wonderful thought, he wasn't even sure if that's what he wanted for the rest of his life. But there was a nagging thought in the back of his mind, a replay of his most recent romantic failure from a few months back.
It wasn't a colossal failure. He had been on a few dates with Olivia, an Italian girl with the eyes of a goddess and a figure sculpted by Michaelangelo himself. She lived down the street from his Upper Manhattan condo. The dates weren't anything serious, but Lino felt like if he had let them, they could have turned into something wonderful.
The 33-year-old Olivia was the girl he told his radio listeners he hoped he met someday.
She went to Mass a few times a week (ironically meeting her while walking to the old church), was intrigued with stories of his television career (and never got tired of hearing the same repeated tales: she loved every one of them), and proclaimed on their first date that the Foo Fighters were the greatest band of all time.
They had wonderful times together. The two often went ouf of their way to do nice things for each other (she made him soup when he was sick, he sent her flowers for no reason other than a Tuesday afternoon). Three-hour phone calls seemed like three-minute phone calls. When they were together, the rest of the world be damned. He was her first serious boyfriend, she was his first serious girlfriend in years.
But for whatever reason, Lino's twisted mind somehow told him that she wasn't sending the kind of serious signals needed to pursue a future with him, and he broke it off gently. Something about her not really being into him. Whatever the stupid reason was, it was a lie from the start, but Lino could never believe that. After all, his brain never lied to him, no matter how much evidence there was to the contrary.
She didn't seem to mind, at least that's what he had told himself. She just looked kind of sad when he broke it off two months ago over coffee one morning before work, with a glazed look of failure in her eyes. But it was just another romantic failure for Lino, nothing to call Patzo up about.
Nope, definitely not romantic, Lino convinced himself. But it was definitely something Lino had to pursue via therapy. If he didn't, that nameless knot that appeared in both his stomach and in his brain would never go away.
After two years of therapy, Dr. Patzo went away, telling Lino that he was finished with him, either running out of answers or patience (Lino suspected the second).
"I've got to do something else with my life Lino," Patzo said to him at the time, going on to tell Lino about some venture that involved counseling troubled inner-city children.
Whether that was true was anyone's guess, as Patzo's office hadn't disappeared in that time.
This left Lino without any mental guidance for two years, as he didn't really feel like finding another psych, while rationalizing that two years of therapy was enough to make him a more productive man.
Which apparently wasn't true, since Lino was back.
"So," Patzo began with a faint smile, "I take some time off to help those in need, and I come back to someone even more needier. I care about you Lino, I really do. But why do you insist on coming to see me again? Part of ----"
"Make my way back home when I learn to fly!" The Foo Fighters Dave Grohl, via Lino's iPhone, interrupted a slightly annoyed Dr. Patzo with Learn to Fly.
"Sorry about that," Lino said sheepishly. "I'll turn it off."
"PART OF successful therapy is you not having to come see me anymore."
"You know as well as I do, 'Doctor' Rice," Lino said, having recovered from his earlier embarassment enough to throw up air quotes as the word Doctor rolled off his mouth. "There are so many more things I'd rather use $50 on than giving it to a guy who oddly enough doesn't even have his degree hanging on the wall." Lino's words were tinged with a mixture of sarcasm and playfulness.
"I do want to thank you for letting me resume my visits to you. After that long absence, the last few months of therapy have been great. But I went to Peru last week, and the way the week turned out, I couldn't think of anyone better to tell than you."
"You went to Peru? Of all places, why Peru?" Patzo asked.
"Oh let me tell you, those plane tickets were really cheap," Lino said. "Besides, I like to travel, and Peru is some place I've never been."
"I'm sure you have stories," Patso said with a sigh. "But before you get to any sordid tales, because I would, I really would like to hear about this trip, summarize it in one word."
Lino thought for a moment, with 30 adjectives running through his head. The trip to Peru was so many things, that it seemed unfair to choose just one.
"Empty slash Filling," Lino finally decided.
"Empty slash filling?" Patzo asked. "I know you better than that. In one week, how did you manage to go from empty to filling"
Lino sighed. He was glad that he didn't have the show today. Cause this story was going to take a while to tell.
* * *
"Wow, I've never rode first-class before! This is great!"
The cheerful voice belonged to Lino's co-worker Brett Siddell, as they sat on the Boeing Jet ready for take off to Lima, Peru. Brett was a gangly boy. 27, ratty blonde hair and had a habit of being cheerful no matter what the situation was (in this instance, 7 a.m., two hours before Lino normally woke up). The two knew each other from their jobs on Sirus' The Catholic Channel, where Brett answered phones during Busted Halo, the show immediately following Lino's.
It wasn't the best job in the world when it came to salary, but Brett had been saving up money for years, preferably for a big wedding. But lately he had been thinking that religious life might be a better way to spend life, and in a moment of spontaneous zeal, decided to blow the money on a big trip to Peru.
Brett had never thought about the religious life before working on Busted Halo. In his mind, it was always something that dateless people did. But working with a good priest, Fr. Dave Dwyer, who hosted the show, made him reevaluate things. Maybe not right now, but in time, Brett thought, Fr. Siddell had a nice ring to it.
But for now, with a week of alcohol, girls and a lack of responsibility awaiting, thoughts religious life would be put on hold until next week.
"Oh man, when we get to Peru, we've got to go drinking!" Brett exclaimed, as if he'd never had fun in his whole life. "Maybe we can go to a beach or something. Maybe there will-"
"Brett," Lino interrupted. "One of the nicest things about First Class is that it's extremely peaceful. And easy to get some sleep." With that, Lino stuck the headphones back into his ear, hoping that the alt-rock music would allow him some sleep.
"Sorry. Hey do you think we should pray? I'm having some thoughts about the priesthood, so I'm trying to involve God in my life more," Brett asked, with nervous apprehension. It was the first time he'd ever told anyone his thoughts on becoming a priest. And since Lino was the Catholic Guy, who better to confide in about religious things?
"Yeah you're right Brett," Lino said. "God, help us have a safe trip, and thank you for this first class accommodation that will help Brett shut up and leave me."
With that heartfelt prayer to The Lord, Brett took the hint and sat back, with the plane speeding down the runway.
Lino certainly didn't mean to be rude to Brett. Since the flight left at 7 a.m. that Saturday, he had to be up at 4 a.m. to get ready, then catch a cab to the airport, then go through the screening at LaGuardia. All this after a busy day on the radio entertaining people with witty Catholic content. And since the flight was non-stop to Peru, a good eight hours, why not put it to good use? After all, with the trip Lino had planned.
* * *
"Whoa," Patzo interrupted. "You talk about faith every day, and the guy just tells you that he's thinking about the priesthood, and you give a sarcastic prayer and go back to sleep?
"I'd understand if it was a stranger. But this guy is supposedly a friend. What's wrong with you?"
"I wasn't thinking. Way too early in the morning for that," Lino said. "Besides, it's not like I never brought it up on the rest of the trip. But at that moment, I'd rather sleep than talk faith."
Dr. Patzo sighed. "OK, continue with your tale."
* * *
Lino was having the time of his life in Peru. He'd had fun vacations before, but this one took the cake. Peru was just so...different. With other vacations, he knew what to expect: Rome and the Holy Land had the religious things, but with Peru, well, he felt like he got a break from all of that. Although Lino loved his faith and took great pride in his Catholicism, being in a place without so much religious things almost felt like, well, a vacation.
And it got his mind off of Olivia, which was a welcome surprise. Her memory was infesting his thoughts, something she wasn't supposed to do. Ex's are named that for a reason. Thoughts of her, two months after breaking if off, were not supposed to exist.
And while Lino was sorta glad to get away from the faith, Brett found that he missed it more and more. He wasn't in any state of mortal sin, and he had been to Mass since being there. But back at his job with Fr. Dave's Busted Halo show, he was surrounded by faith. And not having that each day in his life, only for a week, left him feeling a little hollow.
Without realizing the other was feeling angst in the pit of their bellies, they sat at the stools in Cuzco's Mandelas Bar, taking in cold beer and reliving their first two days in Peru.
"This has been such a great trip," Brett told Lino. "I feel like this is such a needed vacation for me, always getting bogged down by work and life."
"You aren't kidding," Lino said, his words obscured by the pint glass filling his mouth with liquidy-goodness. "I love the faith, but the demands of the job just seem too much sometimes, ya know?"
"Yeah," Brett agreed, not really agreeing. "Still, I can't shake this thought of religious life. I just feel like I'm called to more than stand-up comedy and answering phones. How do you figure that sort of thing out without making the wrong choice?"
Lino sat, dumbfounded. It wasn't the first time Brett had brought this up on the trip, so he knew that the kid had it on the brain constantly.
"Brett," Lino began. "If I knew the answer to that, I would have already told you. If I could figure out the secret to figuring out your life's calling, I'd be a filthy-rich genius."
The two sat in silence, with time floating by seemlessly, the cracking of billiards balls going unnoticed by the two Americans. Finally Lino broke the noisy silence.
"Brett, I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. Sometimes I haven't pursued the things that I should have because of some doubts. Stupid stuff that my brain makes up just to screw with me."
Lino took the final sip of his beer, and put it down on the bar, and called for one more beer. As the bartender poured the glass, Lino gave Brett words that the curious one would always remember.
"Don't be like me," Lino said. "Don't get me wrong, God has been so wonderful to me. I love my life, love my show, love the people in it, so I definitely don't have any complaints.
"But I've squandered opportunities that, if I was smart and had taken them, life could have turned out so much better."
Lino turned and looked at Brett.
"If you know what you have to do, then do it. Don't wait around for the obvious."
It was as if a bolt of lightning struck right between the two. Brett stood up, without saying a word, and started to walk away. A few steps later, he turned and looked at Lino.
"I really appreciate that," Brett told him with a wink and a smile. "Hey, don't waste your words on me. Do that same thing for yourself." And with that, Brett went back to his room, intent on making a phone call. He knew Fr. Dave would be so excited to hear this new revelation.
Lino turned back around and sighed. Why did he always have to be so wise? Without much optimism, he decided that, yes, he was right.
"My worst quality," Lino muttered to himself as he pulled out his iPhone and started scrolling through the names. He couldn't take it anymore.
* * *
"So, you basically gave Brett the same advice you've been ignoring for all these years," Patzo asked him. "Well I'm proud of you...at least you know how to navigate someone's life."
"Thanks Dr." Lino replied. "Actually, I wanted to meet with you just to tell you in person that this is indeed the last visit I have with you. When you first said goodbye to me, I told you I'd be allright. But I lie. It was a miserable year.
"But now, I really can tell you thanks for all that you've done, because for the first time in years, I can really say that I'm optimistic. That trip to Peru really opened my eyes. Before that conversation with Brett at the bar, it was just another trip. But seeing that passion he had for exploring a life of faith made me realize that I couldn't wait around any longer.
My wonderful words of wisdom really inspired me to not wait around for the obvious."
Lino went on to tell him about the rest of the trip, his more in-depth conversations with Brett about religious life, and a phone call to that special girl that didn't go quite as planned.
Seems that you can't just break it off with someone and expect to jump back to your same spot in the line of romance without a lot of work going into rebuilding a friendship. Still, slight failure with that special someone aside, it didn't bother Lino: He was firmly taking control of his life, something he had longed to do for so long. If it didn't work out for her, he knew that deep down it meant that God had something better planned for him.
Patzo smiled. "I'm probably never going to see you again."
Lino stood up, returning the smile.
"Sorry Doctor Rice. I've got anything else to do instead."
As Lino stood outside the door in the hallway, he thanked God for giving him the strength to visit Dr. Rice one more time. And as he started walking down the hallway, Dave Grohl started singing again.
"Make my way back home when I learn to fly!"
Lino looked down at his phone. It was Olivia calling him, probably the most pleasant surprise in his life. Maybe there was hope for something after all.
With that, he answered the phone, and began a friendship that would alter his life forever.