Note: I had originally posted this to my story-site, Anecdotal Tales, in error back in November. Now realizing that, I am moving it over to Horribly Awry where it belongs.
My landlord and I have a curious relationship. It started off normally enough. I went into his office ready to resign my lease. There was a note about how payments were to be submitted. I had done it a certain way for as long as I had lived there. The paperwork wanted me to do it another way. He was unable to help me. He was nice about my frustration, but I left irritated.
He kept being nice to me. He was pleasant in the office; friendly in the parking lots. I warmed up to him. Then, last year, he and the maintenance crew went into my apartment for their annual fire alarm inspection. He saw what sort of life I lived.
Later I went to drop off my monthly payment and he could not help expressing his enthusiasm. The comic books, the movies, the cat; all were things that he loved in life. We started talking about things that really mattered. Things like Dawson’s Creek and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. I once had a Superman logo on my car. He has the Power Ranger’s lightning bolt on his bumper. We would make up scenarios where I was the mostly-calm leader and he was the goofy sidekick who wore dinosaur slippers and all of a sudden a piano would fall out of nowhere. We bonded over silliness.
We are also both huggers. He comes from the south and has a boisterous, loving attitude. I have a long history of embracing hugs. He was frustrated that no one in Seattle hugged (even before Covid). I am happy to hug anybody at any time. Some days guys gotta hug.
I do not drop into his office that often. Most days I come home from work and am all people’d-out. I have ridden the bus with people, walked down city streets surrounded by people, and spent hours trying to provide great customer service. Get me to my couch and let me scratch my cat.
When I did visit him, we always had a fun time. However I knew our visits would be at least half an hour. That is precious time out of my “sitting around doing nothing” agenda. Then there are times when my gut overwhelms my introverted ways.
Earlier this year I was in the mood to vent. There had been a car parked on the sidewalk. There had been loud talkers on the bus. Work was a mild lunacy. I wanted to verbally vomit onto someone; purge my system. I walked into our complex, saw his car was there, and went to his office ready to unload on him.
That day his troubles were greater than my own. He had gone through some social complications. This person had said this about him to that person and he did not understand why those people could get along with this person who was in touch with all these people. (Humans are a mess.)
It became quickly apparent that I was not supposed to unload on him. (I shared my pithy issues for a minute or three.) The focus was meant for him. He needed to talk. He needed it out of his system. And yes, he needed a hug.
We are friends. I will send him a text message just for fun. I am his favorite. We tell each other that we love the other. Manly embraces ensue.
Yesterday was another of those long days. I was ready to be home. I had turned the clock two days ago and the sunset came too soon. Covid and customer service are a troublesome duo. This election is one for the books. I work in an area that is rife with protests and property damage. Errands had made me late in getting home.
But as I walked towards our complex, I started thinking about him. The election alone would probably stress him out. He is a black man and gay. That is hard enough to be at any time. I have to assume that politics only make it worse.
“I wonder how he’s doing? He could probably use a hug.”
When his office door is locked, I take it as a sign that I do not need to visit. Every other time that the door would not open, I have given up. I go home to that feisty fluff of fur.
Yesterday I felt like I had to give a little more effort. I knocked on the door and waited for a response.
The door opened and the first thing I heard was, “I was hoping that was you.”
Another incident of small-scale politics. He did this. That involved that person. But the third person said that he had to tell this to the second person. The second person got mad at him (rightfully so). He was surprised. The third person said this. He did not believe it and became cross.
“I was just about to write an angry e-mail when you knocked. I’m going to take it as a sign. I’m still going to write an e-mail. I want to straighten this out. But now it won’t be such an angry one. I’m going to take your visit as a sign.”
I always assume that others have it harder than I do. I like to think that I make time for them. I admit that many times my comfortable life lures me towards inaction. Then there are moments when I get a nudge. If I listen to my gut then I act like the kind of friend that I should.
That was the end of it. I had typed all that up and thought the story was over. Then I tried to go to work this morning.
Every morning I pass my neighbor. He is short, walks with a limp, and tends to take the same bus that I do. He normally has a stern expression on his face. I tried saying, “Good mornin’” to him a few times and never received a response. I told myself that there are folks that do not like to engage others. Okay; live and let live. I stopped trying to wish him well. I went on with my life, though I continued to have a grudge towards him.
So no, I do not feel the need to share a bus stop with him. Social distancing is one reason for that. However it has also been said that tall fences make for good neighbors. I walk to the next bus stop. We give each other space when we ride on the same bus.
Not today. Today was one of those rare occasions when the bus did not come. I abhor being late. I walked back to my apartment, past the first bus stop where he still stood, and hopped in my car. I knew, even as I started walking back to my vehicle, that I should offer him a ride downtown. We disembark at the same stop. There really was no excuse and he was probably as stressed as I was. I was in no mood to make awkward conversation with a stranger. Yet that little tap on the shoulder was trying to get my attention.
I capitulated. I rolled down my window, put on my hazard lights, and called out to him at his stop. “Do you want a ride? The bus hasn’t come…”
It was then that I found out why he was so rude to me before. “I can’t hear”, he uttered.
I was upset at a guy for not talking to me when it turns out he’s deaf. Ah. Got it.
He eventually recognized me across the dark car, comprehended, and hopped in the car. Since he was deaf, awkward conversation turned out not to be a concern at all. We simply sat there in the quiet and alternated glances between the raindrops spitting on the windshield and our respective timepieces.
I had worried about having to talk to this person that was not my favorite. I was worrying that I would not find parking or that I would be late for work. None of these came to pass.
I dropped him off at a curb downtown. He was very intentional about saying, “Thank you!”
I found a parking spot. I arrived at work with two minutes to spare. I made it to work with all my needs met.
Landlords, neighbors; I am surrounded with people that are constantly teaching me. As much as I crave my ways, I still get those nudges that push me to learn just a little more.