Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Halfway House Man

I like next door to a halfway house for the mentally ill. This isn't as exciting as it sounds, my street is a lot more like Playschool than, say, Neighbours.(In case you're interested, my other next door neighbour is a security guard called Pamela Anderson). Apart from the time my cousins claim to have looked in the window to see someone trying to flip pancakes on their walking frame, nothing particularly fascinating has ever come of this situation. (I don't know what I was expecting. Maybe some Girl Interrupted shit would go down. At the very least I expected an elderly woman to walk around in her wedding dress abusing random people on the street, but whatever. Obviously real life is much less interesting than my skewed imaginings).

However, there is a sweet old man who seems to be perpetually alternating between sitting on the front porch smoking a cigar, or walking endlessly around our neighbourhood. When I first moved here I was too shy to even look at him, yet over time we began actioning the silent eye-contact-and-mutual-head-nod maneuver. It seemed that this small gesture was something of an initiation into the Silent Enthusiastic Greeting Club this gentleman has with select inhabitants of my street (my Uncle being another one of them). The greetings eventually became sunshine-filled toothless grins and a highly energetic wave, never a word exchanged.

My Uncle used to see him wandering the streets eating various dairy products, and wondered at this slightly strange habit. Later we found out that a) the old man is allergic to dairy and not allowed to have any in the house, and b) there was an ever-increasing pile of yogurt containers and cheese wrappers in our yard underneath his window.

The other day I passed him shuffling along the pavement in his usual slow, clumsy fashion. The sweet, pungent smell of peanuts hit me in the face and I watched as he tipped an entire packet into his mouth. I kind of love this peculiar old man for his silent fuck-you-I-will-do-as-I-please behaviour.

Apart from that, the most exciting thing that happens in my street is when I walk around with my angryface on and the middle-age women with their dyed blonde hair look at me disapprovingly and usher their small children inside.

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