He was walking down the street in what seemed like quiet contemplation as I, the comparably hurried and bothered youth stepped out of my car and ensured I was an adequate distance from the curb, the driveway, and the car behind me. My rush to return to nothing, dishes I fully intend to do but ultimately won't. Clothes I want nothing more than to shed, though it comes at the price of looking into my diminished sock drawer and reminding me of the laundry desperately needing to be done. A day I'd like to wash away with a snack and a beer; to forget that I woke to a morning which had done nothing wrong to earn my scorn, a trend of recent frequency.
My hurried and bothered self crossed the street knowing that at the pace I set I would end up walking side by side with him. I think he planned it this way, I think he dawdled to talk. I fiddled with my keys, looking for the one marked Hall in the streetlight. He's relatively well dressed, with a full head of gray hair and a face that seemed kindly even by the foreboding effect city lighting has on anyone in the night time.
"Hello," he says, having waited for me to close the distance though my own pace.
I said something to the effect of hello, maybe good evening, as he seemed to deserve.
"Do you live around here?" an innocent enough question.
"Yes, I live on this street, do you?"
"Not on the street, but on *REDACTED*," he stops and turns, extending a hand, "Michael."
I shake, of course, "*REDACTED*."
"So which house are you in?" he asks. He'd be seeing me enter it soon, so I thought I might as well answer.
I point, "Just this one here."
"Ah, which floor?" he inquires further. Which floor of which house do I live on, a line of questioning suspicious by even the kindliest of dispositions when asked at 11:15 on a Tuesday night in the north end of *REDACTED*.
"Why do you ask?" is my tactless, wary response.
"Well if I'd like to come by and say hello again," comes with no hint of desperation for companionship. A friendly neighbor, though not necessarily a neighbor. "Do you live with a friend?"
Relieved to have dodged the first question I say, "No." By now I've stopped in front of my porch. He's stopped a few feet further up the street. "Well, good night."
"I hope I haven't been too forward," he says, polite to the very last.
"Not at all," I maybe assure him coherently, maybe mumble. I unlock the front door, close it behind me, and guide myself up the stairs without turning on the hall light. That touch lamp in my place has turned itself on again unprovoked and lets me enter into the room without switching anything on or off. It'd be pretty obvious to someone watching outside if lights came on or off, anyway.
I busied myself with my nightly rituals. I took off the pants that I hate and those uncomfortable, poorly maintained shoes. I hung everything up and emptied the backpack I used this weekend; I appeared to be missing a sock. I worried about what this guy's motivations were, if he wanted to be invited up for a drink to feed an addiction. I was concerned with the question about living alone, not for fear of having something happen to me but to give out the knowledge that when I was gone nobody else would be around. Then I thought.
Here I've been fascinated for so long by how human experience represents infinity, to learn about individuals and what makes them do what they do. This guy had a story to tell, an interesting one and told well. And now I'll never hear it. Maybe I did the smart thing. Maybe, though I doubt it, I even did the right thing. Maybe he was just looking for someone to talk to, just to know there are more people like him in the world.
Unfortunately, there are more like me.