For the most part, I don’t think I care what my neighbor thinks of me. With the exception of losing him as an odd sort of muse, I think I would get along fine if he never uttered another word to me. There is always the peephole in my door which has brought great stories. I think many of the stories that I currently have of him require several encounters in order to tell. I get the exposition in the first encounter where the plot and characters are introduced. The climax in the second encounter and I get the falling action in the third encounter.
Sometimes I have to write these blog entries like they are one long encounter in order for them to make sense. My encounters create the data, I compile them and distill them into short bursts so that they have some coherence. The time that takes place between these encounters can be days, weeks, even months.
One of these developing rolling encounters is the realization what Tony thinks of me. A good portion of my encounters with Tony happen as a result of me having to walk Dante. I have to walk him several times a day. Tony has made it abundantly clear that he does not like to spend a whole lot of time with Bonnie/Bitch/Witch/Ugly/Numbnuts. So we run into each other outside. Often. Many of these run ins happen right on my porch because he is sitting on our “common” apartment stoop, drinking.
“Hey, Tom. You going out?”
“Just to walk Dante.” Even if I were going out at this point and taking Dante with me I would have altered my plans right then and there. I would do this to avoid him asking me to pick him up some beer or give him a ride somewhere.
“You spoil that dog.” He says with a smile.
“I haven’t asked him. He might not think so.” Dante pulled at the extendable leash. Perhaps he knows how much I don’t like him and wanted to pull me away from him.
“I bet that dog eats better than I do. Look at him.” He said looking longingly at Dante. In his mind Dante must have a seat at our dinner table where he can eat gluttonously until he loses interest or gets sick, no sooner.
“He isn’t that bad. He's all muscle.” I said playfully defending the feelings and body image of my chunky peanut butter loving mutt.
“Heh. You look like you have a lot of muscle on you then.”
I knew where he was taking aim. I am not the thinnest of people. I get it. On at least two occasions mid-conversation he has thrown in a:
“Tom, are you putting on weight?”
This question immediately creates two self reflective questions in my mind. Neither of which have anything to do with answering his question.
1) When did we become such confidants that you feel comfortable to tell me I am gaining weight?
2) How the hell would you know? You have introduced me to our neighbors three times since I have moved into this apartment. How would you know what I looked like from one encounter to another?
I personally know I am overweight but its another thing to be told you are overweight by someone else. It is also an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT thing to be told you are fat by some shithead alcoholic who has drank so much that his liver is scarred beyond normal function and has actually caused permanent brain damage.
On another encounter, one late Sunday night Samlee and I got home from a road trip. We were unloading the car so that we would not have to do it in the morning. As I unloaded the trunk, Tony appeared behind me, scaring the shit out of me. He does not walk. He does not shuffle. He drifts. He can approach so silently that he could easily have gotten the jump on me. He has done it to me so many times I am sure he does it on purpose now.
He asked if I needed help and of course I did not want him helping us. I don’t like him. I don’t like the idea of him touching my things. Namely, one of the last few things left in my trunk was a shopping bag full of alcohol that we had taken with us that weekend. I did not want him touching my booze. The last thing I need is for him to develop an idea that Sam and I share a love of his greatest debilitating vice. The only thing worse perhaps is he breaking the contents of the bag because he is a stumbling fool.
“Oh Tony, don’t worry about it I’ll get it in a minute. How are you?”
“I’m good. What did you do this weekend?”
“We had a nice time. Did some sightseeing. Relaxing. I had a nice time.”
“Well it looks like you did a lot of eating.” He reached out an open hand and gave the side of my belly a pat. I pulled away. Luggage still in each arm. I felt like I was standing on my front porch, naked. But instead of telling him. Get your fucking hands off me you fucking piece of shit. I said:
“Heh. I ate.”
“Yeah, I bet you did. Is there anything you DIDN’T eat?”
“Heh. Funny. Good night Tony.”
I live my life by a certain code. I really do not like to rock the boat. If I were to get in a fight with this man on my front porch I would have to live with the consequences for as long as I am living here. I would have to deal with the thought this man who is home all day and as far as I can tell awake all night has proximity to our cars, our apartment, my dog, and of course my wife.
-Could he scratch my or Sam’s car?
-Could he break into my apartment while Sam and I are on one of our trips?
-Could he call the management company and complain anonymously about my dog?
-Could he get in one of his screaming arguments he has with Bonnie, with my wife?
I don’t know. Wrong answer, Tom. But he has told me “We don’t call the cops around here. If you have a problem you talk to me about it.” It’s not that I am not willing to ever “rock the boat.” It’s just that it is going to have to take a bit more than some asshole reminding me I am fat. Which is good for the microcosm of the international state of affairs of my apartment complex, but not exactly healthy psychologically.
Finally, a few weeks ago I had an encounter with Tony. But for the first time since I moved in here it happened in my subconscious sleep. In my dream, Sam and I were going to go out. But I had to take Dante out first. So, I was walking Dante in my dream when Tony approached me. He grabbed my belly and asked me if I was gaining weight. Dream Thomas does not have the same regard for boat physics that Reality Thomas carries.
Dream Thomas flew off the handle at him.
Cursing incoherently at him telling him if he were to ever say another word to Dream Thomas he would put him in the ground. Dream Tony was not expecting this and recoiled. Dream Thomas continued his rant insulting Dream Tony’s failing mental health and that a soon to be babbling man child was in no position to point out the vices of other people. Dream Tony, you are a piece of shit.
Dream Thomas felt vindicated. Dream Thomas had a moment. Dream Tony did not say a word (finally!) and walked away. Dream Thomas went back inside with Dream Dante and told the story to Dream Samlee. In my dream, we were getting ready to go out, so I started changing to leave. Sadly, this is when my Freudian superego had to start over-thinking things, it could not let my id think that what happened was acceptable.
So logically, Dream Tony swung my front door open and proceeds to get into a fight with me in my own house. Dream Thomas standing there at the end of the hallway while Dream Tony is standing in the doorway. Of course, Dream Thomas is standing there exposed, in his underwear cursing at him at the top of his dream lungs.
Both of them swearing to hurt one another. Dream Tony telling Dream Thomas he better watch his back. Dream Thomas daring Dream Tony to enter the house. Dream Thomas despite being more furious than a hornets nest wanted Dream Tony to be given a legal reason to be attacked. Breaking and entering. Even in a state of raving lunacy I still had the foresight to keep Dream Thomas out of prison. Dream Thomas crossed the hallway at Dream Tony and suddenly I woke up.
When I awoke I pushed my face off the pillows and I was stunned that I was still angry. It was amazing. It was as if my ego wasn’t able to close the door fast enough and repress my emotions and thoughts. The feeling of anger from yelling at Dream Tony. The intense feeling of humility at being seen in my underwear in front of this person who obviously thinks less of me.
The memory was so fresh it took me a few moments to realize it was a dream. Asking myself where I was, when the event could have happened if it did. Slowly the reality of it being a dream set in and I was a little melancholic about it. Glad that I would not have to worry about getting into an open conflict with him but still wishing he could push me to the point where my superego would tell my id and my ego:
“Go ahead, this guy has it coming.”