We were halfway down the block already when I saw him. The kids hadn’t noticed him yet as they danced and raced around me. I slowed down the stroller a bit in order to take him all in. I recognized instinctually that this would not be a decision I would regret.
Allow me to paint his portrait. He was about mid-thirties with those darker European-type of looks. He was balding, overweight, and wearing a bathrobe that opened in a deep “V” over flowing locks of black chest hair. And besides his slippers I’m not sure he was wearing anything else. The way he was dressed and the way he was smoking his cigarette at 1:30 in the afternoon spoke of something salacious. And he was standing in the doorway of my building.
You take a chance wearing a bathrobe on a sidewalk in broad daylight. For that, this man had my respect. Unfortunately, the gentleman was about to lose this particular gamble as he was about to meet a new neighbor, namely, me.
So, as I’m approaching down the street we make eye contact. And because of his general presentation in the middle of the afternoon and in anticipation of what I know is about to happen I smile slightly.
At which point he gives me a look that asks, “What’re you looking at?”
And I give him a look back that says, “Dude, you’re in a bathrobe on the sidewalk at 1:30 in the afternoon in front of my building. What do you think I’m looking at?”
And he gives me a look back that goes, “This doesn’t have to be awkward. You looking at me like that is making this awkward.”
And my look replies, “Well, if you think it’s awkward now, just wait.”
At which point my kids run ahead and duck into the entryway next to him laughing and playing.
His head whips from them to me and his look asks, “You live here?”
And my smile back says, “See, more awkward.”
And then we share a look that says the same thing, “And this is only a four unit building. We’re bound to run into each other again.”
At which point he discreetly extinguished his cigarette and hurried upstairs ahead of us. His robed figure just disappeared around the door of the front unit as we passed.
The next day we saw each other again. It took me a moment to recognize him fully clothed in a shirt and jeans, coming down the street carrying his groceries. But I did. He must’ve recognized me, too, because he immediately ducked his head and turned the corner to cross the street further down.
So, this is what we’ve come to, the gentleman and I, and all without exchanging a word.