Tag Archives: neighbors

Dominic…

Standard

I was having an unprecedented moment alone in a cafe. I had a book open and a cappuccino by my right hand. A special needs man walked in. I’ll call him a boy for the purposes of this post because I never caught his name, but he was early to mid twenties, white, in a sweater a mother might select, with hair parted on the side like a young boy’s. His care giver, I assumed she was, was a petite middle-aged hispanic woman, almost two heads shorter, her hands folded in front of her at the wrists, a black purse hanging from a forearm. They talked over the breakfast menu like conspiring thieves. She didn’t feel the necessity of eye contact but whispered back over her shoulder. The young man was excited and loud. His voice echoed through the whole cafe, “Think there’ll be berries on mine, Denise? Think there’ll be berries?”

She moved this way to see the menu and he followed by a step to maintain distance. They ordered. Setting her purse on a chair she told him she’d be right back and headed to the restroom. He sat, his leg bouncing, glancing at the bathroom, setting and resetting the silverware. A server came over, a big hispanic man, tattooed to his neck, and looking every inch like an ex-con (because this suburban white girl has been told what ex-cons look like).

“Hey, man,” the server said followed by some subdued conversation.

“Hi, Dominic,” the kid gave him a high-five, loudly again, “Hi, Dominic. Where’s Denise? Where did Denise go, Dominic?” hand now bouncing off his leg which was bouncing off the floor.

“She’s just in the bathroom, man. No worries. Here she is.”

“Denise! It’s Dominic. It’s Dominic, Denise!”

Denise smiled and offered her hand primly. Dominic shook it, placing his other hand on her shoulder as if to stabilize her against the enthusiasm of his shake. And he returned to work.

I heard the young man telling Denise how the guys had made him his own custom smoothie. “My own smoothie, Denise!” How they had promised he would get Nutella and raspberries on his crepe. “Nutella AND berries, Denise!” They must come here all the time, I thought. I looked around at these fine people who took such care of this young man.

Everyone who worked at this cafe was apparently a relative of Dominic’s, face or knuckle tattoos not a preclusion from employment, biceps-the-size-of-my-torso a must. All of them were beaming over register and hot food line at this kid.

Their food arrived shortly after.

“Try this, Denise, You’ve got to try this!” Denise ate bites off of his fork and made faces of approbation, content to let his volume speak for both of them. Dominic came to check on their breakfast.

“It is so good, Dominic! Look, they gave me Nutella and raspberries, Dominic!”

Dominic came back at the end to take their plates. I watched Denise insist on her young man getting a picture with Dominic. Her only moment of command, “Stand there.” The boy posed proudly, Dominic smiled, chest out, chin up, with an arm around him.

They left and about ten minutes later. I was done and putting my book away in my purse.

“Are you done with this?” a voice.

I looked up and smiled. “Thank you, Dominic,” I said.

He was surprised I knew his name. I thought how wonderful it would be to be known by name for something kind. I motioned by way of explanation to the empty table where Denise and the boy had sat a moment before and smiled my gratitude for the scene.
He laughed when he got it.

“Do they come in all the time?” I asked as Dominic took my tiny espresso cup in his giant hands.

He looked surprised again. “Oh, no, that was the first time. I’ve never seen them before.”

Mr. Dinty Moore…

Standard

The only reason we were in the grocery store on a Friday evening at four o’clock is because I signed up to bring a meal to a family in our church that had a new baby. I am not normally on the meals ministry because these days I can’t seem to make a meal larger than the appetites of the growing humans I’m responsible for.

Tonight was case in point because my tasty plans had fallen apart to the degree that two frozen lasagnas were cooking in my oven and I was at the grocery store on a Friday evening to buy bread and a ready salad.

By Friday evening my kids are tired after a week of school. Also, it is May, so my kids are also tired from a year of school. The little guy is potty training and missed his nap today and I am dragging them all through food-option-nirvana on empty bellies.

My daughter refuses to walk and is sitting in the cart pulling it around by reaching to whatever half-permanent object is closest. Every time I turn around the cart is five feet away. My little one is standing in the cart and eating grapes off the produce shelf. My seven-year-old has his nose buried in a book and is basically stopping wherever is most inconvenient for everyone else.

(“Put down your book!”)

As we make it to the checkout, things are devolving fast. The toddler has figured out how to lift the bottom of the cart and slide to the floor, which he is doing. My almost-six-year-old daughter is trying to read the US Weekly (“I want to read a magazine!”) which I am trying to distract her from.

(“Read this food magazine.”
“It’s boring!”)

I have fifteen items in a fifteen item express lane and three of my items are a twin loaf of bread, a bunch of bananas, and a bag of grapes. I am pushing it across the board.

The guy behind me strolls up, middle aged, glasses, with ten, I swear, microwavable ready-packs of Dinty Moore beef stew and about seven pounds of zucchini. I don’t know what the heck he’s got going on tonight but this bachelor sure as hell doesn’t have time for the circus I got going on right here.

My eldest has stopped reading his book long enough to make his sister dissolve into a puddle of indignant victimhood on the floor.

(“Just, stand over there and read your book!”)

My baby is back in the cart via “the new route” and is shaking the coin machine at the checkout.

At this point a fellow mother from school comes in (you know who you are). She’s alone, has her cart, takes one look at me, and laughs. That was the picture I was painting at that moment.

So, the middle-aged Chinese lady, that is my sympathetic cashier (“You very busy.”), scans my beer.

“You get some beer, I need to see ID.”

I, getting out my driver’s license and trying to placate Mr. Dinty Moore who is strangely unresponsive as my daughter wails at his feet, crack a joke, “And I earned every ounce.”

And this is why you should never EVER card a mother of three children. Because, people, my driver’s license had expired… on my birthday… in January.

(My eldest was loudly fascinated, “Mom, your ID expired?! What does that mean? It’s expired?! Can I see? So, you can’t get your beer?”
“Go read your book.”)

The Chinese lady grimaced as she slowly removed my beer from the belt. She regretted checking my ID now, thought it was going to be a great treat for everyone, and as much as it hurt me I could tell it stung her a little, too.

I don’t mind admitting that it’s a defeated Barbara who wrangled three kids into the car, without beer, and now thinking about DMV visits. (Argh!)

These days the toddler takes a while to get into his seat. He likes to play this really funny game where he jumps into the front seat right when I open the back door and jump back into the back seat when I open the front door. So, as badly as I wanted to be gone and home it took us several minutes before I could sit back in my seat.

Then, there was a knock on my window.

Who is it, but Mr. Dinty Moore himself and— he’s holding my beer.

“You bought me my beer!” I yell at the window. I rolled down the window.

I swear he said nothing, just smiled, handed me the beer, and walked away.

(“He bought your beer?! That guy bought your beer? Why did he do that?! You couldn’t buy beer because your ID had expired, right?”)

Well played Mr. Dinty Moore. May your meaty morsels be flavorful and your zucchini bread be moist. By blessing a mother with beer you have blessed us all.

Nonverbal Communication…

Standard

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.