Old Guy lives next-door, behind a thick wooden door with chipping green paint, and a pair of thin curtains. I saw Old Guy for the first time ever sometime in mid-September. It might even have been October. For a long time we wondered if anyone lived in there at all. Sometimes when we were out talking with Theresa on her stoop (she lives next to him) I’d notice the windows would be slightly open, dingy curtains rustling in the summer breeze.

I was sitting on the ledge outside our door one day,  a book propped up on my knees, just reading in the sun. Unexpectedly the neighbor’s door creaked open and there he was, evidently very surprised to see me sitting on the stoop. ‘Oh! Hello,’ he said, and smiled. He walked down his steps and down the block, carrying a brown grocery bag on his hip.

I’d tell you what he looks like but I can barely remember, just that I think he was wearing a blue baseball cap, and had short grey hair. He’s probably about 70. He was pleasant and the only other encounter I’ve had with him was several weeks later, when I was sweeping our stoop/sidewalk. It had been a frustrating day and it was such a release to sweep. I couldn’t stop and noticed he had a pile of wayward litter wedged at the bottom of his stoop, and attacked it with aplomb. This time I was the surprised one as I heard someone behind me say ‘Well that was very nice of you,’ and there he was, blue capped, brown bagged. The bag was full of groceries. Of course I said he was welcome and almost heard myself blurting ‘You know sometimes when you just get so mad and you just have to clean something??’ but the words didn’t come and I watched as he disappeared behind his green paint-chipped door.

Old Guy loves television or at least avoids the silence of an empty house. The TV is almost constantly on. I don’t know what programs he watches but I feel like he has a TV from the 1940s that can only play 1940s shows. Always there is the sound of big band music, trains, WWII fighter planes, smooth talkers in suits, women in high heels and pearls. That’s what I picture anyway. It seems like he is weaving around himself his own world, a sort of nest made of twigs from his past. From afternoon to late at night it’s Fred & Ginger, wild Westerns, Casablanca.

Then again, sometimes it is the news.

On Tuesdays Old Guy puts out his modest contribution to the neighborhood trash. Two plastic grocery bags neatly tied stand along the front of his house, proud to have made it outside but still not venturing to the sidewalk’s edge. Tonight Old Guy has put out the most trash I have ever seen him do, which is seven plastic bags filled with newspapers stacked squarely on top of each other.

Since I’ve seen him I’ve wanted to talk to him, learn his name. Then again, part of me doesn’t want to disrupt his quietly veiled world behind thin curtains, beyond the paint-chipped door.

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