I know, I know...this will get a lot of those hits.
I take Socks, the puppy for a walk every weekday morning after I get home from taking Liv to school.
We tend to take the same route lately because we've had lots of snow and I take the paths of least resistance: those that are shoveled.
So, I was out walking Socks, we were jauntily walking around when suddenly a grown man leapt out of the bushes and screamed, BOO!! at me.
Besides nearly wetting my pants, I also nearly slipped on a patch of ice.
I recognized him immediately, but that did not stop me from yelling at him.
"WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING????"
He had the audacity to smile bashfully at me.
"Um, I thought you'd laugh, you know?"
"No, I don't. That was a stupid move on so many levels. I don't know you well. You are a man and jumping out at a woman is a scary thing to do, even if you are kidding around. It was a dirty trick. I also have a DOG. For all you know, Killer could have maimed you..."
"Your dog is called Killer?" he asked, looking down at Socks, who after one yelp, was looking back and forth at our conversation worriedly.
This man, while not a perfect stranger to me, was not a friend either. He had moved into the house down the street from us in early December and I had smiled and said hello once when he was getting into his car one afternoon and Socks and I were walking by. I had said something to the tune of "welcome to the neighborhood." I had planned to ask our neighborhood gossips, Ben and Jerry, about him as soon as they got home from their skiing trip to Switzerland. I had seen an older man come out to get the mail, so wondered if they were lovers...or what. The younger one DID look sort of fey...
And now he was standing in front of me looking all aw..shucks, ma'am.
He held out his hand and introduced himself as Daryl. I gave him a wet fish handshake and turned to walk away. He called after me to see if I wanted to come in for coffee, to "take a load off." I told him that I didn't know him and thus, was not going to come into his house.
He then asked if I would wait for him to go inside and put a hat and gloves on and maybe he could join me on the walk, have a get-to-know-your-neighbor talk. I sighed and agreed. It just felt like a bad idea right from the start.
He joined me.
The first thing he did was point to the OBAMA pin on my coat.
"So, you're an Obama fan?" he asked. "I have seen you in three different coats and they all have three different buttons: Hillary, Obama and Kuchinich."
I told him that I was still mulling the matter over, unable to make up my mind. Until I did, I would wear all three.
"Sometimes you wear the long black wool coat you have on now," he said. "Other times you wear that red parka with the Hillary button and then you also have a blue coat with a Kuchinich button. You also wear different hats, scarves and gloves."
I gave him a look.
"Watching me pretty closely, are you?" I asked him.
He blushed. "Uh...well..you just always walk past my house and I have started taken to looking for you."
I nodded. I asked him how he liked living in his house, that a guy named Raul used to live there but that he had moved to a warmer climate.
"Raul?" he asked, his eyebrows raised. "The previous owner was named Raul? The name on the papers said Ralph."
I shrugged. Said I knew him as Raul.
"Well," he said, "that explains why the kitchen smelled like rancid bacon. Those um...spaniards sure like to cook with lots of grease..."
I was fairly certain that I was not going to like this new neighbor.
I asked him how he was liking his new house.
"I live with my Dad," he told me, huffing a little. I wondered if he was a smoker or just out of shape. I mean, I wasn't jogging.
"Our wives left us this summer," Daryl went on, "and we decided to just move in together and share the bills. We own a bar downtown. Dad does the ten to six shift and I take the six to two one."
"Oh..." I said. "I thought you might be partners. I guess not."
He looked shocked. "You thought I was light in the loafers?"
I smirked. Light in the loafers??? Good lord. Was this Archie Bunker?
"Well, I guess you aren't..." I said, smiling. This could get fun.
He puffed his chest and chin out. "I am certainly not one of those guys," he said, making his wrist go limp in front of him. "But, the guys that live in this house," he said, pointing to Ben and Jerry's place. "They's fags, I think. And one of them is as black as tar!" He shook his head as if the mere thought sickened him.
"Yeah," I told him. "Ben and Jerry are gay men and they are great fellas."
"So," he went on, "I'm guessing you are a democrat?"
I smiled. A genius right here on my block. Nodded.
"I'm a Mitt man myself," he said.
No kidding. Imagine my shock and surprise....
Socks had been staying close to me, not barking or anything, but not showing any signs of his usual affable self with strangers. I stopped to let him shit and then picked it up with the baggie in my pocket. Daryl watched me with a slight expression of disgust on his face.
I stood back up. "I'm not a Mitt Romney supporter," I told him. "Actually, I think he is sort of a jackass, but my sister is a big fan. And I think that the better part of this state agrees with both of you that he would be a good president."
Daryl smiled at me in what I thought was a pretty greasy way. Everything about him just seemed sort of slick, sort of oiled.
"Wanna know a secret?" he asked.
"Nope," I answered.
He laughed. " Today's your lucky day because I've decided that I like you," he said. "You're a funny gal, kind of smart too, I bet."
Kind of? Wow.
"Well, I'll tell you anyways," he went on. "I've had my eyes on you for a long time." He used two fingers to point at his eyes and then one to point at me.
I stopped so fast that Socks ran into my leg.
"Pardon me?" I said.
He was looking all bashful again, like the shy farmer in a sappy Sandra Dee movie. Except I'm no Sandra Dee. I'm more like a vampire queen.
"I've watched you take that pup for a walk every day and every day, I told myself that tomorrow I would talk to you and well, today is tomorrow. One day I followed you," he said. I didn't like the way he was looking at me.
HE FOLLOWED ME??? Jaysus Christ. Do I have some sort of marker on me that makes me attractive to creepy peepers? The next thing I knew he would pull out the blueprints of my fucking house.
"Listen up," I told him. "I don't want you following me. I am not interested. I have a partner. In fact, let's just part company right here."
I turned to walk away. He caught up with me.
"Hey,now, hold on there, little sister," he said.
Jumping jeeping willikers.
"So, what do you mean you have a partner?" he asked, his eyes small. Actually, now that I thought about it, his eyes looked positively piggy.
"I'm a lesbian," I said.
I sighed. "A lesbian," I repeated. "You know, "light in the loafers" as you say, or maybe you would call me a rug muncher, a carpet licker, a dyke, a lesbo, a crack snaker, a fluff, a honeypot, a kiki...."
He looked bewildered and then suspicious.
"Like I haven't heard that excuse before..." he finally said.
I looked at him, incredulous and then, I fought a huge urge to laugh. Because this made SO much sense. I could just see straight woman after straight woman thinking to herself, how do I shake this guy? and then deciding to tell him that she was gay.
"I'm gay and I have a partner," I said. "And you are not to follow me again, do you understand? Because I'm not interested and it creeps me out to think of you peeping at me and then following me, okay?"
"Well, if that don't beat all," he finally said. "Here you thought that I was a fag and I'm not and I thought you was a normal woman and you're not. Don't worry, I won't be paying you no more mind. I'm not interested in deviants."
"C'mon, Killer," I said to Socks. "Let's get moving before I change my mind and have you tear this man's butt off..."
I walked away, but not before I heard him mutter, "Bitch...lezzy bitch." I wasn't scared, really. I know everyone in this neighborhood and we'd barely walked a block. But, still. Great. A bigot on my block. He was going to have some issues since we are a pretty diversified group.
Welcome to the neighborhood, Daryl. For once in your life, you may just have to see how it feels to be a round peg in a square hole. And keep your creepy peepers off of me.