Thursday, August 4, 2011
a lot of people who read and write stuff online in blogs or whatever prefer short, funny, cute tidbits, something to make you laugh, make you smile, start your day off on a positive note. you know, uplifting stuff. i do some of that, but those of you who have been here a while know how i can quickly can go off on a tangent. some days the keyboard has ideas other than the one i started out with, and it sends me clicking away in a very different direction.
beside the house above the pond a large hydrangea grows, its branches full and weighted down with heavy blue blossoms. last summer i picked a few and made a bouquet for a friend, a friend who appreciated simple pleasures like a summer bouquet. you would think everyone would appreciate something as beautiful as flowers picked fresh from the garden, but that isn't true. no it isn't true at all.
some people see ugly, lots of ugly. it fills their lives, black and bitter. or they see nothing. to them a bouquet of flowers or a bowl of fruit or a basket of puppies are the same as a manhole cover or a cinderblock or an abandoned tenement. i don't know why. to these people things simply exist, they are meaningless objects and it doesn't matter if they're blue or green, living or inanimate things. that's the whole story, just nothingness, no feelings, nothing more to talk about, the end.
there was an old man who lived down the road from us when i was growing up. he used to sit on his covered front porch all day long when the weather wasn't too cold or snowy or rainy. he just sat there in a dirty, ugly gray stuffed chair, wearing a faded plaid shirt (on the hottest summer days he wore a dingy, yellowing wife beater) and brown pants, smoking a cigar, hardly ever moving. he had a newspaper on his lap. he never did or said much that we noticed, but my friends and i—we were all about nine or ten or eleven years old at the time—were scared to death of him. maybe that's what he wanted, a sick sense of power over us.
whenever we had to walk past his house, we walked on the other side of the road. he always stared at us—we were definitely spooked by him. the best time to head in that direction was dinnertime. that's when he went inside and stayed inside, except on hot summer evenings.
on one such summer evening i was walking by and he called out hey blondie what...... followed by unintelligible syllables. i knew he was talking to me because the friend i was with had brown hair. my mother always taught me to be polite, but in this instance nothing on earth was going to make me respond. another rule overrode the polite rule: do not talk to strangers. even though he lived at the end of our road he really was a stranger to everyone; he didn't want to be bothered with the neighbors—he made that clear—so we left him alone. he was a creepy loner. the adults never mentioned him. they probably knew all about his past, but they never talked about it in front of us. i don't even remember his name. (did i ever even know his name?)
another time i had no choice but to go the dreaded route. i was charged with delivering a bunch of flowers from my mother's garden to a friend of the family who had broken her arm. she lived two houses away from the old man. i was alone, and as i scurried along i saw him on his porch out of the corner of my eye. i moved faster. he muttered blondie and, loud enough for me to hear clearly, what's that stupid blue stuff in your hand?
i looked straight ahead. kept walking. didn't answer. he freaked me out, that's for sure, but then i started to feel anger rising up inside me. the flowers weren't stupid, they were nice. i spun around and stomped back toward his house, ready to spew my boiling emotions at him.
they're flowers, you dummy! i shouted across the street. i stuck my tongue out at him and spat on the ground. then i ran. i think those words made me feel a lot better, but they didn't change the fact that something about the old man on the porch was rotten.