A year, maybe more ago, I set out to walk Paul through the neighborhood. It was, as Houston usually is, a hot day, but the sun was coming down.
By the walking path, I saw a man playing catch with a young girl, presumably his daughter. He saw me approaching, and the two concluded their game of catch. They began walking back home, and as I went down the path, I heard him holler, “put a shirt on, freak!” in parting.
It bothered me at the time, and I wondered what spurred him to act. Perhaps a mixture of insecurity over his own dad bod, coupled with a desire to protect his daughter. I laughed to myself, wondering whether he exhibited similar reactions towards the topless men whose glossy images adorned the front of men’s magazines, or if he flipped the channel anytime a topless man appeared on his television set.
Perhaps he didn’t recognize me as living just a few doors down, but I knew where he lived, and the name of his business. Some type of neighborly behavior, I thought. In my growing racial consciousness, I wondered: how might he have behaved if I were white, like him?
Better yet, if I were a woman and not a man?
I moved past the incident, but recently, I noticed great activity at his home. At first, a yard sign proclaiming the property was FOR RENT, with a local telephone number drawn in black marker. Then, the weeping willow on his property was pruned back, and the FOR RENT sign was replaced by a FOR SALE sign. I saw him in his driveway with a new commercial vehicle the other night, a tall white affair with a vinyl sign on the side.
I found his Facebook profile today, and wanted to share a couple of extracts from his few public posts:
By Lexicon, Vikrum – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1440653
^ The inconsistency displayed is remarkable
I had him pegged as a conservative, so this recent discovery served as happy validation of my intuition. I won’t miss having him around in this neighborhood, but who can say what new faces will take his family’s place?