The mumbling man and me

Before work and again after work, I knocked on the mumbling man's door, but there was no answer either time. That's four times I'd knocked since Monday, never an answer, and I almost said to heck with it and to heck with him. I'll eat my dinner and let him have his eviction, cuz I have worries enough without adopting a stray.

Then I thought, well, maybe it's stupid to expect a normal person's response from someone who clearly has a mental malfunction. Maybe the mumbling man is in his room and hears me knocking, but he's just not answering.

I do the same thing. Knocks at my door are rare, but when it happens I look through the peephole before deciding whether to respond. If I don't recognize the knocker, bite me, I'll go back to what I was doing unless whoever's knocking flashes a badge or shouts, "There's a fire!" If the mumbling man is in his room but ignoring my knocks, then he's doing exactly what I'd do.

So instead of knocking again, I wrote a note, and slipped it under his door:

Hey — I am the fat guy in room 303. If you give me a copy of your key I won't use it or lose it, and I'll let you into your room when you're locked out. Knock and we can talk about it.

Then I made my dinner — four peanut butter & Spam sandwiches — and as I turned on the TV, there was a knock on the door. Five minutes hadn't passed since I slipped my note under his door, and nobody else has knocked since Maggie was here. I squinted through the peephole and there he was, the mumbling man from room #306.

What happened next was the most (only) interesting thing that happened all day, and this is my diary so I have to write about it. I want to write it right, though, and I've written it twice already.

In my first and second drafts of this, I described my neighbor's appearance, and what he said, and some things he did, and how I responded. Lots of it was weird because he's weird. I didn't laugh while we talked, but afterward I laughed about some of it, and then wrote about what had happened, and that was funny, too. It was a lot of laughs, and I didn't like it.

I often write about stupid things that people do or say. It's cathartic, and it's fun. Most people are stupid and at least a little nuts, and we're all sharing the same ridiculous reality, so I poke at them with my typewriter. They deserve it, and I don't hold back.

The mumbling man, though, is not sharing the same reality as you and me. He didn't choose to be mentally retarded, he's doing his best to survive on his own, and he doesn't deserve to be poked with a typewriter. My report, therefore, will be factual, not comical:

We spoke at my doorway. I did not invite him in.

Talking is very difficult for him, but we shook hands, and we have an agreement.

Tomorrow he's going to ask Mr Patel to give me a spare key to his room. I'll hammer a nail into my wall and hang the key. Whenever he's locked out, the mumbling man can knock on my door and I'll let him in.

He won't have to sleep in the hallway again, if he's locked himself out of his room and Mr Patel has gone home for the night. He won't be evicted.

We shook hands again, and he walked back to his room, and that was my conversation with the mumbling man.

I'm usually a rat bastard, so for the sake of my reputation, please don't tell anyone about this.

After he'd left, I turned the TV on again. There was nothing but trash on the main channels, but this is San Francisco so I clicked around and found a Korean sitcom to watch while eating my sandwiches.

Then I read zines, and wrote and re-wrote and re-re-wrote the story of my neighbor at my door.

Then I made and devoured two more sandwiches, because peanut butter and Spam are fundamental nutrients. For dessert, Twinkie-like things that come with red stripes and chemical/strawberry filling.

Then I hammered a nail into the wall by the light switch, except I couldn't find my hammer, so I beat the nail into the wall with my shoe.

From Pathetic Life #2
Wednesday, July 20, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.



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