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And there goes Kevin

“Are you going to the memorial lunch?”

“Nah, Bird, I don’t do memorials, cremations, or funerals,” I said. “Anyway, who died?”

“Kevin in #9,” he said.

“No shit! What happened?”

“They’re saying it was an aneurysm, outta the blue. No warning, no symptoms. They found him a few days ago, dead on his couch with the TV on. He’d shit himself and died, probably watching a football game.”

Should I tell him that I’d never liked Kevin? Nah, I don’t know Bird well enough for that much honesty. For all I knew, he and Kevin might’ve been best buddies, so I didn’t say anything.

“I never liked Kevin,” Bird said. “Something was always off about that guy. You ever notice? He was always spying on people.”

I laughed and agreed. “I never liked him either, and yeah, damn right about him watching people."

"Rest in peace, though," he said.

"If you say so," I answered. "Always that crazy old man would say hello in the hallway or on the sidewalk, but he asked way too many questions. He creeped out my wife a few times, when she was alive.”

“Your wife died?”

“Yeah, Bird, my wife died. Three and a half years ago.”

“Well, fuck all, condolences.”

Like I said, Bird and I don't know each other well. I’ve never seen him anywhere but in the laundry room, here in the apartment building, and only half a dozen times in all the years I’ve lived here. It’s been at least a year since we even said hello, and already this was our longest conversation ever, but there we were in the laundry room again, talking as if we're buddies.

Maybe we are buddies. He knows my name and I know his, which doesn't happen often. I’m a quiet guy, don’t say much to anyone, and even if you tell me your name I’ll forget it. ‘Bird’ is a hard name to forget, though.

As for his condolences, I don’t think he ever met my wife. Not sure I’d told him I had a wife, so I simply nodded and ignored his kind words.

“Kevin’s dead, eh,” I said, “in a pile of his own shit. I like that.”

“You know,” Bird said, “everybody shits when they die. It’s like an involuntary thing. You’re no longer clenching your sphincter muscles, so it all comes pouring out. You piss yourself, too.”

“Good to know,” I said, and we talked for a few more minutes, mostly sharing memories of our strange encounters with a man now dead.

I'd always hated Kevin, and first learned his name because another neighbor in the laundry room had mentioned him — she’d been creeped out by him, too. And as she was moving out, Virginia, the building’s former super, had told me that she’d been squeezed out of the job because of complaints from Kevin in #9.

“Yeah,” I said, “the more I think about it, the more I’m glad he’s dead.” Bird laughed, and my laundry was roaring in the washer, so I waved goodbye and went back upstairs to my apartment.

Don’t speak ill of the dead, people say, but Kevin was a mess of a man. I'm not giving him the benefit of any doubt now that he's dead, because he removed all the doubt while he was alive. He was obnoxious, intentionally. I yelled at him a few times, and regret not yelling more. 'Rest in peace,' my ass.

A few times I’d seen him just watching me as I walked under the atrium. He’d be upstairs, looking down at the mailbox area on the first floor, and think I hadn’t seen him, but I'd seen him. The first time it happened, I said nothing, just thought, What the hell? The second time, I said something angry. The third time, I didn’t, because the crazy old ass lived right down the hall. It seemed wise not to antagonize him, at least not when he knew it was me. There was some antagonism he never knew was from me, but we won’t talk about that today.

My strangest interaction with Kevin was a day when Stephanie & I were going shopping, and on our way out, there he was in the hallway. Of course, he asked where we were going. He always asked. My wife wisely ignored him, but we were newish in the building and I hadn’t yet decided he was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, so I made a half-attempt to be neighborly and said, “Shopping,” as we continued on our way. When we came home with our groceries, he was there again in the hallway, and he said, “So it takes you seventy-four minutes to go shopping." 74 minutes, like he’d been running a stopwatch?

And now Kevin's dead, and I'm surfing the net in my apartment, utterly not wracked with grief. Usually I'm in my room while my clothes are spinning, but Bird is a laundry reader — he brings a book, and sits in a chair reading while his clothes wash and then dry. He was still reading when I came back downstairs later, to move my clothes into the dryer.

“Hey, again,” I said, and he put down his book, picked up our conversation where we’d dropped it.

“Some of Kevin's friends are cooking lunch for a memorial,” he said.

“OK,” said I.

“It’s supposed to be a nice spread,” Bird said. “The lunch.”

“Are you going?” I asked, shoving my wet mostly-blacks into the dryer. “Paying your respects, as they say?”

“I got no respects,” he said, “but it’s free food, so yeah, I’m going.”

“Bon appétit,“ I said, and put my quarters into the machine. Too many quarters, in my opinion. Then I walked back toward the stairs.

“Ham and mashed potatoes. They said that was Kevin’s favorite dinner, so that’s what they’re making.”

I paused. Bird had my attention now, because if there’s butter melted on top of the potatoes, that’s my favorite dinner, too.

“You have to sit through a service, though,” I said. “I always hate sitting through the service, even if I liked the dear departed.” I snorted and added, “And I really didn’t.”

“Nope,” he said. “No service. Just lunch.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“When and where, and what's it cost?”

“Sunday, 2:00,” said Bird, “at the community center, and it's free.”

“See you there,” I said, and so it was that I had a real nice ham dinner this afternoon.

12/12/2021

itsdougholland.com 

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2 comments:

  1. This is all on the edge of offensive and I like that. I have known people like Kevin and even though I am not as antosocial as you are Doug I still avoid the Kevins.

    What I want to know is, at the lunch Did you lie and tell his family you were sorry?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As promised by Bird, there was no speechifying at all, but family greeted everyone at the door. All I said was "I was a neighbor, we spoke often, and I wish we'd spoken more often." By which I meant, I wish I'd yelled at him more than the three or four times I yelled at him. Oh, and I said "Sorry for your loss."

      Delete

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