I have this neighbor, Mr. Thomas. That’s how he introduced himself, Mr. Thomas. I think he teaches literature at the high school. Maybe that’s why he said it that way, “Mr.” Not Kevin, which I think his name is. He smiles all the time, kinda shy. His kids are grown. I see him out in his yard at this time of year, digging the dead stuff out of the beds. He always waves. One of those guys with no melanin, legs white as the moon. You expect that a little up here, because people are pretty white. And there’s no sun, at least not up until now. Not that you can get on your legs, anyway, since the wind chill is twenty below. Sometimes his wife is out there with him. She’s always wearing loose dresses with faded prints and they billow in the breeze. They work out there in their flower beds. Sometimes they sit on their front porch in these old folding chairs, old metal ones you’d expect to see in a school. Maybe they stole them from the school, who knows. Sometimes I feel like going out and buying them a couple of nice wooden chairs. They sit out there so much, they might as well have a nice place to sit. I watch them sometimes and I imagine them on a deck of a cruise ship, one of those cheap ones where they cram three thousand people on a huge bus of a boat. They’d probably love that.
Sometimes I see him in the morning and it’s like he’s a totally different person. On school days, always has a bow tie on, usually a red one. He wears old herringbone sport coats. He might have even looked stylish in Boston. Sometimes I wonder what kids in this high school would think of a teacher dressed like that. I guess if they think he’s a freak, I’ll hear about it from Leah when she has him. Once we were getting in the car and we saw him. I asked Leah if she knew who she was. She knew his name. She said she heard he was nice. Maybe I should have been getting to know him. Maybe he’s interesting in some way I never noticed. I hope Leah has him when she gets to high school, if we’re still here. And of course we’ll still be here.
We live in a kind of quiet. Nobody says too much. Nobody talks about their ailments, or their therapy, or the news, like they might have done in Boston. It’s just the little bits you need to get by. And so you can have a neighbor who you think belongs on a cruise ship with all the old retired people and then suddenly you look across the street and you see a sort of dapper guy in a bow tie and you realize you don’t know him at all. You’ve never seen him before. He hid in the silence.