Older White Guys Bonding
I took a short walk about an hour ago, to get some stamps and lottery tickets.
Just before reaching the first store, I run into an older white guy. We both say Hi. He does a double take and says, “Hey, do you have a brother who lives in Lowell?” I say, “No, my brother lives in Pelham.” He says, “Oh, because you look just like this guy Roger, don’t know what his last name is.” I tell him my name. He replies “I’m John M—-” and we shake hands.
In the very next breath he asks what I think of black people, saying that his wife doesn’t like the Haitians because they use the system for money, while we have to go out to work. I say that white people do the same thing. He says not as much as black people. I say, “Oh sure, and so do the Cambodians, the Hispanics . . .” He interrupts me and says, “Oh, the Cambodians. They’re the worst.” I say no, they’re not.
John closes our conversation saying that sometimes when he meets people who do not agree with him, it makes him feel stupid. I tell him that it is nice to meet him, and I’ll see him around. He says goodbye in a friendly way.
I go across the street and buy stamps at the local supermarket. I cross the next street over, and get lottery tickets at the packy. I start my walk back home, and run into John again, sitting on the wall at the same corner. I ask if he is waiting for the bus. He says yes. I ask him where he is going.
He tells me where, and says that he lost two homes to predatory loans, but that he got a good lawyer who got him into this nice place for housing. I ask how much he pays for rent. He says $400-something. I ask who pays the rest? He hesitates. Then says the state has an elderly housing program.
All along, I had been wondering if he had seen me walking in the neighborhood with my “black” girlfriend. He asks my age, and then tells me to see Susan-something, if I want to get an apartment there, that to mention his name, and say that I have known him for 20 years—that sometimes we have to lie.
I say “Thanks anyway,” and that I’ll see him around. We smile and part ways.
May 12, 2014, 1:00pm