Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A view into a human layer in the saga of the trashed house



Yesterday we stood by and watched the main resident who had been evicted from my friend's rental house and a couple of friends when they came to the house they had trashed to load as much as they could and take it away. We didn't help them and I only stood there because I didn't think my friend should be alone when these people came over, to let them know they were not just dealing with a woman by herself.
The renter looked odd in context, his face gaunt and humorless, the sides of his head shaved leaving only a ridge of spiked hair in the middle in the modern version of a mohawk, quite a difference from the photo I had found on the floor in a bedroom of a clean-cut young man in what looked like Air Force or Navy coveralls, his name on a tag over one of the pockets. He was not very animated and at times seemed to lose his focus. Our assumption was he was using and high but we had no idea from what. It certainly wasn't an upper.
At one point, when he and his companions had gone indoors gathering possessions, a man approached my friend on the street. He wore a nicely pressed short-sleeved shirt that could have come out of the LL Bean catalogue, tan shorts and tall white socks in his clean tennis shoes. Carefully cut and combed white hair topped his head and he looked like almost any stereotyped suburban man might in that neighborhood. He opened a conversation casually asking how it was going and how bad the damage was. Soft-spoken, he asked if she needed any help and told my friend he had a connection to a company that rented Dumpsters and offered to make a connection to get her one. She explained she had hired a salvage company but thanked him enthusiastically.
Then he asked, "Is he in there?"
My friend looked confused.
The man gave the name of the tenant, and then in an even softer voice, "I'm his father, he's my son."
My friend whom you would seldom hear say a bad word about anybody, rushed to tell him the tenant was basically a good kid, but something had gone wrong in the last year and it had bothered her to see him degenerate.
The man said that was kind of her to say, and yes something had gone wrong. He glanced almost nervously toward the open doorway, then turned to walk away.
"I would like to do something. Let me know if I can help," he said as he left and my friend thanked him and assured him she would.
The man disappeared toward the end of the street just as the tenant came out with a load to put in their vehicle. He walked around it looking for a place to put his burden in the SUV that was packed to the roof already. He found a spot and forced the box into the available space. As he walked back toward the door he detoured a bit so he could approach my friend.
For a second he looked straight at her but then dropped his gaze and looked downcast again. He mumbled, "Did he leave?" My friend nodded yes and he looked down the street toward where his father had disappeared. Then he turned abruptly and went back into the house.
I paid more attention to him after that, wondering how this son had that father and how that father had this son.
My friend Kitty who had described for me her own life in a situation like this came to mind again. It had taken a long time for her to talk with me about what her family life had been before she finally ran away from it. The abuse she had suffered was not sexual and not even violent, just an atmosphere where her father didn't want her and blamed her for his situation in life when he drank and her mother supported him. One almost violent outburst had convinced her it was time to go. At times I had suggested she try to make contact, but on that she held firm, she wanted nothing to do with her parents and I left that subject alone after a couple of attempts.
That sort of forlorn gaze down the street where the tenant looked off in the direction where his father had disappeared suggested to me how Kitty might have looked in the same circumstance, as if something desired had not happened and never was going to happen.
At that point the neighbor in the zero-lot-line building came home. He saw the tenant and being a friendly sort of person said hello and attempted to start a conversation. Later he brought out some water and some hair gel of all things. The tenant poured the water over his head then took some gel in his hands and ran his fingers through the mohawk standing up the spikes again.
A little more animated in the face of the friendliness, he thanked the neighbor and turned to go away. It hit me at that point that my friend and I might have created an atmosphere of intimidation and accusation that caused the tenant's subdued manner throughout the afternoon. My friend had chatted with him a little, I had remained serious and in the background watching. Maybe we caused it, maybe not.
"Where you living these days?" the neighbor asked.
No answer, he asked again toward the retreating figure.
The former tenant, back in his sullen posture half turned and barely above a whisper said, "street." My friend Kitty has lived there too.

Overwhelming mess is a tragedy in layers

COMMENTS PICKED UP FROM FACEBOOK:
Jan Williams Simone So incredibly sad. It is hard to understand the dynamic between father and son. No words.
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Sharon Wright Good description of a very sad situation. Hope he gets help soon.
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Elaine Friedman · Friends with Sharon Wright
Really sad.
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Joe May So foreign to my generation and world.
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Terri Golden Well written Tim.
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1 comment:

  1. A heartbreaking situation for your friend and the former tenant. I can't even imagine the boy's father's reactions. When you know you can't help, what's left to do?

    ReplyDelete

Interesting quotations

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Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. – anon

"Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool." – Mark Twain

Shit happens; you just come up with a different plan. – Kitty

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We never comprehend how heavy the things are we insist on carrying until we set them down. jd

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If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

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So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

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I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

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Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

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Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio talk show host

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

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