Thursday, April 18, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Conversation Starters

There was a guy that used to live next door to me named Toby. This was when I was in a neighborhood filled with working class families and students.  Most of the homes were rentals with tenants that were just passing through or got stuck on the way out. Toby was the latter. He had probably come to school in the area twenty years earlier and decided to stay a "student". While he maintained he was a student, I never saw him with books or actually engaged in any activity one associated with a scholastic lifestyle. I am not even sure if he knew how to read.  I think he liked the idea of sleeping late and focusing in on his consistent binge drinking. He had no obvious source of income, so I deducted he probably received a monthly check from mother as a type of insurance so he wouldn't move back in with her.

Toby is memorable to me for two reasons. The first was that he had a nervous twitch where he would scratch at his scrotum on the right side. Every twenty seconds or so his right hand would shoot down to the front of his jeans and claw at his balls. This happened so often that there was a worn patch on all of his jeans where the color had disappeared and the fabric gave way to the white horizontal stitching. It was sort of like how little kids wear out jeans on the knees, except it was on the right hand side of his balls.  This was a nervous habit that created a sense of aversion amongst every woman that even casually ventured in his immediate area.  I just pretended it wasn't odd that he touched his crotch every twenty seconds.  If you pretend it isn't happening, maybe it isn't.  That was my theory anyway.

The first day I moved in Toby walked over to my old style wood front porch.  In the neighborhood's prouder days this is where one would sit with his/her family and watch children ride by on their bikes. Grandmothers would rock on porch swings and sagely look out on the peaceful neighborhood, trading gossip with the neighbors on their porch just a driveway away.  Now these porches were where one sat on cheap plastic chairs and engaged in "pre-game" drinking out of twelve packs while watching dented automobiles thunder past.  Empty beer cans littered front lawns, and bottles with cigarette butts stood resolutely on staircases.  The neighborhood had "transitioned" as real estate folks would say.

Toby shuffled over across our shared driveway in his omnipresent army cap, wild long hair, and scraggly beard. He was wiry thin and had a Busch Tall Boy. He always had a Busch Tall Boy.  It was 11am on a Wednesday. "Hey man, howa doin? I'm Toby."  We exchanged greetings and he sat down next to me on the steps.  We sat quietly next to each other for a moment, just long enough so the silence was uncomfortable.  Toby exhaled loudly.  "Whewwww... So I just took my sister to get an abortion..." 

It was probably the best first sentence I have ever heard someone say to a stranger.  Who introduces themselves to their new neighbor that way?  What could be worse?  "So I was fucking my dog last night and..."  There really aren't too many directions you can go in that are more shocking.  I suppose you have to credit him in that he didn't bring up snuff films, Nazism, child slavery, or the recorded catalogue of Marillion.  Still, I wondered what could have possibly been on his mind as he ambled over to introduce himself.  How did he think that was going to play out?  It went like it logically should have with me going "umm" as I grasped at what he just said, and then said things like "that's tough man". 
Oddly enough Toby crossed my mind today as I met a stranger today that said, "You're from Erie?  No way!  I got the best blow job of my life there."  I had known this guy for eleven seconds.  Complete stranger.  I thought it was odd.  Maybe I'm just uptight.  Then a thought crossed my mind.  If only there was a way to team that guy up with Toby, they would be like the Conversational Super Friends.  Can you imagine those two guys rolling together?  Toby grabbing at his balls talking about uncomfortable "Cops" type family problems while the other guy tells you graphically about his sexual history?  People in sports use the "Dream Team" phrase too often.  This, if it could somehow be assembled, would truly be a Dream Team.


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