Robert accidentally added me on Facebook. I think he mistook me for the famous publisher whose name is one letter short of mine. I kept him because he posts interesting things. Like street art which interacts with its surroundings. It’s often funny or at least amusing. One day I told him so. He was thrilled with this unsolicited positive feedback and we began chatting. I shared my blog with him since he is also a writer. He gave me a bunch of pointers. I sat for three hours in Patisserie des Ambassades in Harlem chatting with a completed stranger over messenger. Then I somehow offended him, as I often do, and we didn’t speak again.
Until now, more then a year later, when I saw he is coming to my home city for vacation. I sent him a couple tour tips. He harassed me about my writing. I confessed I hadn’t been doing it. He pushed me. I pushed back. We had it out until we had this bio project idea and I agreed to do it. 10 Bios in 10 Days. He wanted me to write one about him but I didn’t know any of his biographic details. If it had been Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York interviewing Robert I’m pretty sure this is the story he’d get.
Robert has been arrested twice. For stealing Coca Cola vending machines, two of them. I asked Robert if it was the soda he was after or the coins? Turns out he wanted the money but got stuck with 5000 cans of Coke and $1.75. Then he got caught and went to jail. Some connection got him off and he didn’t do any time, instead he got off with paying a small fine. Even though Robert is from New York these shenanigans went down in Texas which somehow make them more believable. That still didn’t totally explain the bright idea though so I asked him some more. Turns out he had just come off a two year cocain habit and need a rush. Guess that’s why the plan wasn’t well thought out. I supposed this was a turning point in his life because it showed him how much of a douche he was. Actually those are his words. I felt satisfied with this explanation and Robert must had sensed it because he stopped talking, about that subject anyway.
This story is part of: “10 Bios in 10 Days” by Jane A. F.
Is it awkward that I miss my neighbour? For the six months I’ve lived here, I’ve had the same upstairs neighbour (until yesterday). He’s roughly my age, American, and does something related to economics. Though we’ve never actually had a proper conversation, paper-thin walls mean I’ve learned A LOT about him. I’ve heard his conversations with his father, the clang from the assortment of things he’s dropped (I guess he’s clumsy) and even his farts! I’m sure he could give you some similar insights about me. Despite that for the first month of residing below him I had fantasies of throwing him off the roof, no doubt due to his absurdly loud alarm clock and sexplicit visits of his girlfriend, after awhile I got used to him. Perhaps we bonded when he was the only other one home over the holidays in an otherwise deserted neighbourhood or maybe for no reason in particular. His constant sounds upstairs almost felt like living with a roommate and his departure left me feeling unexpectedly lonely.
The restaurant patron
Continuing on this theme of strange shades of intimacy, I’ve decided to tell you a little about this lady I met in Italy. After two days of potato chips and granola bars (traveling’s rough when your gluten-free) mum and I went for lunch at a fancy restaurant. After awhile, an older lady (maybe my grandmother’s age) sat next to us and ordered the same thing as me: osso buco. She asked me if I was enjoying it and in turn I professed my love of bone marrow. “Realllly?” she was both puzzled and intrigued. “Yes” I said, “my great-grandmother used to make if for me every Tuesday.” Now she was really surprised, “where was she from” she asked, “Berlin” I replied. “Oh, must be a German thing”. Now it was my turn to seem puzzled, this woman had a South African accent, or what seemed to be.
As the conversation continued it came out that she was also from Germany, had moved to Zimbabwe and finally settled in Italy. This was not unlike my grandmother’s story; born in Germany, escaped to Chile and settled in Canada. Of course we quickly figured out that we were both Jewish, as is generally the explanation for such tales of displacement, and went on to chat about a host of other things; I said I was impressed with how frequently my mum was getting hit on by dashing Italian men and she told me some quippy stories of young waiters chasing her. Even though we were generations apart and had only just met, the exchange flowed seamlessly and I noticed myself get quite disappointed when my mum diligently reminded me “we have a train to catch” (for once I was the disorganized one). Despite the crappy osso buco, I was sort of disappointed to leave, I had somehow really clicked with this lady, not your typical lunchroom chatter.