A few weeks ago my neighbor sat outside all day laughing like a maniac. Well not all day. And there were people around, so he didn't appear totally insane. But I recognized that sound. When my kids start laughing like that I know that they are only a short step away from crying. The laugh is a little too loud and goes on a little too long. It's only a matter of time before someone's head gets slammed.
The guy who was laughing is one of three brothers that live across the street. Not Carlos and his family who are actual gang members. Just guys who hang out all day drinking beer, chit chatting. Their parents live across the street, the little mom always busy hanging laundry or sweeping and the dad who sits in his banged up truck smoking cigs, occasionally patrolling the neighborhood for metal scraps or cardboard boxes. This entire family has lived here for 30 years: three brothers, the mom, the dad.
Eddie, the one who was laughing, is the youngest, at least he looks it, and I imagine things have not changed much for him since he was three, trying to keep up with his brothers, desperate to be included. Last week he knocked on my door while we were having dinner and asked me if I knew that someone had installed cameras on the side of my house.
Uh, no. I said, chewing, my fork still in my hand. It was weird that he knew my name, that he'd come knock on my door at 6 pm. Not scary weird, you know, just strange. Honestly, I thought he might be apologizing, because the week before he had been yelling outside about some cocksucker who broke his fucking TV. Harry had been outside riding his bike and I told him to come in. Eddie's brother yelled to me Sorry bout that, and then in a quieter voice Eddie! Mind your fuckin manners.
Then there he was a few days later, standing at my door. He was chubby and sad,a 30 year old man with a face like a baby who smelled like cologne and beer. He explained to me that he had heard someone was putting up cameras on the side of some of the buildings in the neighborhood. I said Oh and told him I was in the middle of dinner. He said oh yeah, ok. Sorry. I did have the thought that maybe I shouldn't be so short with a person who seemed like he was getting ready to snap, but I've seen him with his mother, how he carries her groceries for her, takes the broom out of her hand and makes her sit and I figured I was in the same category as her.
I did have the thought too, as I walked back to the table, that he wasn't entirely disconnected. Some part of him knew he was being watched.