In the small town where I live, which isn’t really where I want to live but is where I am, there is a citizen named Larry. He knows who everyone is and anyone, who pays attention, knows who Larry is. He does odd jobs. He hangs out at the town buildings, the fire and police departments and City Hall.
Our paths cross regularly. It warms my cynical heart, that is, on some days, the size of a cold frozen pea, when Larry greets me on the downtown sidewalks. Often he blocks my path and will not let me pass until I come up with a password. It’s a game we play. I offer words from sassafras to supercalifragilistic until he steps aside to let me pass. There will never be a day when I am too busy to exchange a greeting with Larry.
He is quite selective in choosing the people he talks with. It took me a couple of years of consistent, cheerful greetings before he acknowledged my existence. If Larry hasn’t put you on the guest list, you have NOT arrived. Sometimes he will allow me to know that he fell on the ice and his back hurts, or that he went to the dentist and he hated it.
There have been days when he would not speak to me at all. I hate it when he won’t speak to me. Sometimes he glares. It’s always impossible for me to identify the reason he is mad at me. Larry is elemental in my social life; if he won’t speak to me I feel unworthy of the human race.
There was a long stretch of a couple of weeks that I endured the silent treatment. Glaring quiet was all I could get from him. I confided my shameful, shunned status to a friend at a local law office. She told me not to worry, that Larry wasn’t mad at me, something had likely happened to take him off-balance and he knew it would be safe to demonstrate his frustration by denying me the pleasure of his conversation.
Larry has no family in town. The world doesn’t always make sense to him; when his mother died he lost his translator. She organized a group of kindly lawyers, who are the trustees of his finances. They meet periodically to review his status. He gained too much weight so they got the word out to the local eateries to help manage his diet, to be regrettably “out” of whatever desserts he wanted but to offer him healthy snacks instead. For a while, he enjoyed buying scratch lottery tickets because he liked to win. After he spent his entire month’s stipend on tickets, word was passed to local stores where suddenly the last ticket was purchased “just before” Larry got to the counter.
Larry is unique but we are similar. Both of us relish a good laugh and there are things that neither of us understand that make us angry and and in need of a translator. We’re different in the same way.