A Man With His Own Theme Song | Skillshare Projects

A Man With His Own Theme Song

The most mysterious and intriguing person I know lives in my neighborhood, and he has his own theme music.

Years ago, before my neighborhood became the new “it” spot for new condos and sprawling apartment buildings, I could sit on the porch and read.  I was in grad school, and had a seasonal job.  There wasn’t much through traffic here then, not like there is now.  It was quiet.  It was like a secret hideaway, one that no one had discovered yet. 

My home is an apartment, sitting at the corner of a quad of other condos and apartment buildings.  One of many driveways is situated adjacent to my corner apartment, and (before some very expensive and hideous condos were built) there was a row of trees that lined the drive.  Now there is a brown brick building with green-tinged round windows.  But my mysterious neighbor still takes his daily constitutionals, regardless of the many changes. 

I first tried talking to him in 2007, while he was out walking one afternoon. He’s from China, married, old enough to have a daughter who has finished college.  His wife still lives in China, though I think she visits occasionally.  I tried asking him many times why his wife didn’t come with him.  His accent is very thick: not only do I not know why his wife is absent, I don’t even know his name. 

Over the course of many stuttering and awkward conversations, I learned that he was a professor in China, I believe in some kind of scientific field.  Here, he works at a state university, in the library.  His English is broken.  This didn’t deter me, though: I was teaching ESL classes at the time, and used this as an opportunity to find ways to communicate better.

My next door neighbor, Greg, once found the man on my porch, looking in my windows.  His behavior was odd, and over the course of a year or two, the oddness became more pronounced.  The incidences became more often and more annoying:  the man tried to open my door, tried to get into my car.  He brought me a plant once, a sweet gesture.  But the peeking into my windows began to scare me a little. 

His legend only grew from there:  other neighbors started reporting his odd behaviors, everything from walking clad only in boxer shorts and white wife-beater, to him going through all of the neighborhood dumpsters (there are four that are not locked).  We have speculated, individually and as a group, on each of these behaviors.  There has been only one consensus: that he is likely poor, and very lonely. 

The strange man from China does have one item that he is completely unaware of:  his own theme song.  Greg, who produces and edits music, is also in a band, and commented one day that though the old man may walk and drive at snail’s pace, it was probably just a cover for his excellent martial arts skills.  So Greg put together a tune in homage, and put it on a CD for me.  We played it a lot that summer, before Greg married and moved away.

The old man is still walking the neighborhood, going through trash bins and occasionally driving slowly past my apartment.  He remains the mysterious person he was when I first moved here, though I think now he at last has some friends in his building. 


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