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From A Distance

Don was hitch hiking along Route 2, when I picked him up and brought
him almost to my driveway. That was five years ago and other than an occasional hello, we haven't spoken since. He lives across the street from me in a house opposite my right bay window, the one I look out when I'm working on my computer. A funny way to meet a neighbor but less exciting than how I met Linda, whose house I can see if I turn my head and look out my left bay window. She rear ended me as I was trying to merge with traffic on Route 2. Nothing much to see through the middle window, just hedges.

Most days that I sit here, I see Don playing with his boys. They are
young, both under ten, and he is always with them. Hockey in the winter, and more hockey in the summer. They play along his short driveway, the net placed at the end of the asphalt where it meets the grass of the backyard, with his boys as goal tenders. Don
would take his position closest to where cars whizzed by, protecting
the street side.

I've always admired him for the endless hours, for never raising his
voice, for always smiling. I would like to think that I played just as fatherly with Matthew and even the foster boys next door, but I know it's not true.
Last Wednesday, just before I was leaving for work, and a day before
Diane's surgery, she shouted to me from the kitchen, "There is some guy in our
yard." I continued to tap away at my computer and when I finally got up,
there was Don walking down my driveway, and then across the street
into Linda's.

Had he hesitated, I would have walked out to say hi. But he didn't.
I got into my truck and drove off to Sudbury to finish the kitchen I
was working on, and when I got home that afternoon, Diane was on the phone
talking to the police. She saw Don walking in our backyard after he had left my next door neighbor, Judy's house. Judy had heard her door open, heard noises (he made no
attempt to be quiet) but assumed it was me. When she finally got up to say hi, she saw
Don leaving her house and heading towards mine. "I guess he needs to borrow something, and I'll just let him borrow it from Mike." she thought.

Those details I learned from listening to Diane on the phone and from Matthew who
quietly told me that Don was a drug addict and already on parole. When Diane hung up,
and asked me to confirm what she had seen, I snapped at her. I lied and said I didn't know who it was. I thought, he's not a drug addict to be thrown in jail, but a man with a drug problem. The difference I'd argue, one is human and the other a throwaway item.

It's my semantic soap box, we pigeon hole people, then we can forget
about them. She works as a prostitute, she's not a prostitute. But Diane told me to step down, that he is not a man with a drug problem, that drug addiction consumes the person, like a flame the head of the match. Don walked into three houses next to his own in search of money. All I know is, when I look out my window, he's not in his driveway playing hockey with his sons.