I am sitting on my front stoop, smoking a cigarette, and Gary is staring at me from the other side of the fence. His eyes are dark and pulsing with dullness, like
those of a tiger in a cage. I pick at my fingernails. It's hot. He is fidgeting.
Gary lives in a group home next door. We hear yelling from his front yard and both turn to look. Someone else is pacing, talking to himself about the inevitable
invasion of Canada by the Chinese. Gary sighs, and pulls his shirt down over his belly. He clears his throat.
I want to go inside but sense there is something that he wants to talk about. I wait for another minute, deadheading the flowerpots on my front stoop, and I am wrong.
We have nothing to say to eachother. I have done nothing but paint all day, and my mind is cloudy and I am not grounded and I have no earth and Gary is cloudy and he has
no earth and I say goodbye and go inside.
Through my window I see that Gary stays at the fence for a few minutes. I don't want him to see me with my family, because I don't know if he has a family, and he is so
painfully lonely that I walk away from the window, so I can't see him waiting for me.
The next morning, when I go outside for my morning cigarette, Gary is walking home from the corner store. He stops at the fence and today his eyes are different.
They are bright, shining like hematite in the sunshine. He talks as I light my second smoke.
"I have a life outside of this place," he says, and I nod, shielding my eyes from his brightness and from the sun.
"I have a lot waiting for me when I turn fifty," he continues. "I have a boat, and a car, and a mansion. I just have to wait three more years for my freedom."
He pauses and emphasises "Freedom is the most important thing."
I look over into the group home yard. It is littered with garbage and at the present time there are three men outside, sitting in chairs, staring at nothing. There is
one man pacing, the same man as yesterday. My heart is full of love for them, and for Gary. How beautiful that he has found hope in nothing, even if it is something that
he created for himself to keep living in his ghost-house, where forgotten people drink coca-cola and wait to die.
I will never walk by without acknowledging that behind every front door there are beating hearts, and people who used to be someone's baby. No one should ever be forgotten.