My neighbour…and his sidewalk.
I sit and I watch my neighbour, as he obsessively sweeps away the invisible dirt from his immaculate sidewalk. When he is finished sweeping he will return with his shop-vac, and then he will vacuum it as well.
Every Friday evening, precisely at 7, for the eleven years I have lived here, he faithfully dons a fresh white paper face mask, puts on his white cotton gloves, and corn brooms his sidewalk and the walkway that runs up the side of his house to the backyard parking space.
He had his backyard paved over in favor of a parking spot before I arrived, and usually, on the first Saturday of the month, he can be seen out there washing and vacuuming his spotless car.
The windows in his house have never been unlatched – not even once – nor have his blinds ever been raised. Not once. The heat is on all winter and the air conditioning is on all summer. He once said he wished he could cut down the 100-year-old acorn tree in the back because it dropped too many leaves in his yard – which he then had to sweep up.
For a brief while we shared a common work schedule and would usually meet at the streetcar stop around the corner each morning at 7:15. Thankfully, we only shared a short ride up to the subway, where he then went east and out to Scarborough, and me west to Ossington and my job trying to domesticate Young Offenders. I say thankfully, for he was frightfully dull and appeared to think only of the weather and the economy. He rarely spoke of anything else.
You’d think he’d have more to say given that he came here from Hong Kong as a newly married immigrant in the 1980’s; accompanied by a woman he had married, and upon arrival to Canada had known her for an entire three days.
He once told me that he started out serving in restaurants but now is an accountant – but that’s almost the entire extent of the details I’ve ever got out of him.
It took him two years to tell me he had a son, who was then away at Queens University. Studying Business. The son graduated just after turning 22 and returned home and has been working in what used to be called bookkeeping, for an insurance firm up in North York.
Sometimes I have seen the son coming home at the end of the day. I say hello. He nods but never says anything. I once offered him a beer, to which he blushed and refused.
He just bought a new car. Used-new – but looks just like new. It sits beside his father’s in the back parking.
They are both Mazda 5’s. They are both grey.