Sunday, 12 March 2006

I lived in a two bedroom situated in what is best be described as an interesting part of town. It was a convenient location, near shopping and entertainment in the Midway district near University & Snelling in St. Paul. The area was quite diverse and you could meet all sorts of odd characters, regardless of the hour. For example, 5:30 in the morning while taking out the trash.

Rubbish in one hand, recycling in the other, and barely awake, I ran into what would charitably be described as a formidable brunette coming up the stairs. Dressed in a long, purple coat, red scarf, and black pumps, she was not only quite drunk, but unbelievably ugly.

Turns out it was the guy who lived across the hall.

The neighbor I knew had a shaved head and Russian or Slavic features that were bloated from years of heavy drinking. Most of the time he wore stained blue-jeans and an open-front sport shirt that was never buttoned. I seldom saw him without a drink in hand, his usual poison being a 40-oz. malt liquor. Basically he looked like an alcoholic linebacker.

He always talked about being in the movie business, but I got the sense that it was more porn and less Hollywood. Still, he seemed decent enough — if stuck in one place and somewhat lost.

He was transfixed by the Internet, which at that time was still in its infancy. Attracted to many of the get-rich-quick schemes, he’d sometimes solicit my opinion. I’d always tell him the same thing, “If it seems too good to be true…”

But now, seeing him disguised as a remarkably homely woman, all I could do was stammer “Dude, it’s way too early for me to deal with this.”

I’m not sure who was more surprised: my neighbor because he really didn’t expect to run into anyone or me because…well, the obvious reason. He went into his apartment to change, and perhaps sober up, while I went on about my business; content to never give it a second thought.

Don’t get me wrong; as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, I really don’t care. I like to think I’m as open-minded as the next person. Besides, if he wants to play with gender roles, who am I to get in the way. But I can’t shrug off honest surprise either.

Several minutes later he tapped at my door. Dressed as a man, he wanted to make sure I wouldn’t tell anyone. “It’s just something I do once in a while and I don’t want anyone to find out.”

“No worries,” I said, while thinking “Who’d believe me?”