I have no appointments for the next week so I take the time to acclimatize. My neighbourhood is not safe after dark so I quickly fall into a routine: I wake up and write for a few hours. In the early afternoon, no later than 1 or 2pm, I go out to explore a bit. Outside is scary and that makes me feel stupid. What am I afraid of? Black people? Poor people? I sweat a lot when I am away from the Kennaway, so my afternoons usually end in the shower. Craig returns from work in the evenings and we have dinner and watch movies together. We go out in the BMW and visit with people. On one evening we both have work to do so we set up on adjacent couches with our laptops and ignore each other – just like a real married couple.
Familiarity makes me less afraid. Craig addresses the situation (and, like me, most everything else) with humour. “Just look at that disgusting view!” he’ll complain, flinging the drapes open to reveal the Indian Ocean. “Such filth.” I’ll agree, and we two break into sarcastic cackles. I think it is a way to apologize for our good fortune, to absolve ourselves so that we may enjoy it. (Not forgetting, too, that we both are here helping in the ways we can.)
We grow into our characters: we are the young Mr. and Mrs. from Kennaway Court, a building in which the mean age hovers somewhere around 75. Many of the residents have been here for decades; there is a retirement village vibe. Craig is very likeable, and regularly elicits delighted smiles from the little old white ladies who live here. He’s a tease with a harmless roguish quality. I am mostly quiet but as I become more comfortable I break out some charm of my own. Our characters finally present themselves in the form of a plaque sunk in the beachfront promenade outside the building:
So there you have it: we are Lord and Lady Kennaway, wrecked in 1857 (and nearly every evening since, ha ha). The charade is deliciously fun since we are both as queer, as they say, as a three dollar bill.
But all this getting along is becoming boring. Let me give you a villain.
There is a man who lives at Kennaway Court. He is the Chairman of the Board, and he has his eye on us. No loading zone pit stop will go unnoticed, nor unpunished, as we discover warm evening in between some errands and dinner. “Is that your car?” The man is grey-haired and jowly, about 55, wearing a navy suit with a turtleneck – all the rage, in the early 1960s. He is standing in the foyer looking out at the white BMW parked halfway on the pedestrian sidewalk (to make room for the now departed delivery truck that had been there moments before) with its flashers on.
Instantly, I know who he is. About seven minutes earlier (just prior to pulling into the No Parking zone), Craig had told me about the Chairman. He is a busybody type who loathes Craig’s flagrant disregard for the No Parking sign, and they have exchanged words. Angry words on the part of the Chairman, and sarcastic words for Craig. “You know that is my car,” Craig replies blithely. “Are you going to yell at me for stopping here?” The Chairman tells Craig that a young man like him must have strong legs that can surely take him across the street. Craig parries by saying, “Let me ask you a question. Who are you?” to which the Chairman replies, “My name is Dennis. I am the Chairman of this building.” Craig introduces me, and I shake the Chairman’s hand. The two men reach an uneasy truce in which the Chairman thinks he might have made his point and Craig is quite sure he will park here any time he wants, and as we are walking to the car to end the scene the Chairman fires a parting shot: “And also, you have blocked the sidewalk. There is hardly enough room for a person to get by.” As we peel away, Craig shoots me a grin. “That’s it,” he says. “Next time, I am going to make the however-many-points-turn it takes to jam this car sideways against the door.”
Later, over drinks and the retelling we dub him Dennis Fistofassholes, but we cannot remember his title. “I know it started wth a ‘c’,” I try to jog my memory. “Was it Captain?” I ask. “Cunt,” replies Craig, and we laugh into our stubby bottles of cider. “Chancellor!” I call out, knowing full well that I am wrong. “Chancellor Dennis Fistofassholes!” Ah, it is good to have a villain.