I met my husband's roommate, Dan, before I met him. They lived in the apartment above mine in an old brownstone building in Middletown, PA. Dan worked similar hours to mine and I would pass him in the hallway and wave. He worked at a fruit packing plant and one day he brought me a bowl heaping with pineapple, grapes, cantaloupe and strawberries.
He knocked lightly at my door and when I answered it, he held the bowl out in front of him like he was delivering a fruit basket. "Do you like fruit," he asked in a deep monotone voice.
He handed it to me and said, "Yeah." Then walked away without saying another word. Dan was what one might call "socially awkward." His hair was always a mess and he usually smelled bad. At first glance you might take him for a serial killer who buries individual body parts in his back yard, piece by piece. But on closer inspection you would realize that his insecurities would never allow him to so much as touch someone else, let alone murder them.
He shopped on the same day every week. He ate Spaghetti on Monday through Thursday and on Saturday morning he always had pancakes. He drank nauseating amounts of Mountain Dew and always washed his clothes on Tuesdays. You could set a timer to the day and time when he took out his garbage and he could always be counted on to have extra quarters for the washing machines because he always planned ahead.
If you've ever seen the movie "As Good As It Gets" you would do well to compare him to Jack Nicholson's character, without the anger. He was prone to weird outbursts and could say inappropriate things at inappropriate times. He was far from "normal."
Sometimes, if I was bored and lonely, I would go upstairs and talk to him. He never said much. He'd just sit in his chair and chain smoke Marlboro cigarettes. Still, it was nice to have any company at all. Having moved from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania, I didn't know many people aside from the ladies I worked with at the bank.
Sometimes he would turn the channel to Univision to watch re-runs of "Sabado Gigante" and he'd ask me to interpret for him. He wasn't concerned about the characters or what they really had to say. He was mostly interested in watching the girls dressed in skimpy bikinis.
When he did talk, he would ask me the same questions over and over. "So....what's up," he'd say, squinting one eye as he took a drag of his cigarette out of the corner of his mouth.
"Not much, what's up with you?"
"Nothing. But....what's uuuuuuuup?" I never knew what to say to him.
After a while, I would give up and go back downstairs to my apartment to eat my diner and watch television. It's been fifteen years since I first met him and he's still smoking his Marlboros out of the corner of his mouth and asking me "what's up." And I still don't know what to say to him.