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My Landlord

Approaches every conversation as if divulging a secret. Is named Bruce. Wears a gold ring of achievement as his dextral wedding band, signifying his 40-year stint as a rider of Harleys. No longer rides Harleys because his wife, Janet, developed a back problem that even La-Z-Boy style seats can’t accommodate. Was in Vietnam. Stands unconventionally close to you when speaking, so that you’re pretty sure he’s going in for the kiss. Wears the same sleeveless, button-up jean shirt every time he comes to collect rent, even as the months progress to December, implying that he owns no other article of clothing aside from the pants below the shirt (jeans). Has blue eyes that I dare you not to notice. Will never — and I mean never — let you escape to your car or retreat back inside your (his) house without talking to you for 20-30 minutes, even if his wife is the one collecting the rent check. Constantly refers to when he was “workin for Uncle Sam.” Will begin making a point, pause to stare at the air (possibly a ghost) for seven Mississippi seconds, and then finish that point. Looks like what I imagine Billy Ray Cyrus to look like at 60 after watching a daughter twerk for the approval of Alan Thicke’s son on national television, stress having induced a parabolic belly and full mullet of gray hair, except my landlord’s Miley is Nam. Has most definitely never ridden sidecar. Prefaces every sentence with your name, possibly to remind himself who he’s talking to. Says “listen” equally often in conversation, which might be justified considering the length and frequency of the pauses. Sports stenciled tattoos on his arm as faded as his denim. Has the kind of Southern accent that falls more under the category of country music legend than racist cop or aristocratic lawyer. Invites himself into your house, notices the guitar in the corner, picks it up immediately and sits on your ottoman to play, mentions that he hasn’t touched a gee-tar in 27 years, proceeds to play a flawless rockabilly lick and then strums a love song by Peter Frampton, which you begin to sing along with as his wife walks in telling him “it’s time to leave Griffin alone” but obviously wanting him to continue to sing, puts the guitar back only after describing (in roughly 1,000 words) what guitar he owned at your age, mentions that he’s going to start playing again, returns the next month for rent and informs you of a song he heard on the radio that’s got a real pretty melody, by this guy named Bruno Mars, believes the title is either “If I Was Your Man” or “When I Was Your Man,” mentions that he has taught himself how to play the melody, describes his affection for it so earnestly that you find yourself offering to figure out the chord progression for the song so that the two of you can play an accompaniment on your porch in the upcoming weeks, a performance that will be audible to customers walking in and out of a rib shack across the street. Is consistently, unbreakably kind.

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