They howled whenever they saw me, up on that tenth floor. It started out, as it always did, by one guy suddenly noticing that I wasn’t… normal. That in some way—like those odd pictures that hide images you have to find practically cross-eyed—once you’d “seen” me, you couldn’t seem to stop “seeing” me.
I don’t mean that it happened all the time, only that it happened. I made the process easier by having hair that brushed beneath my shoulders, by acting like I didn’t need the world and like the world didn’t need me. I never made much of an effort, if any at all, to fit in, to try to pass as “one of us.” I didn’t care for “us.” So I was always one of “them.”
The guys in the corner room just two doors down from me were “normal.” Three in that room, with friends that came almost every day to share loud music (heavy on hard rock and metal and most of it quite good), beer, some marihuana and a howling session if I happened to drop by.
Because I had an odd routine, we never met in the communal bathroom. I wonder what would have happened if they had walked in while I was showering. A fight, I’m sure. If it’s at least three to one and you’re naked, you negotiate or flee only for further humiliation.
For weeks, they howled. Several times, in the early mornings, they’d pound my door and yell “Wolfman! Hey, Wolfman!,” shout obscenities and howl like maniacs. Once they dragged a protesting young lady “to see the Wolfman.” I opened the door that time, actually carried on a conversation with her and when we’d finished, I heard her ask “Why do you bother him? He’s okay.” Maybe I was.
I superglued their lock shut, even down through the doorplate. Took Campus Services three hours to get it open. The next night, my door was glued. Took the same guy ten minutes to open mine, cursing most of the time. While he worked, we stared at each other, four guys in full understanding that a line had been crossed.
The muttering worker left and as soon as the elevator dinged closed, I walked towards them. Six steps. They backed up, into their room. I stopped at their door and they sat down, ignoring me. The TV came on, one grabbed a magazine and the third pulled at a longneck beer. I stood.
“You started it.”
“You glued our door.” The TV guy wouldn’t turn around.
“You don’t know that.”
They all turned to me. “Who else would do it?” Beer guy sucked at an empty bottle. Nerves.
I shrugged. “Same guy that puts superglue on the toilet seats.”
They started. One of them mumbled morosely. “We’re even.” They looked at me.
“What are you gonna do about it?” Magazine guy was pissed.
I pointed to the lock. “Guess who’s got a master key now?” I walked back to my room and shut the door.
The howling stopped. I even got a surly “Hi” every now and then. It wasn’t peace, but it was tolerance.
Things would have been different if only they figured out that their answer to my question was “Not you.”