Punch him in the face

My default these days is "low-level grumpy," and from there my moods range from an upside of "blah" to a downside of "extreme grumpiness." This morning was "blah," which is as good as it gets without Stephanie. I was cleaning out the apartment, going through some of Steph's old stuff, and a can of trash was full, so I wheeled it down the hall toward the dumpster.

Halfway down the hall is the stairway to the building's second floor. Through the slats of the steps, I saw a pair of shoes and the wheel of a bike, and knew it was NosyNeighbor, the creepy ex-cop who always raised the hair on the back of our necks. Immediately, my jaw clenched, my sphincter tightened, and my mood soured like last month's milk.

Nosy Neighbor turned the corner at the landing, continued down the stairs, smiled at me and took a breath, and there's no doubt that he was about to say something truly annoying — but I scowled and shook my head "no." He frowned and said nothing, walked out the front door, mounted his bike, and pedaled away.

Nosy Neighbor never talks to me these days, not since Steph called the cops on him, six or eight years ago. He makes eye contact with me, smiles, and then remembers to shut up. Thank you, Stephanie.

Sometimes, though, I'm wishing he would say something — because, you see, I have always wanted to punch him in the face. The man is strange and sinister, like an assistant to the bad guy in an old movie. He's always chatting with our neighbors, asking nosey questions. Just moments after I saw him this morning, when I emerged from the back door with my trash, he was on the sidewalk between me and the dumpster, where he'd cornered an old lady who lives in the adjacent apartment building, and he was asking her about her plans for the weekend. He never says a word about himself, but always asks about everyone else's comings and goings. He probably has an Excel spreadsheet listing what time I leave for work every weekday, and what time I return home, all down to the minute.

Most important, though, and most aggravating, that man frightened my wife. For that I still want to punch him in the face. Stephanie completely put him in his place, successfully shutting him up, apparently permanently. She handled him perfectly — and yet, it still angers me that he angered her. There remains a Neanderthal part of my brain that still wants to defend my wife, by beating that man until he's bruised and bloody.

Which is ridiculous, of course. I haven't been in a fight since I was a teenager, and my record was never impressive — one win, two losses, one draw. Nosy Neighbor is an ex-cop in good shape, and in the other corner, I'm a wimpy guy. Our trash cans have wheels, because I don't have the muscles to actually carry a heavy bag of trash to the dumpster. So if I ever punched that schmuck, my fight record would immediately drop to 1-3-1 and no doubt I'd need dental work. Plus, of course, Stephanie wouldn't have wanted me to punch him, so I never did, and never would. Dang it though, I'll always want to.