Out of a gate a man emerges, another appears behind him, watching him almost like a pet dog about to be left behind. The first man looks untidy, disheveled and wearing an old shirt. He wears nothing else other than a pair of thongs. He is oblivious to what those in polite society would regard, as a bit of a social faux pas. I wish I could be like that sometimes; to do as I wish without thought of effect or consequence. How liberating and childlike that must be, yet I cannot be that way. I have been an adult with all its expectations, demands and unspoken needs for too long to go back, as much as most of us would like to. The house he comes from seems like him. It is as different from all the other houses, as he differs from the people living within them.
Most on the street are the ornate federation style with pillared verandahs, ornaments, weatherboard fronts. Some are art deco with rounded corners and curved windows. But not this house; it is flat, featureless red brick veneer. A path leads down one side past two doors, a ratty sofa is visible; the only evidence that tells that there are people living there. It is the furniture equivalent of a lost soul, cast aside and left out like the people that must use it on occasions when they dare to emerge into the daylight.
The house sits, squeezed like an afterthought onto a narrow block. It has the air of cheapness, just enough to give the forgotten a place to live. It seems out of place sitting there, an anachronism, out of place in a street that holds its gentility warily, in case other houses decide to take steps against it. A window looks out onto the street, but those inside cannot look out in the same way. A shutter closes out the world; a steel divider keeping the outside out, as much as the inside in. Most people passing never give it so much as a glance, they ignore it studiously, in the manner of people who want it to go away, vanish, yet it does not. It reminds those of a mind that like the people inside all is not rosy in the world, certainly not here.
Behind me a young family is out walking, mother, father, child in a pram and toddler getting used to her legs and the world at the same time. She will learn more as her legs gain more strength. Body and mind will get used to things even those she will not like at first, if at all. Childish acceptance of all will become adult toleration of most. Did the pantsless man see them or even care if he did? Did the family see him, no doubt they did, the converse is less likely.
The child probably asked the questions the parents didn't want to answer and probably couldn't if they wanted to be truthful. "Mummy! Daddy! Why is that man not wearing pants?" "Oh he's probably not very well dear." "Why?" "I don't know why dear." And so the world goes, adults telling little lies to kids so they can begin to make some sense out of the world they will come to inherit. Still in this case it's probably better that way for now, both the family and the pantsless man inhabit very different worlds and very rarely will they intersect again unless one or the other intends it to happen.
Mostly the world the family inhabits will never see the other world that the man represents, at least it does allow for a coexistence that might be impossible otherwise. The family will live as the rest of us mostly do, and the man will disappear so there will be no calls for their removal by the easily affronted. Soon he will never come to mind though the process might take a while and the parents will be careful when they walk that way again, if they ever do with children in tow. The memory will linger a while longer in the mind of the girl, the parents will seek to expunge it from theirs.
I wonder if the house has disappeared from the minds of the neighbours more easily than the memory of the pantsless man from the minds of the family. If so, it is a disappearance more complete than if wreckers had taken it apart with their steel balls hungry for destruction. After the wreckers have been with their noise and activity there will be something of the house left behind, a deed, a photograph, the family that once lived there, the neighbours for a time but there will be nothing of that for the pantsless man.
The family in a house no longer there will be remembered for a time too but who will remember the residents of the house no one looks at or visits? A place not seen cannot be remembered. "What house used to be there?" "I don't know, can't recall it." People in these houses are very easy to forget as they are not even there to be remembered in the first place. They have their own stories to be told; they are the hopeless, the drug addled, the mentally ill, the alcoholic and the abused. They need to appear to us and only we can make that happen. I hope the family saw the pantsless man and they remember him. I did and I do.