Really, we're not. In fact for a long time I thought Dean's name was Nick, and it's only just now that I'm getting comfortable calling him Dean and not feeling as though it's in error. He seems like a Nick. Or maybe that was his cat's name. I know that Dean is a cat-lover, and that he goes to the library (I've run into him coming or going) and to the local fair, and I adore the simplicity of his house -- what I see from the outside, of course. I seriously expected my mother or father or both to encourage me to make a play for him. They haven't. I've made mention of the fact that he's a single man with similar interests to mine but they said they're pretty sure he's not interested in having a girlfriend. How the hell they know this is beyond me. They did say they thought there was a woman living there when he first moved in. I couldn't tell you. I didn't pay enough attention.
Dean lives in a cape just across the right-of-way from my parents' house. We think he still rents it from the guy who built it, and it can't be a cheap rent, not by a long shot. It has a garage too. Of all the people who have lived there Dean has stayed the longest. When he's there, that is. There are long periods of time when Dean's work takes him out of town, state and/or country. Japan, I think, for two weeks at a time, though that job ended and now it seems he goes to Maine a lot (Maine, of all places). He is a good man. You can tell. He's brought homemade cheesecake to my mother when she's been laid up. He wanders through their yard sometimes calling for his new cat, a white longhair named Wolfgang, and when Wolf hears him Wolf comes running. One night Wolf didn't, and Dean told my father he couldn't rest, when Wolf did eventually appear at 9 PM with soot all over him; obviously he'd been caught somewhere. Dean said it made him sick with worry. I know that sickness. Been there.
Several years ago the neighbor on the other side of Dean, a raucous truck driver named Mike, hosted a pig roast for Dean's 50th birthday. So I'd guess Dean and Mike are good friends for Mike to have gone all out like that. Mike invited all the neighbors and a motley crew of other townsfolk, their connection to Dean completely escaping me, though really it's none of my business. My father and I went over. It was a miserable, rainy spring day but we were in a tent. The food was great and people were having a good time. I went over to Dean and said "Happy birthday -- I'm a couple of years ahead of you; I escaped out to Disneyland for my 50th." Dean said "Uh-huh." Needless to say I felt that conversation was going nowhere and neither was any possibility of an affair of the heart with Dean.
On his front porch he has a white rocking chair and a pot of flowers. That's all. He sits out there smoking cigarettes sometimes. When I drive out the back driveway we always wave to each other.
Dean's no Brad Pitt (if you like Brad Pitt that is); he wears thick glasses and has a bit of a gut, and his face looks like maybe he had acne as a teenager. But around these parts we don't see too many Brad Pitts, and I think Dean is perfectly pleasant looking (hey, I ain't no Angelina). The thing is, we're just not SURE about Dean. "I think,"my father said to me the other day, "that Dean may be a spy."
Funnily enough Dean DOES look spy-ish, in a way; he's got the basic look of a normal, fit-in-anywhere type of guy but he also has this air about him that's a little puzzling. It's like you can't quite remember his features when he isn't standing there right in front of you. When I do see him in public, as I did this summer while manning the library book sale booth at the local country fair, I am not 100% sure it IS him. After all this time. And as I said I don't even really want to call him Dean. It just doesn't seem to FIT right.
So the mystery continues. Is Dean really who he says he is? Well, he hasn't really said anything. He's quiet. I'd even call him mysteriously standoffish sometimes. But a good guy. Good guys CAN be spies. There's really only one thing to worry about, said my friend Steve last night: what SIDE is he on??!?