It was a small, one-level apartment building. I had just moved in, not even a week earlier. I loved the place, but really didn't know much about it, its occupants, or even the neighborhood, as I had never spent any time in that area in the past. It was the dead of winter, days before Christmas. I had seen none of my new neighbors.
I heard a knock on the door. A man was there and describing him will be one of the most amusing experiences of my life.
I think the best way to start would be to say that he seemed like the sort of man who was still stuck in some kind of surfer era from his past. But one would wonder whether he ever actually surfed in his youth, or was it some sort of homage to those past days? Maybe he just happened to look the part. But, I think that perhaps it was as simple as he was a man from California, now living in the Pacific Northwest. He was getting older, maybe about 45 years. He had sandy blonde hair, rather receding in the front and about shoulder length in the back, but he wore it well considering his age. He had a white convertible Mustang from around the early 1990's or so, and he washed it every day. Later, I was able to use his car washing equipment (reluctantly, on his part) to occasionally wash my much prettier green 1976 Mercedes.
All of this is simply my description. Whether or not you can picture the image in your mind properly is not as important as the fact that he was standing on the other side of my door when I opened it.
"Do you have a cup of sugar?" he asked.
I was a little confused, because I was pretty sure it was obvious to my neighbors that I had just moved in. At the time, I was very naive and definitely not street smart. I compensated by being excessively cautious and 'not street stupid.' I definitely told people like it was, when I didn't see any danger in it, and even sometimes when I did.
This was my answer. "No. Why would I have any sugar? I just moved in."
He apologized and admitted that he didn't actually need any, but was looking for an excuse to say hi and welcome me. His name was Gary.
Now I was even more confused. I was raised quite respectably. I was taught that if you wanted to welcome someone to the neighborhood, you came to their door bearing gifts, not the other way around. I was reminded of a silly book I had read as a child, about the three little pigs. The story started with the self-proclaimed 'innocent' wolf asking for a cup of sugar.
He then invited me to a little party he was having at his house with a few of the neighbors. I declined, at first. I was not ready to throw myself into an unknown atmosphere full of strangers. Plus, I didn't know anything about him except for how he looked. What was I to expect? After a bit of convincing, I finally agreed to stop by for a moment.
I showed up a little late. I wanted to be sure that people were at his place and things were happening over there, across the parking lot, before I arrived. I suppose that Gary should have mentioned that the party was specifically created for me. Apparently, the apartment neighbors weren't accustomed to coming to his place for parties. They were all just anxious to meet their new neighbor: a young 20 year old girl, out in the world for the first time, treading cautiously with every step she took. Me.