I’m 23 and live in a share house. In one room is Darren, he’s 23. In another room is Kristian and Caren 22 and 28 respectively.
In the last room is Colin, he’s 64. Strange huh?
He’s lanky but with a belly. He wears thick glasses and a large grey beard. He shakes a little when he talks but that isn’t too often. You could describe him as a recluse. He walks in and if you say hi, he’ll mumble a greeting back and continue into his room. If you don’t say hi he won’t say anything. He doesn’t use the kitchen and rarely the bathroom. I think he works in aged care but I’m not certain.
About 6 months ago he told one of my housemates he was doing a Tafe course in remedial massage. One day he brought in a big cardboard box with “Firm’o'Fold Massage Equipment” printed on the side. He placed it out near the washing machine and outhouse. It’s still sitting there.
Apparently before I moved in he would speak a lot more. Kristian tells me they’d have pretty long conversations but he also said it took about a year and a half for that to happen. Those conversations don’t really happen anymore. For that I feel partly responsible. I’ve never really made an effort. Well I have, but not as much as I could have. I was all weirded out by it in the beginning. I’m a pretty shy and awkward guy myself so I took the mindset of, well if he wants to talk to me he’ll talk to me and that’s cool, otherwise I’ll just live like I normally would. Sometimes he stands by his door while we watch TV. He’ll watch for a minute or two before leaving the house or going into his room. I feel like he’s waiting for me to strike up a conversation. Instead I just keep looking at the screen.
This place used to house a lot of backpackers. People would come and go frequently. Kristian has had something like 15 different housemates in two years. In that context it makes a lot more sense that some old guy who’s a friend of the landlord would end up living with a bunch of 20-somethings. It’s only been in the last year or so that people have been living here long term.
When I first moved in I would hear him cough through the wall we share. His death has crossed my mind more than once. How long would it be before we realised? How long would it be before we ventured into his room? The door of his room is a fascination to visitors. It’s shrouded in mystery. Being an old house, a lot of the doors don’t close properly. His is one of those, so when he leaves he hangs it shut by a piece of green string. That’s how we can tell if he’s home. Closed – home. String – not home. In the year I’ve lived here I’ve never seen into his room. I used to be curious but now I don’t really care.
There are a few theories about Colin.
There’s the ex smackie theory. The one where he was heavy into drugs three decades ago. He got off the gear but not before the drugs had taken a toll on his brain and social confidence. There’s the homosexual theory. The one where he grew up gay in an era where that just wasn’t acceptable, taught his whole existence is wrong and bullied for being weird and different at a young age. He becomes reclusive early and is almost apologetic for his being around.
There’s others too. The war theory, Vietnam or otherwise. The death-of-someone-he-was-in-love-with theory. The ex convicted criminal theory, which is hardest to believe cause of his gentle manner. Every theory is sad.
But these are all just theories, you could speculate on them forever. And until I man up, stop being shy and awkward and talk to him like a decent person should, I’ll never really know his story. Maybe he’d prefer I didn’t anyway. mj