Tag Archives: language barrier

Elderly suitor

My eighty-six year old neighbor has a crush on me. I’m going to call him John, because I don’t know his name. John is Greek and his English is minimal, so conversations are painful and time-consuming. I try to stick to weather observations like “beautiful day” and “it’s getting chilly,” but he persists in our version of chatting, so over time I’ve learned a thing or two about him.

He lives down the block with his wife and a cat (or two, or three). He has a daughter in Connecticut who is, apparently, a great success, and lives in a house I think he bought her, with his grand-daughter. Another daughter passed away a couple of years ago. I think the cats were hers. Most days, he takes a walk up and down our street. His wife does not join him, but sometimes one of his cats does. He carries a very tall stick as a cane, and moves slowly.

If I am outside when he passes by, he stops to say hello. If I am actively engaged in something, he will stand on the street and watch me. After a while, if I don’t stop what I’m doing to join him at the curb, he’ll walk onto the lawn towards me. He does this even if I’m mowing the lawn. When that happens, I feel obliged to stop the mower to say hello since clearly he is going to pursue me until I do, even though it strikes me as an outrageous intrusion.

He kisses me hello on the cheek. The first time he did that, I allowed it out of some convoluted sense of respect for his age; that and I didn’t know how to repel him politely. Lately, he has professed his love for me. I want to believe he means like the love he feels for a daughter, but given his limited English, I am not sure, particularly since one of his words is “jealous.” He told me he was jealous of my husband. If he is like most other elderly men, he is probably just taking advantage of his advanced age to get away with saying mildly inappropriate things. But I am no longer comfortable letting him kiss me, and I don’t know how to make him stop.

I have taken to avoiding John when I can. If I’m thinking of going out, but I see him on the street, I wait until he’s gone. Recently, I ran away from him. I was across the street, chatting with another neighbor, an older woman he likes to hug hello, when he came by. We said hello and then I told him we had something to do and dragged her back to my house, up the driveway and around the back. We congratulated ourselves on getting away and continued our conversation. After a few minutes, I walked back to the driveway – where he was still standing, waiting for my return.

Winter is my least favorite season; I hate the cold. This year, however, I’m looking forward to it, because it will curtail my elderly suitor’s constitutionals. If John’s intentions are innocent, I can tolerate them for the sake of an old man’s happiness. If, however, they are not, I do not want to encourage him. Since I don’t know how to discern his true motives, I guess I’ll spend my winter reprieve dreaming up creative ways to avoid him come spring.