The Shirtless Guy
By Jen Rouse
The Short Years
A man, I could tell from his size. Not tall but stocky and broad-shouldered. Thick gloves on his hands, a hat on his head, and a muffler covering half his face. Dark pants, white shoes. But…something didn’t look right. What was he…? And as I moved closer, I could see that this guy was not wearing a shirt. Pre-dawn, biting cold, out walking the streets with his chest bare and belly hanging out.
Maybe you’ll understand that I quickened my pace and kept my finger on the trigger of my Mace until I was well past him.
That first encounter with shirtless guy was years ago. I’ve seen him many times since then, out walking various routes in the same neighborhood I run through, and he’s never done anything more than lift a friendly hand in greeting as we pass each other. I’m used to him now, but I still get a little creeped out when I suddenly see his half-naked body looming up at me under the glow of a streetlight. And I’ve got to wonder: what is WITH this guy?
I’ve seen shirtless guy in every kind of weather, from pleasant summer mornings to icy winter ones when I wear layers upon layers of clothes before I go out. And he’s always appropriately attired for the weather from the belt down and head up. But his torso is always completely bare. It’s not as though he’s got a fantastic physique to show off, either. This guy is old–I’d guess 60 or up–and though he still looks tough and hearty, he’s got a hairy old man chest and a big round belly.
I’ve seen shirtless guy during the daytime, too, out working in the yard of a house that I assume is his, a nice, well-kept older house in one of Albany’s historic districts. He never has a shirt on then, either. But going shirtless while you’re working in the yard, especially if it’s a hot day, is a slightly tacky but not unusual male prerogative.
But why the bare-chested early-morning walks in the freezing cold? Why doesn’t he just put on a sweatshirt, for crying out loud? Because walking around half-naked in a residential area in the early mornings is just creepy. Maybe I need to start carrying a spare with me, so I can toss it to him next time we pass. “Hey, it’s called a shirt. Ever consider wearing one?”
I suppose it could be worse. He could be going around pants-less.