Gary lived alone.
A social scientist, he was good at structures, patterns and policies, but less adept in the world of relationships.
Gary’s minimal approach to intimacy was echoed in the frugal aspects of his living arrangements.
His home was a bungalow, well below his pay grade. Among his few luxuries was a pair of binoculars for birdwatching. He was a stranger to foreign holidays and his tastes in food and drink rarely went beyond the staples of the British diet.
By the standards of the day it’s true that Gary had a rather large television. Placed directly in front of it was an over-sized fake leather armchair that could be tilted backwards to push out a foot rest. To the right of the chair was an upturned Watney’s Red Barrel party beer can, now doubling as an occasional table. That completed his ‘lounge’.
Gary was content with this approach to domesticity, which characterised all the rooms in the house and even the contents of his fridge.
Visitors could be seen swivelling through 360 degrees, curious at the absence of functional or decorative accoutrements. He never noticed their bemusement.
Tonight Gary had a special guest. An American colleague had arrived early for the national sociology conference. Until now he and Gary had only known each other via the email. Gary had invited him over for a drink.
As he poured the beers, Gary began to explain a recent misfortune that had befallen him. He had been burgled.
The perpetrators had got in through the kitchen window and stolen a watch and some cash from his bedroom.
Gary had no experiences of break-ins and was still feeling shaken by it over a week after the event. Recounting what had happened, he was touched by the American’s concern.
‘I can understand totally’ said the visitor. ‘To feel that the private space of your home has been invaded by external, perhaps threatening agents must feel somewhat like a violation’.
‘Indeed’ mumbled Gary.
‘To have malevolent strangers touching, perhaps pruriently raking through your personal possessions, must be a high level form of transgression’.
‘Absolutely’, came the weak reply.
‘But then in addition to the special importance of losing the watch and the annoyance of the stolen money, to think that they would be so bold as to steal most of your furniture – that’s the final insult!’.
Gary, ever the minimalist, shuffled his feet and looked down at the floor in silence. He felt grateful for the American’s sympathy. ‘Thank you’ he said.
It was the least he could do.