Odi is a hothead, a braggart, a grind on the ear. He numbers his most salient points on upright fingers while orating; rarely does he just speak. Compact and chesty with thick glasses, he frumps around the neighborhood in tattery, white t-shirts perpetually smeared, like his chin, with sculptor’s clay. His pitbull underbite gives him an unfortunate leer; women flee. From the table at our favorite cafe, my husband and I see Odi’s apartment across the street, windows plastered with homemade signs protesting the taco franchise that recently moved in next door to him. Five a.m. deliveries. A hyperactive burglar alarm. Amplified Cheesy Carumba orders. A roaring stench immune to sprays, incense and weather-stripping. We can also see Odi on the street, haranguing a woman who has just returned to her parked car with jumbo colas and steaming sacks of lunch for herself and, presumably, her teenage son, eyes closed and ears podded in the passenger seat.
“Do you know what kind of business you’re supporting?” Odi carps at her, waving his arms as if to gain altitude. We can’t actually hear him through the glass, but his words are clear enough, his mouth a familiar rhombus of outrage: child obesity, exploitive labor, the detriment to neighborhoods. “Are you aware that you’re poisoning your family?” Recycled grease, carcinogenic chips, the salad with more triglycerides than a burrito. One deep-fried heart attack grande, extra cheese.
Odi has been arrested for harassing the taco employees, for returning abandoned takeout trash from the sidewalk to the linoleum, for closing the glass doors. Now, he’ll be arrested again because the woman, having recovered from her initial stun, has stomped across the street and summoned the manager. The woman has her hands on her hips; the beat cop’s on the way. Odi has violated the restraining order.
We gave him a ride home once from a protest meeting at City Hall, the futile attempt of 1291 neighbors who had petitioned to stop the franchise from opening. Odi was an artist whose home of eleven years had been invaded; we felt sad for him and meant to say so. But in our back seat, he was vituperating; coarse, choleric and referred to ever after, between my husband and me, as Odious Pestimus. We don’t stop him for conversation at the grocery store. We don’t invite him — presently outnumbered across the street — to join us for an eggplant panini and baby lettuces with pear-almond vinaigrette. But Odi’s website has a link to see his pale, mole-strewn body naked. I looked, of course, truth gleaned as it often is from inelegant sources.