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Dispatch #3 from Tampa, Florida

A

large man of indeterminate age, older rather than younger, was parked on the bench in the foyer of the Walmart store. Though inside, he wore sunglasses. He had cropped white hair, a closely trimmed beard and one diamond earring. He was flamboyantly effete. One hesitates to pronounce a person ‘gay’, lest one be accused of stereotyping, however this man was every inch a stereotype and he knew it.

The word “fabulous” was invented for his exclusive use, I think. He seemed to know everybody in Tampa – at least everyone who worked at that store and everyone who wandered in and out. He complained about the cold weather, to which I snorted condescendingly in exactly the same way my relatives in Winnipeg snort condescendingly at me, a Torontonian, when I complain about cold weather.

His hands fluttered around like the undersized flippers on an over-sized walrus. His apparel was Walmart new, shiny clean and as neat as a pin, just right. He was unrelentingly cheerful, full of hearty laughs and bright comments sprinkled around in a high-pitched voice (which, emitting from such a large man, was as incongruous as Mike Tyson’s lisp). Everything was funny, life was grand, he was doing marvellously and I didn’t believe a word of it. Because he kept his glasses on even though it wasn’t a particularly bright day outside and he wasn’t blind and it wasn’t a fashion statement and we were inside. The truth is always in the eyes. And he was trying too hard.