It’s a question you can’t help but ask when your wife calls you after she’s just walked out the front door to tell you she’s in her car in front of the garage she just pulled out of and when she remotely closed its door she found the disturbing results of vandals who at some point last night deemed it worth their while to make our garage their target. Only when I go down immmediately to see for myself I don’t find a gang tag or some insult scrawled across the white aluminum. Instead I find something red and looking decidedly like arterial blood-sprayed across the sidewalk in front of the garage and up all over the door.

But in it’s almost-dry state it seems too garishly red to be blood. I touch a still wet drop and when I wipe it off I see a residual pink that’s seeped into the ridges of my index’s fingerprint. If it has a smell I can’t discern it.

So good, it’s not blood. But is it a message? Well, it’s either that or just some passing-by maggot’s random act of delinquence against an easy to hit-and-run target. And it wouldn’t be the first time. This makes the third time that the door’s been victimized on my watch. On no less than the day after Christmas 2004 I came out to find some banger had tagged it and several other spots on our side of the street in dark blue Magic Marker. The second time was more along the lines of this one in that what looked to be a super-sized cup (or cups) of coffee had been flung up against it — and nowhere else. Not the next-door neighbors’ not across the street. Just our garage. And in both those cases I wasted no time putting the elbow grease and a variety of cleaning agents to the task of removing the offending matter from the relatively easy-to-clean metal.

I did just that again this morning. I hauled the backyard hose out and connected it to the frontyard hose so that it would reach down to the sidewalk. I dug underneath the kitchen sink and found a big old scouring brush and the heaviest-duty cleansers and I got busy sending my own message back that I won’t tolerate such bullshit whether it was haphazard or intentional (and no, I didn’t take a picture of the before or after). And about 30 minutes of serious labor later the after came out pretty good. Sure, I could only scrub out so much from what had become embedded into the porous concrete of the sidewalk like it had my fingertip, but I succeeded in returning the door to its natural peaceful state. And when I finished I took a good long look around the neighborhood wondering if whoever might have done this was peeking out at me like some coward from around a corner or behind a window curtain. Then I took another. And one last one. All the while refraining from yelling “Is that the best you got, whoever you are you slithery shadow dwelling rat bastard!”

Some might think me paranoid for considering the act done purposefully with intent to convey some sort of threat. But the fact is there are people around here who I have alienated. It would take all my fingers and most of my toes to count the number of parking citations I’ve had issued to visitors or residents who’ve insisted on blocking our driveway. Then there’s the people a couple doors to the south who forced me to turn the city heat on them during the summer after they decided to ignore established zoning laws and put permanent signage in their front yard and turn their home into a retail furnishings emporium. And let’s not forget the tenants in the house a couple to the north who I called the cops on twice to complain about the prolonged excessively loud techno crap they’d been blasting from their backyard.

I have no problem understanding and accepting that there’s a percentage of the population in my immediate vicinity that considers me an asshole. Nevermind that they’re bigger assholes than I am and that their wanton inconsideration prompted my direct recrimination, I’m cool that they don’t like me. Hell, I even welcome their distant disdain because frankly these are people I don’t like either and I don’t want to know. But I don’t get all beligerent when I’m called to account for something I’ve done wrong. And I certainly don’t go messing up there stuff.

I just clean up when they mess up mine, and do so imagining the surprised looks on their faces when they pass by expecting to gloat over their defacement and instead find it all gone… as meaningless and inconsequential as they are.

Look, I ain’t gonna change who I am. And frankly I couldn’t care less about eliminating their ignorant hatred, but I can erase their hateful actions — and I’ll do whatever it takes. If my cleaning efforts of the door had proven to be ineffective trust me, I would’ve been over to Home Depot to get everything I need to prime and paint so that when my baby gets home tonight from her long day there’s nothing to remind her of what so took her by surprise when she left to begin it this morning.