Bee Guy

Bee Guy came into my life when my wife and I moved into our first place together - a very safe, very typical south Jersey apartment complex. We met a few of the neighbors as we were settling in and everyone seemed friendly and relatively sane.

Then a few days later, as I was walking to my car, I noticed a strange man crossing the small grassy hill at the center of our horseshoe-shaped street - except he seemed to be stuck by some invisible force and couldn’t quite move from his position.

Trying to be a good new neighbor, I approached. He seemed to be in his late 50’s and had the look of the average male retiree - t-shirt, baseball cap, and short pants with requisite black socks hiked up just below the knees. He had aimed himself at the opposing side of the 20” wide grass area, and even though his arms and legs were extended in the traditional walking pose, his body wasn’t moving.

I walked over and asked him if he was okay. “Huhm? Oh yeah, yeah. Fine,” he replied. “I’m just keeping an eye on the bees. You... you do know about the bees, don’t you?” You may recognize this as crazy talk. I sure did. My weirdometer was already pegged to the max, but I let him elaborate.

The man who was to be known as Bee Guy explained to me that the apartment complex was infested with killer bees. Not your run-of-the-mill killer bees, though – he said these were “Chicano Killer Bees”. They’d come up from Mexico and were systematically taking out all the rabbits and birds in our complex. He sounded completely sincere.

“You see how there’s less birds around here than there used to be?” he asked. I agreed, though I’d only lived in the complex for a week and didn’t yet have a handle on the fluctuations in its bird population. “I see them attack! I see them!” He seemed to be teetering on the edge of sanity.

And though Bee Guy showed a great deal of caution regarding the bees, he also displayed a type of macho dragon-killer side of his personality when he managed to locate a bee just as it was emerging from its nest in the dirt (and showing no signs of its Latin heritage) and smashed it flat on the asphalt. He then pulled out a pen he seemed to keep on hand for this purpose and ripped the bee’s body apart for me.

“I break it up so the other ones don’t eat it. They do that to get stronger.” I was scared now. This was our new neighbor. Plus, who’s to say the other bees couldn’t eat their buddy now that he was torn apart? Bee Guy probably only made it easier for them, the jerk.

I later learned that Bee Guy had encounters with most of our other neighbors, who regarded him as mildly amusing and relatively harmless. Our upstairs neighbor worked for a state environmental agency and told me that to satisfy his own curiosity, he’d actually researched “Chicano Killer Bees” at his job - and, as he suspected - they didn’t exist.

Even though the bees were less plentiful by Fall, Bee Guy was still outside all the time. My wife had several encounters with him. Sometimes he’d take note of her white baker’s coat and would ask her, “Do you cut hair?” When she told him that she was a baker, he suggested to her that she should still pursue the hair thing, since her outfit was similar to a barber’s.

Another time, while pointing to a bird (one of those spared from the bees, apparently) Bee Guy told another neighbor that it had followed him up to New Jersey from Florida. Then, indicating two trees, he said, “He has a wife in that tree... and a mistress in that one.”

He and I had another notable parking lot encounter in the Winter. On a day when it had snowed more than a foot, Bee Guy was trudging around the parking lot, digging into the snow. I walked over and asked him what was up, and he told me that he’d lost one of the lenses from his glasses.

“Oh... it would never break. Never ever! That lens - it’s made from the same material they use to make cockpits for stealth fighters. Do you know how strong that material is?!”

I made the mistake of saying, “Well, I hope you can find it before a car runs over it.” Bee Guy looked up at me with one fogged-up lens and his wide eye staring through the other empty space. He chuckled, pitying my error.

“Oh... it would never break. Never ever! That lens - it’s made from the same material they use to make cockpits for stealth fighters. Do you know how strong that material is?!”

He sounded totally convincing. I shook my head “no.”

“It’s so strong,” Bee Guy said, “that if you attach that lens to a monofilament wire using a piece of tape, and then you attach the other end of the wire to a machine that’s mounted to the bottom of a plane, and you use a remote control from the ground to release that wire and it fell down to the ground, and then the plane goes into a dive after it, and then when the lens hits the ground from like a mile up and the plane crashes right into it and explodes and all the apartments around here were decimated, just leveled to nothing at all, and there wasn’t even asphalt where we’re standing right now - you’d find that lens here and there wouldn't be one damn scratch on it.”

Well, of course I already knew something was wrong with him, but that cemented it. He just stared at me. I said, “Wow. That is strong.” I didn’t put any effort into making my comment sound believable because he wouldn’t have known the difference anyway. The man was operating on another level.

A couple years later, my wife and I moved out and bought a house a few years later, and a few years after that, I happened to meet someone who lived right above our old unit in the complex. I asked her about Bee Guy, wondering if he was still there. “Oh, him.” She knew. “He was there when we first moved in, but then they came and got him.” I didn’t ask who, or why, or anything else. It had to be the bees.