Mihiretu likes to call out to strange men on the street. He waves his arms and shouts, "Hi, Daddy!" These men, these poor men, either offer a bewildered smile and half-hearted wave or simply pretend they don't hear him.
Mihiretu knows these people aren't his daddy. He just thinks it's funny. When I was reading about Ethiopia prior to our adoption, there was a lot of discussion about the Ethiopian sense of humor. It's dry, apparently, off-hand, and ever-present. This is true for Mihiretu, but with him, it's turned inside out. Yes, it's dry but it's also loud. He loves to accost people he doesn't know. He growls at kids, moves in too close and karate-chops the air in front of them. When we're walking to school in the morning, he stands at the edge of the bike path and shouts, "On yo' lef!" to kids as they cycle by. They are, in fact, on his left, they are the ones who should be saying "on your left", but he finds their confusion hilarious.
A couple weeks ago, we were walking down the main street of Fairfax, our funky little town. A restaurant had it's windows opened onto the sidewalk to catch the evening breeze. Two women sat at the window table, having some civilized discussion. Mihiretu yelled, "Hello!", ran at them, and started to scale the window sill. I pulled him off, placed him back on the sidewalk, smiled faintly at their "Well, he's friendly, isn't he?", and then had to run after him through the door of the restaurant because he was coming at them from another angle.
He's not particularly friendly, actually, my Mihiretu. He can be shy when introduced to new people, he clings to me when I leave him at preschool. He just loves to fuck with people.
His ribbing is, of course, not limited to strangers. Today I was riding him to school on the back of my bike. I stood up out of the saddle to conquer an incline and he, with my rear in his face, said, "You got a giant butt, you know." I'm sure, from that perspective, it did seem giant, but I'm equally sure that he loved delivering what he knew was not a compliment. Luckily, my butt is not my problem area - when Lana pokes my belly and asks if there's a baby in there, I hit the roof. Mihiretu had pushed a button, just not one that was wired to anything.
He likes to trick, as in "Momma no find cah-keys. I tick her!" If the girls are attached to any item, a new stuffed animal, a barrette, their homework, he's sure to hide it. Some things, Ben's prescription, highly expensive, eyeglasses, for example, disappear forever. It's difficult to remember that he does mean to be funny. He's not only trying to piss us off - although that, of course, is an added benefit.
And here's the thing. Often, it is funny. When he's yelling "Hi, Daddy!" at some redneck in a truck, the guy looking over one shoulder and then the next in an effort to figure out who this small black kid is addressing, it's everything I can do not to laugh. And sometimes I laugh anyway.
He's not a sociopath. He does love people. He just has, quite literally, a wicked sense of humor.