Tonight after dinner I dashed out in the rain to move my car from in front of my house to the garage. At the same time, my neighbor from across the street—to whom I have never spoken, not for malicious reasons but because we’ve never run into each other like this before—ran out to her car, and there was a brief moment where we both paused by our cars, fobs in hand, rain splattering on the street.
“Hi there,” I said.
She didn’t say anything. Just got in her car and slammed the door, started the engine. Then I saw her burst into tears and careen off, sobbing.
I know a few things about this neighbor: one, she and her live-in partner have a complicated, loud relationship that often ends with her pushing him out the door and screaming that she NEVER wants to SEE him AGAIN.
Two, sometimes she makes the partner sleep out in the car for days as punishment, until one day her neighbor across the way (yeah, that’s me) gets paranoid that he’s dead in the car and calls the police, and the officers wait patiently while he knocks on the bedroom window and begs to be let back in.
Three, she has a pretty cute kid who plays with a rusty watering can in a slow, mournful way in the front yard.
A couple of days ago I was working from home when my dog alerted me to the exciting presence of an ambulance and police car in front of their house, and together we watched as the neighbor talked to paramedics and officers in the front yard before getting her purse and climbing into the ambulance. As they drove off, her partner stood on the porch pacing and doing that thing where he jerks the cigarette out of his mouth after each puff, like it’s the most disgusting thing he’s ever tasted.
I have it in my head that I want to be friendly with this woman, whether she wants it or not. I want to find out what her name is and when I see her outside I want to say, “Oh, hello Susan, nice day, right?” or “Julie, you left your car window down,” or “Hey, Michelle, I heard you crying last night, is everything okay?”
And then she’ll come over to my house and we’ll sit and have some wine by the big front window together and she’ll look across the street at her house and cock her head and say, “Huh. It looks different from over here.”
But one of the things I’ve learned about living in this neighborhood is that most neighbors’ reaction to that kind of idealism is HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
So. For now we just sit and watch from the window, waiting for a knock.