Do you see Lindsay’s Psychophant link over there on the right hand side of this page? It’s a link to a short video.
I may have already clicked it multiple times this morning . . . it makes me giggle every time.
Back here . . .
I was looking out my kitchen window, and I saw our neighbor arrive home with a woman who was not his wife.
I watched as he guided her into his house, one solicitous hand on the small of her back.
Our neighborhood was not a chatty friendly sort of neighborhood. All of the houses on our short street had gorgeous views, and the houses were designed around those views. No sidewalks. No front yards to speak of. All of the houses were set sideways down a hill, so that each house’s yard was at a slightly different elevation.
A discussion with a neighbor required effort.
No one made the effort.
Everyone else on the street was nearing retirement age. Mark and I had little in common with them, and so we continued to make no effort. They made none in return.
Even after living there for several years, I had engaged in very few conversations with any of our neighbors.
We all liked our privacy, and unless there was a pressing need to talk, we never sought one another out.
The single occasional exception was the woman who lived next door.
Random bits of conversation over the years . . . compliments on the girls’ beauty, permission to send her gardeners into our yard to trim an unruly plum tree that draped from her property over into ours, stories of 4th of July parties she had thrown over the years, frustration with her husband’s refusal to retire, a strangely urgent conversation one time about being careful with the girls when I took them swimming, small bits of her history, news about her family, a vacation she was looking forward to taking.
I remember one time, I climbed a tall ladder to sit upon our steeply-pitched roof and clean out our gutters.
She came out into her back yard, a cup of coffee in one hand, “Be careful up there!”
There was no real way to have a conversation, as she was too far away for regular voices. I was annoyed that she was paying attention to me. Annoyed to be seen all awkward and nervous on my roof, throwing soggy leafy handfuls of muck into a bucket. I spoke loudly, “Yeah, I’m good.”
She watched me for a few minutes, and she was freaking me out, “Was there something you needed?”
She laughed apologetically, “No, I’m sorry. I was just remembering the days when I might have done something like that. Climbed up on my roof to clean out my gutters. I see you over there, painting and remodeling and getting things done. Dealing with your daughters. I like the woman you are. I just wanted to tell you that.”
Far too much emotion in her over-loud voice, and she tried to cover by taking another sip of her coffee.
It was abundantly clear that she wanted me to climb down from the roof and come talk to her. I was not in the mood. I was covered with sloppy filthy gutter goo, and how does she not see this is a bad time? This is not a moment in which I want to bond with my neighbor over how she used to be just like me. I am cleaning the gutters, silly woman!
So I pretended not to understand. I waved and called something lame like, “Thank you,” and then focused really hard on cleaning out the gutters, hoping she would go away.
When I looked up again, she was gone.
That had been maybe three months ago, and as I watched her husband walk this woman who was not her into her house, I tried to think when I had spoken with her last.
Was that the last time . . . the awkward gutter thing?
It had been raining endlessly, so it was no surprise that we hadn’t seen one another for a while. And then we’d been out of town visiting Mark’s family for almost two weeks. And then hadn’t she said something about going on a cruise with her daughter? Greece or something? Pretty sure.
Stupid fucking mid-life crisis husband with his dyed-blond whore.
I started keeping an eye on the neighbors’ house so that I would notice when she returned.
Time passed, and I didn’t see her.
A long cruise?
Had she moved out? A divorce? It seemed like she would have told me that.
I played back our final conversation in my mind. She had been weirdly emotional . . . maybe they had separated. Maybe she had moved out.
How had I missed that?
The neighbor kept showing up with this not-so-young dyed-blond whore. They had a barbecue in the back yard. They sat together in the swinging bench on the small back deck.
What the fuck, dude? What did you do with your wife?
By now, she had been gone so long that there was no sensible way for me to approach another neighbor and casually say, “Ummm . . . I know that we don’t know each other at all, but you know the couple that lives right next door to me? Where’d the wife go?”
And in all the years we had lived in this house? I had never once spoken to the husband next door. Not once.
No way was my first-ever conversation with him going to be, “So where’s your wife?”
So I just hated him. Hated him for driving away the only friendly face on our street. Hated him for throwing her over for this trashy blond grandma-slut. Hated him for throwing away his marriage. Hated him.
Time passed and I continued to hate this man.
He and the blond grandma-slut got noisier about their happiness in their back yard.
I hated them both.
Until one morning I was sitting at my dining room table reading the newspaper.
A wedding announcement. My neighbor and the grandma-slut (who now had a name) had gotten married. A lovely photo of the couple.
I kept reading, filled with outrage.
The article mentioned his first wife, and my eyes raced ahead . . . YES! Finally! Where had she gone?
She had died.
Not long after that awkward gutter thing.
While we were out of state visiting Mark’s family.
Tears ran down my face as I remembered her saying to me, her voice filled with emotion, “I like the woman you are. I just wanted to tell you that.”
How I hadn’t come down off that roof.