I wasn’t exactly hiding in the bedroom, but I was pretty much hiding in the bedroom.
Our new video doorbell allows me to screen visitors the way I have screened phone calls since the advent of caller ID 7,000 years ago. It is good.
I was upstairs when I heard the chime calling out melodically from the dining room, my phone and Oliver’s phone at once. I accepted the ring on my phone to spy. Oliver headed right to the door to be neighborly.
I heard him ask. “Are your parents home?”
Oliver called up to me “Mama” (He still calls me Mama at age 12 just like he still holds my hand) “There is someone at the door for you.” I am watching that someone through my “ring” app and I see him shifting from foot to foot. He is the man that I pass on dog walks. He and another woman who I assume to be his wife used to walk two dogs. Now they walk one. It is bittersweet their walks in the golden Western light. We have waved dozens of times but never spoken.
“Please tell him I am unavailable” I call down. It is my bra-lessness that makes me unavailable. That and the buffer I like to keep between my neighbors and me. I will chat through a flight, but only exchange casual pleasantries with those physically closest to me. I get enough of them…their crying babies, the way the feed the squirrels, the battles with dandelions. The neighbors that are a few houses away, out of earshot, I find easier to befriend. We drink beer and watch movies outdoors, our kids show up at each other’s houses but after all of that we can go home to places far enough away that we are separate again.
I hear him telling Oliver something about our cat and I am pleased that I skipped this encounter. I have mixed feelings about our free range feline. She loves it. She belongs out there in the sun. But somewhere she is shitting in another person’s yard (one of those neighbors I am sure) and I worry about the song birds. So this is where my mind goes. That he has caught her pooping in his plants. I wonder how we will deal with this. Will I send the boys over for a daily scoop,…or will I simply apologize and promise to keep her inside?
I am glad to avoid this problem and decide to fire up Zillow and find us a place with land, where our cat will be unable to bother anyone but the birds.
The next day I am weeding the side bed marveling for the thousandth time about how grass in here is a weed. Why is it so lush in my flower bed and so sparse on my lawn. It is like the shiny healthy beard I am growing at the same time that my scalp thins. Just move over a few inches and everything will be better. I am stroking my chin hair as he approaches me. The woman and the dog stay on the other side of the street and I wave to them. They do not wave back so I know things will not go well.
“I have a picture of Skreechee” he tells me. I immediately think “proof of poop” and gear up for apologies. “It is frame worthy” he continues. Frame worthy? I wonder. I am so convinced that I am in trouble that I don’t quite hear him. Finally I realize he is happy. He has something that presents like cerebral palsy so it has been hard for me to read the expression on his face or the tone of his voice. I can tell now though. He is happy and wanting to share something nice.
“What is a convenient time for me to come by?” He asks.
After dinner during a heated game of Settlers of Catan (it is game night after all) the chimes go off. This time it is all four phones alerting us to movement at our door. We are sitting in the dining room with the Ring hardware so the jaunty song is coming from five places at once. Things go a bit crazy. The dog is barking as he and Oliver race to the door.
Standing there with a very large print is our neighbor. Once again the woman and the lone dog are standing across the street and once again I wave and once again she doesn’t. This time I know it is not because I am in trouble. The photographer is asking if we have a Mac and I am confused and now realize that he has included a thumb drive with the original image as well as the oversized print. “How much does it cost?” I ask. His face slants a little more and he protests. “It’s a gift” he tells us. “I want you to have it.” Oliver and I are tripping over each other to thank him and I invite him in but he is demurs.
Perhaps he doesn’t want to get too close to his neighbors either.
It is so nice to be wrong.