I was laying in bed at four in the afternoon on the precipice of sleep when I heard the angels voice. The voice of a cherubic choir boy the church would have castrated 100 years ago to keep that nice high eardrum shattering pitch going for decades. He wanted the Ipad. “Yes yes, now go- and don’t forget to shut the door, Gids the door!!! Shut the door!”
“Shut the door? Why she gotta yell shut the door for?” This question drifted in from the window facing the neighbors yard. Of course my brain supplied the answer. I was exhausted. I had decided that since Rossi had succumbed to sleep I would too. She hadn’t slept the night before, she had been sick, feverish, and spent the night letting me know about it. The neighbors dogs had helped her in this effort, diligently barking and keeping her alert should she start to nod off. “Ha! Yeah, why the door gotta be shut, what she shooting up? No like her kid see her with one needle!”
“Yea, she always saying “shut the door”, who stays in their room in the middle of the day like that, too lazy to shut the door?” My horror. My absolute horror. I wanted to yank open the window and yell, “A breastfeeding mother who lives in a house with her in-laws, who helps a baby take two naps a day by whipping her boobs out, that’s who!” I don’t lock the door when its time for Rossi to take a nap, I tell Gids to be a good guy, and please be quiet so she can sleep, then I go in the room and shut the door, hang out with her till she falls asleep. If Gids comes in that’s fine, but I do require him to shut the door when he leaves. So there I am, the neighborhood heroin addict. Lounging in bed in the middle of the day.
I knew this moment would come. I’ve awaited it with dread for 15 years ever since I read “MISS BRILL” a short piece by Katherine Mansfield. It introduces an older lady dressed up in her finest fur, she goes to the park to see an orchestra and people watches, making silly but entertaining assumptions about everyone. I can relate to that- I spend an inordinate amount of time looking through the lens of my camera phone, and twisting reality as it happens reinterpreting it into something I can fictionalize, or blog about. I spend so much time observing life, I forget that I’m part of it! In the story Miss Brill realizes she is a part of it all, a player on the stage! She revels in that a moment, “I’m an actress! How glamorous!” Before overhearing a young couple calling her a, “Stupid old thing nobody wants wearing a funny fur”. She goes home devastated, not even stopping to get her special Sunday treat! Then locks her fur up with mothballs in a box to the sound of crying. At fourteen I hated it. It was a depressing, and horrifying tale, of how easily our self esteem and self delusions could be shattered. I had none at the time, I was still building them and the thought that a stranger could come along and a break them with a casual remark was terrible. And here it had finally arrived. Me thinking what an awesome mom I was, thinking I deserved a nap at 4pm, overhearing the neighbors laugh with their guests over the next door heroin addict.
Jogging in the park the next morning I put extra effort into smiling and yelling cherry hellos to everyone I passed. A drug addict wouldn’t do that would they? Later at home Gids and Rossi were given safety scissors, I took a pair of hedge trimmers and we attacked the hibiscus hedge, it had been a month since its last trim and it was starting to encroach on the sidewalk. “There” I thought, standing back when we were done, “A drug addict wouldn’t do that would they?” I thought of all the cars passing by, and hoped one of them had been the neighbors- surely they would realize… and it hit me. I wasn’t Miss Brill. I hadn’t had any self illusions shattered.
I was Donald Trump. In 1988 Graydon Carter described Donald Trump as, “ A short fingered vulgarian.” As a result every now and then when Mr. Graydon checks his mail he finds a letter. A letter from Donald Trump that includes a picture of his hands, the fingers circled with a marker, and written on the side “See, not so short!” I was Donald Trump. Going around with my “See! I’m not an addict!” at 6am blinding folks in the park with my pearly whites- before my long ponytail swung and smacked them as I sped by. “See! I’m not an addict!” at noon on the side of the road, madly swinging shears, my toddler trying to figure out how her safety scissors work by watching her brother wield them atop a rock wall. Then all of us running screaming into the house after a wasp nest was disturbed, its inhabitants swarming out. “See I’m not an addict!”
“You know, they probably thought you’d swapped heroin for cocaine” my mom offered when I told her all this. “I would! And why was my granddaughter on the side of the road, that’s dangerous. Next time call me, I’ll watch her while you go prove things to people who don’t matter! And furthermore, its absolutely none-“
“Of my business what other people think of me.” I finished for her.
My business or not, it hurt. I found myself avoiding them. Peeking out the window to make sure they weren’t in their yard before I went in the back to water my garden. A few days later I was mixing potting soil with native dirt for a mint plant when Gids ran up “Mom! The neighbors want to give me fish! Can I have fish?”
“What? No, nobody wants to give you fish- “
“They do! They do!” He grabbed my arm and dragged me over to the fence, the neighbor standing next to it with two huge freezer bags of fish.
“Eh! You like some Ulua?” No. I didn’t. I’m allergic.
“Wow! Thank you! That’s so kind of you!” I gushed climbing up the rock wall. “What’s your name?” After getting all the information I needed to yell friendly and personalized hellos over the fence to him and his wife I brought the fish inside and resolved that instead of jogging, and clipping hedges in the hottest part of the day, I would be neighborly and offer them some of the culinary herbs I have growing next time I saw them. After all perhaps being a good neighbor has less to do with everyone thinking you’re awesome (and sober) and more to do with having cups of sugar to share.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read a piece about life in the suburbs! I greatly appreciate it, hope you have a beautiful day and that I may have the honor of writing for you again!!!