Right now, I’m working on an essay about one of my favorite 80s movies, The Burbs.
When I drive home, sometimes I want to hide from my neighbors because there’s no space between us; there’s no privacy. Our walls are thin, and people are out.
It was raining Monday, and it was one of those nights that I wanted to open the door to find dinner already cooking. Instead, before I could even get to the door, I noticed Pookie struggling to pull herself up the stairs. I remembered that her sister had just gained custody of her and that she was here to stay. Pookie is a middle-aged woman who is deaf and mentally handicapped. We had dinner last time she was up visiting and she started crying when she signed to me that she didn’t have any children and that her boyfriend was shot in the head. Because it was so traumatic, she can’t get beyond that, and since then, she thinks that anyone who dies has been murdered.
That’s why I told myself I needed to walk behind her and make sure she didn’t slip and fall backward down the stairs in the rain. As soon as she got into her apartment, and I walked in to mine, Tim told me that he’d promised to take Pookie’s sister to the airport to return a rental car that she’d run into a pole earlier that day.
The entire evening was shot. I didn’t even have to be seen because Tim had been.
I’m possessive of the time I have, and I didn’t want to do it, but we all laughed the entire way home about how the government is always “building [things] we just can’t understand” instead of putting money into programs we need.
Sometimes I can dart inside unnoticed, but it doesn’t last long. I’ve opened the door and started one too many genuine conversations to return to obscurity. I see what I can’t ignore, and I hear things I’d rather not know.
A few weeks ago, the daughter of the dueling recorders across the hall admitted that she and her mom needed food. She told me that she didn’t like living around here because one of the kids in her school who got kicked out for molesting someone hangs around the pool all the time. He lives in a building nearby. He’s the one always walking around with a fluffy rat dog on a leash wrapped around his wrist, and a tablet in hand. I always tell myself I’m not afraid of him and that I pity him and all his big-eyed siblings, but the truth is that I’m uncomfortable, so I avoid talking to him and talk to the kid who wants to grow up to be an undertaker and challenges my husband to swimming races. His older sister smokes Swisher Sweets and drinks hard cider on the patio when the kid and his dog aren’t there. Late at night and early in the morning, she told me, she dances there in her bra.
“I know it’s crazy, but I just like to dance,” she said. “But don’t mind me. I am just a bit crazy.”
After an errand this evening, I drove past some luxury apartments and thought about how, had we lived in a place like that, I wouldn’t know the bit of crazy that is our complex.