Thursday, August 18, 2011
things I've learned since moving to Boston: 3
I spend my days writing on a screened porch that faces my neighbor's backyard. There are sixty years and a picket fence that separate my neighbor and I, and I know he must think me a flighty creature rarely without her laptop or a book in her hand, one who openly dances in the kitchen to too-loud music; a frivolous thing prone to polka-dot skirts and ruffled hems; a strange bird who crawls on her belly to take pictures of dragonflies and drinks wine in the afternoon.
Our mirrored houses were built in 1954, and he knows everything about my new address-- when my well was built, what flowers grow in my flowerbeds and when they were planted, when the new porch went up, when the hedges need pruned. He mourned for the husband who died here. He knew the name of the 94-year-old woman who needed the steel handles in my bathtub.
I come inside when he mows the lawn-- who can write with a motor going? He avoids the backyard when I play with the dogs-- who can enjoy the afternoon with two dogs barking? We live in a perpetual avoidance, one without small talk and exchanged pleasantries.
Yet when the summer rain comes we sit, he in his lamplit living room and I on my porch, and together we watch the storms roll in, and we both put on a record-- him New Orleans jazz, me classic blues, both of us Glenn Miller-- and I feel like I know him, this old friend, this daytime companion, this neighbor I've only spoken to once.