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.


  1. amazing. isn't it strange when we realize the things that separate us and bring us together? who would have thought THAT is what you would have in common with your neighbor. i think you should invite him to your porch for a drink. i've never met an old man who likes wine though, they seem to prefer whiskey ;)

  2. This was so great, Nicki. Very descriptive, and almost poetic.

    Isn't it interesting how people can live so close to each other, but still be miles apart? I feel that way about some of my neighbors sometimes. I don't even know what some of them look like or what their names are, and I've lived here for almost 6 years!

  3. Beautiful. Just beautiful. You have a gift, love. Can't wait to see you.

  4. steph-- Hell, I prefer whiskey. We should totally have a tea party. With whiskey instead of tea. BEST. IDEA. EVER.
    Candice-- I've forgotten every neighbor's names except his. I've YET to see the lady who lives next door. The last place I lived was even worse-- we all lived beside and on top of each other and I didn't know ANYONE. Man, there's an acre between each of my neighbors back home in PA and I know every single one of them!
    EMaggie-- Thank you. Sincerely.

  5. This was lovely. I felt like I was sitting on the sidewalk, watching the two of you in this dance in your facing houses.

  6. see? whiskey party. perfect.

    what do you serve with whiskey? i mean, tea you have either little cookies or those teensy sandwiches with the crusts cut off. do you serve pretzels with whiskey? a nice, dark irish soda bread? cheezy poofs?

  7. Truly beautiful. I love how you are not only cognizant of these little moments, but express them in such a way that it makes the reader feel the moment themselves. You took a thread and turned it into a tapestry, love.~

    Tea and crumpets are overrated, but whiskey and strumpets--now THAT'S A FUCKING PARTY!

  8. awww -- made me miss Joe and Zadie -- the lovely couple who lived next door to us when we bought our 55 year old house. Joe remembers Hurricane celia and told us how the only damage to our house was a broken window.

    Their house was filled with mid-century modern furniture. Not the trendy Herman-Miller kind -- the authentic, original pieces indiginous to the era.

    When Zadie died, the soul of the house died. Joe went to lve with his daughter in Atlanta. I haven't heard from him since -- I am sure he has long since joined Zadie.

    Haven't had such great neighbors since.

  9. You wrote this in such a way that I thought I was watching a scene in a movie.

    I know, right?

  10. I heart this. Well written, I feel like I know him a bit now. Talk to him more, there could be a ton of history in that man.
    At the very least, he gets to talk to a flighty yet awesome thing.

  11. Tsaritsa- Thank you! You're welcome on my sidewalk any day =)

    Steph- I think you have manfood like massive burgers cut into teensy pieces or a beer can chicken salad. And pretzel bites, definitely. And DEFINITELY soda bread.

    Miranda- Thank you!

    Kat- Thank you for your kind words, darlin. But...I AM TOTALLY PUTTING WHISKEY AND STRUMPETS ON MY BUSINESS CARD.

    Mary- My neighbor's name is Joe, too! His house still bears the weight of his wife's passing-- pink shutters, homey decorations, teal umbrellas-- he's such a gruff man now, I wonder what he was like when she was around.

    Gnetch- Nicki's latest career move: SCREENWRITING. You should totally do my storyboards.

    Danger- Maybe I should put that on my business card, too-- Flighty, yet Awesome. Or maybe that should be my Twitter bio. I definitely want to talk to him more to learn more about the neighborhood and the town I've moved to-- at the very least, to find out what the hell these plants in my yard are.

  12. This was my first experience meeting a new neighbor a couple of years back:

    I envy such a poetic and mysterious relationship with my neighbors. :)
    And I also second the whiskey party!

  13. I have those neighbours too! Except mine talk to me. A lot.

    It's nice that your new house has a sense of history, though.


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