Six weeks have passed since my altercation with my neighbor. I wrote about it here.
Since that time I’ve managed to say “Hello” to him twice. The first time he just stared at me like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. The second time he actually answered and said, “How’s it going?”
So, despite my dour prediction that he would cuss me out, he has not.
It has all been extremely uncomfortable for me. I am in uncharted territory with this neighbor and I fear I’m about to step off into the deep end.
I will explain.
On Wednesday, I returned home from a cleaning and Jay (my friend and contractor) and her truck were missing. I walked inside and learned from her wife Michelle that there had been an incident and that my neighbor had collapsed and needed to be rushed to the emergency room.
Yes, this is the very same neighbor I have been so challenged by. The one who has called codes on us (and us on him in retaliation), the one who has caused me time, energy, money, and no small amount of indignant fury and angst.
This is the very same one who I, when slapped with two parking tickets I would not have gotten had he not called to intentionally harass us, marched over to his house and told him to “do us all a favor and just drop dead because no one would miss [you].”
Yeah. I said it. It was mean, and over the top, and wrong and I said it when I was angry and resentful.
So here is my contractor and her wife loading up this stinky, drunk, hot mess of a guy into their truck, driving him to the hospital, and staying with him. Jay especially, since she stayed there for hours, talked to nurses, and talked sense into my neighbor (and got him to admit to personnel that he had downed multiple beers before accidentally ingesting an overdose of a medication at ten in the morning). Jay, amazing human being that she was, who then returned not once, but two more times over the next day and a half, and then drove him back home on Thursday evening.
She gave me, and consequently my husband and children, a new perspective as well.
We want to see people in black and white terms – good or bad, black or white, kind or mean, asshole or saint.
We want to justify our own actions – to somehow make it okay for us to say, “Fuck you too, dude, you just cost me $135 in parking tickets. I hope you drop dead.”
But in the end, no one is two-dimensional. God, it would be so much easier if they were. I could label him so neatly and easily.
Asshole. Misogynistic prick.
I could say, “He harassed us. He sicced codes against us left and right.”
And it would be true.
But I would be remiss to leave it there. To say, “He’s a jerk, no one likes him, and he’s been a pain in my side.”
Because that is one-sided. There is more to this story. For the past few months, and especially the past few days, I’ve been getting a crash course on the other side of things. And the picture I have been getting is that my neighbor is lonely and alone. Aside from two dogs, my neighbor has no one to love him or care for him in any way. I learned about his medical issues, and his fear of his own mortality, and how that might impact the lives of his two best friends, who both have fur and walk on four legs. I came to understand that his situation is one of abject poverty and that he is afraid of everyone – how they look at him, interact with him and judge him.
A human being who has, like all of us, faults, shortcomings, and fears. A human being who un-like most of us has no one he can trust, depend on, or who cares for him.
I listened to Jay describe someone who has spent years without another human being to care for or love him in return.
I listened, I thought about how that would feel, how it must be for him.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t like this man. I don’t want to be his friend. And perhaps I never will.
But I mixed up a batch of bread dough, let it rise, and shaped it into loaves for us, for Jay and Michelle, and for our neighbor who has been such a thorn in my side. I baked it in the oven until the crusts were a deep golden brown and the smell crept out of the oven, filled the kitchen, and made my friends smile as they fixed my creaky old dining room table. I wrapped up one of the loaves, and my young daughter wrote a short note to him, wishing him well and hoping he felt better. She drew two dogs on the card, his dogs, and signed her name. I added a short note, wishing him well, and signed my name, and Michelle and my daughter walked over to his house and delivered the bread, still hot from the oven, to his door.
Call it a peace offering. Call it being a good neighbor. Call it what you like. Michelle described the look on his face, the wonder on it as he felt the bread, warm, in his hands. She said he teared up, and that he called out to my daughter, waiting on the sidewalk outside of his front fence, and said, “Thank you.”
I can’t expect it to instantly fix the bad blood between us, but I hope that it is a start in the right direction. I have often said that a great deal of loyalty can be bought in this area simply with a few farm-fresh eggs or fresh tomatoes. Perhaps in this case it will be home-baked bread.
If so, it will be a small price to pay for peace.
I know that I am blessed with a loving family, a beautiful home, and more opportunity than most. I have so much to be grateful for. A few short months ago, two women came into our lives that have changed the atmosphere, and possibly the future of that “one bad neighbor” into something that could change, could improve, and could even blossom into something far better. All it took was being open to it.