If you have ever talked to me outside of this blog, or Instagram, you know that I am not the biggest fan of my neighborhood. We have a goofy nickname for most of the people in it, and a funny story about a few of them as well.
“Jimmy the Prick” who is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s character in Grand Torino; retired cop, always in loafers or old man sneakers and whenever I see him I swear he is surveying his front lawn. I’ve heard him utter more than one slur in my years on this block. His wife doesn’t have a nickname but she hit and dented my Volkswagen backing out of their driveway a few years back and never said a word; when confronted, commented on my out of state license plates and the rules about changing them. There’s the cackler, silver fox, drunky smurf, the mystic and maybe a few others.
Up until a few years ago, the whole time I had lived in this building there were a few empty apartments and then the same handful of people living in the rest of them.
Directly above us was a Jesus-loving hoarder who was definitely sweet, but couldn’t figure out why it was rude that she parked at the base of an empty driveway or stomped around her apartment at all hours. She once begged us, through tears to take an airbrushed piece of art down from our individual apartment door because it included a skull and she reportedly began sobbing every time she saw it. Like I said though, she was sweet; she invited herself into our open door while I was bringing in groceries one night and asked if she could pray for my gallbladder troubles, I agreed and found myself sitting next to her with her hands on my abdomen speaking in what I can only refer to as ‘tongues’. She eventually moved into an assisted living sort of place, not without mistakenly taking two UPS packages of ours off the porch when she packed her car up, leaving behind no way to contact her but a grapevine.
A grapevine that knew her from church and thrived on shouting any and every exchange from or into an open window, chasing squirrels through the yard reminding them they “don’t belong here!”, making comments that are inappropriate across multiple spectrums. He lingers too long in his parked car doing who knows what, shouting in to his live-in girlfriend (or not depending on his mood) in a tone that sounds like he swallowed a megaphone and opening every single drawer in his apartment on the other side of my wall at 5 am and I can’t decide if I have too many nicknames for him, or not enough. His girlfriend person is an older, mildly crazy woman who has hit multiple cars backing straight out of the driveway, vilifies everyone who she doesn’t know every detail about and approaches every conversation with you as if the world is on fire and she needs to borrow water.
On this info alone, you can probably see why I was relieved when the only other apartment on the bottom level was rented by a woman who looked like she had her head on straight.
I remember taking the trash out and a man with her introducing himself as her brother and within days I made it my mission to fill her in on the weirdness of our mutual neighbor, at least. With longer gray hair and a ‘Free Tibet’ sticker on her environmentally friendly car I am going to have to admit that I might have nicknamed her (affectionately) the “hippie” when discussing her existence with my boyfriend, as in; “the hippie seems nice”, “I told the hippie what a psycho Megaphone man is”, “they’re letting the hippie have a dog.”
I was happy to finally have a sane person to offer some cookies I baked too many of, or soup from a large batch. I loved that Steve would shovel out her steps while out there doing his car, or that she took me up on the offer to pick something up at the store for her when she needed it.
Said hippie is probably one of the best neighbors you could have, as it turns out. Friendly, interesting, insightful and funny but not interested in small talking for the sake of small talk.
In the last three years I have had many conversations with her; some silly, some serious, some sad and others just forthright. In all my secret-keeping about the process leading up to and including my weight loss surgery, I told her with no real qualms when getting of my car in front of her apartment one day. She was totally encouraging, did that thing where she pretended I wasn’t fat enough for it, and referred to me as a “skinny bitch” in the first few months when the weight was falling off.
She’s the kind of neighbor who brought me a BAG filled with Gatorade, ice pops, goldfish crackers and puzzle books when I came down with a cold and asked if she had any Nyquil.
When I had my first skin removal she delivered a hoard of magazines to my doorstep, not to mention she bought some chocolate covered pretzels from me and then insisted on lending me the money I was trying to make to cushion my post-op out of work time.
She brought me an amazingly detailed fairy-tale adult coloring book after I’d made her a giant batch of my fried rice.
One night she texted me to come out side and see my new bike, Yea, SHE BOUGHT ME A FUCKING BIKE because I’d told her how I hadn’t ridden one in years because of my weight and the last time I had some kids shouted “Woo Hoo! Go Fatty!”
When our shared neighbor, Mayor McLoudmouth was ranting and raving about his suspicions of Steve shooting art nudes with models, she came outside to the basement door in nothing but her bathrobe and announced she was ready for her close up.
When I told her I was applying to the counseling program she cheered me on, she asked about my assignments, she listened to me recount silly things about my life when working on papers, she celebrated with me.
There are probably a dozen other instances I’m forgetting in which her generosity and kindness surpassed that of some people I’ve known my whole life.
She got sick and while it’s been going on for a while and not a secret per se, it isn’t my place to talk about that. The other night though, our doorbell rang and from the couch I could hear Steve talking to someone directing them to her entrance; she was being moved to a place where she’ll be more comfortable and get a little more peace and quiet.
My heart sank, I was only a few days post op and we briefly texted about me swinging by; there was like a foot of snow on ice out there and he didn’t feel comfortable letting me wobble outside not being able to safely catch myself or break my fall with my arms. He was right, I know, but I can’t help feeling bummed that it worked out that way.
Turns out the hippie isn’t just one of the best neighbors you could have, but one of the best friends.