Thursday, July 23, 2009

Strange Neighbors

Like ghosts of my Christmas past, the guys who moved in across the street appear to be smalltown folk, bordering on red necks. We often see them standing on their back porch, shirtless, beer in hand, screaming curses at a raggedy blonde woman who comes and goes at all hours. There's even a shitty car in the driveway constantly blaring John Mellencamp. I don't know what motivated these guys to leave the country and buy a home in urban Pittsburgh, but they seem so absolutely out of place I'm not sure they're real. Are they figments of my imagination? Muses to help me conjure the past for my memoir?

Several days ago one of the guys talked to me for the first time. I was locking my bike on the front porch, and he waved.

"In case no one has told you today," he said, pointing up to the sky, "Somebody loves you."
I smiled, surprised, and only blurted a meek "thanks." What should I have said? "Jesus loves you too." ? Well, I justify, he already knows that. Why do I clam up talking about God-ish stuff to strangers? In this case was it because I was so ready for him to say something racist to me that I was caught off-guard when he said something so totally true and kind? I think maybe. I wonder later whether God is the only thing we'd have in common anymore. Perhaps my memories are skewed and at that moment an ember of fear overtook all the things I loved about living in a small town and the family-like atmosphere and the often unquestioning kindness front-and-center.

I asked him whether he'd just moved in. He hints that they bought the place as a fixer-upper and it's been a pain in the ass to do the fixin' part. Well that explains it. Perhaps they'll flip it and head back out to the cornfields. Here's something strange, though: part of me kind of likes having them here. Comic relief, maybe.

Or perhaps another kind of relief too.

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