I haven’t posted in a while because life. But this post became a top priority after a brief 5-minute conversation with my neighbor. It seems someone stole his sunflowers.
And I’m afraid it could cost me my life.
You see, a lot of strange things seem to happen only to my neighbor—let’s call him Joe—and when these things happen, he asks me if I’ve seen anything “odd.” Yes, that’s what neighbors do. But there’s a subtext here. Under each question is the unspoken suspicion, bordering on accusation: Isn’t it “odd” that these things are only happening to me?
Joe is a good guy. I’ve had many nice conversations with Joe. He let my son clamber all over his beautiful spotless boat, he gave me a lift to the train once in his beautiful spotless SUV (I think I tracked mud in it—which is something I do), and I’ve got standing offers to see the slot-car track in his basement and go for a ride in his boat. Joe even tolerates the disgusting mess known as the outside of my house.
But every once in a while he’ll catch me on my way to toss the garbage or something and go all NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH on me. Speaking in a steely monotone.
“Hey Jeff, have you noticed anything odd lately?” Speak . . . wisely.
“No. I haven’t.” Unless it’s how 2/3 of my kids hate to be smiled upon.
“Yeah, because someone stole my sunflowers.” I’m listening very carefully. I hear what you don’t say.
“Your what? Your sunflowers?” Your what?!
OhyouslimysonofabitchISEEYOURSOUL! “Yeah. Five of ‘em.”
He so thinks I took them. “Maybe a squirrel took them.” Great that came off sounding defensive.
Pretty defensive there, flower thief. WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT WITH MY FLOWERS, FLOWERTHEIF?! “Nah. They wouldn’t cut them so clean.” IS THAT HOW YOU GET YOUR SICK ROCKS OFF?! “Oh well, let me know if you see anything . . . suspicious.” I’m on to you. And your pack of feral children. And your beady goddamn eyes. Why are your eyes so beady, Jeff? So GODDAMNED BEADY!
Similar scenes played out when someone stole the GPS out of his unlocked SUV, the plumbing in his house backed up, someone parked in front of his house, and the mechanics broke his boat.
To be fair, I didn’t feel the same scrutiny with those last two things. Even in a paranoid fever dream, there’s no way I could be even indirectly responsible for the mechanics breaking his boat—though I got the full scoop on that—or the parking situation. But when he alerted me to the vehicle break-in, the subtext was there: Hmm . . . curious that nothing was taken out of your car, Jeffffffff.
And when his sewer backed up: We share a sewage line, Jeff [actually, we don’t] so somehow this is your fault. AND. I. WILL. FIND. YOU. OUT.
The stories have gotten stranger and the discussions have grown more tense. So when I was outside in my pajama bottoms at noon and he saw me and the Ballad of Monotone Joe and the Great Sunflower Heist of Twenty Aught Thirteen was spoken at me, I knew I needed to make this post. I absolutely must have the truth out there. I swear I didn’t take the sunflowers or the GPS or do anything to adversely affect Joe, other than lower the property value of the entire neighborhood.
But still I worry for my safety. Because Joe is suspicious and that makes me defensive. I am a horrible liar and I can’t even tell the truth convincingly. When things keep happening only to him and he questions me, I get more defensive with NO answers. I just look at him with an open mouth like a fish on a hook.
What Joe might not understand is that I’m always in my goddamned house when I’m not in the goddamned office. If Hulk Hogan carried a Smart Car down my street and beat Corey Feldman to death with it, I probably wouldn’t notice. Because I’m in the house. With my three children. Being tortured. So he shouldn’t be suspicious if I can’t offer anything other than a surprised “Really?!”
But he is.
If anything happens to me, look closely at my neighbor.