I am just finishing my morning meditation when I hear my doorbell ring. It actually sounds more like that buzzing sound you hear if you fry a fat fly on one of those electronic bug swatters. On my way to the door I hope it’s not my new neighbor who just moved in the first floor apartment below me yesterday. Nobody wants a too friendly neighbor, right? I’m from the “fences make good compassionately mindful neighbors” school of thought about neighborly interdependence, much less intimacy.
I open the door to a 60-something blotchy, ashy, white-skinned man wearing grey polyblend sweatpants, slightly too short, over a pair of black Crocs, screaming “I gave up on myself years ago,” and a lighter grey zip up the front, grimy hoody with a ripped left pocket, sleeves pushed up over old-red-haired-man, possibly ex-athlete, thick creepy hairy forearms.
Before I have a chance to let him know this feels invasive to me, or even say “Hello, who and why are you at my door during my meditation time?” the new downstairs neighbor starts flapping his jaws as if my ears were born to listen to his cheery wisdom.
“Hi, I’m Oliver. My two neurally challenged teenagers, Ivy’s the bratty girl, and Daquan is the perfect, but sometimes a little loud, sort of like a really ticked off roaring lion, but you’ll get used to it, son, and I are your new downstairs neighbors, and I wanted to meet you right away because I don’t want you to freak out and call 911 when you hear us yelling or screaming or crying or jumping endlessly hour after hour because Ivy is really hyper and because Daquan can’t speak but often seems to have a lot to bark and roar about what somtimes seems like its just gas and sometimes means he’s wet and is trying to tell me I need to put the novel down, or stop writing that dreadful sad poetry, or writing predictable lyrics for country-western songs, much less living them, and sometimes he’s just playing Tarzan, yodeling in his make-believe jungle. He’s legally blind and uses a wheelchair for school but at home he scoots and thumps around, surprisingly athletic, on his butt, kind of like an upside down inchworm if inchworms had feet and arms, if you know what I mean.”
I don’t have the first clue, actually, but we have no time, and apparently not the least commitment to discerning my own thoughts about Oliver’s communication and rationality skills, or lack thereof.
“My husband lives about a mile upriver in our cottage that we are trying to expand before the rest of us move in. He is tall, dark and handsome in an AfricanAmerican kind of way and is usually depressed, at least when he’s around us, which I can’t really blame him because Ivy is Oppositionally Ordered, I don’t know why they keep saying Fetal Alcohol kids have Oppositional Disorder because her capacity to oppose everything is most certainly not out of order, or in any way under-developed. She will pitch a fit if all you’re trying to do is get her up from her feeding trough to help her out of a poopy diaper. You would think that somebody was going to eat her food after she has already marked it with her drool. I have no idea why they would call that Oppositional Disorder. No one I have ever met has been more oppositionally wired synaptic than my daughter.”
“Anyway, Valentino, that’s my husband, he suffers from chronic depression which is too bad because he used to have this really nice soft sense of humor and romance, if you know what I mean, but now he’s just quiet and sad and afraid to retire because then he won’t have any friends that don’t drive him crazy like his family does, including me.”
“He complains that we’re too loud and the house is always filthy and my cooking is terrible but he likes to cook and clean so I don’t really get it why it’s not OK for me to not like to cook and clean, or do the laundry, or the dishes. Do you know what I mean? So, tell me about you.”
Finally, a question other than the parenthetical “do you know what I mean.”
“Ditto. Except mine are named, respectively, Poison, Tarzan, and Attila. Do you happen to like Ginseng tea with lots of honey?