Feb 4, 2006

The Good Neighbor

Regarder en soi-meme by Verene Quadranti

Today my crazy neighbor lady brought the plant I gave her to my door. She banged on my door and ran back and forth between her apartment, my door, and the parking lot - presumably trying to figure out why my car was outside, but I was not coming to the door.

With my keys in my hand and my purse on my shoulder, I finally relented and opened the door. Talking a mile a minute, she shoved the plant at me and started telling me that I was right - the plant perked up and was looking good, but "sometimes the leaves fall off and just lay in the dirt. Why is that happening? Oh, also, could you give me a pot of Mother-in-Law Tongue?" I told her, "Yes, but not now, I am going to pick up my nephew." Before I could get out of the gate, she called me back again and said, "Sometime soon, I want you to come over for dinner. I'll order pizza or something." Without a pause I said, "I would prefer not to." I let the words hang in the air between us. She looked a little embarrassed and stammered, "Oh, O.K., I'll try not to take that personally." I told her with a perfectly straight face, "It's not personal, and it's not about you. I am friendly with my neighbors, but I am not close to my neighbors. I am a private person." She seemed like she was having difficulty processing what I had said, but she also turned around and walked back into her apartment, which helped me to deal with the fact that I had just been very rude to a neighbor. The truth of it is, I still write and call some of my neighbors who moved away years ago. One my best friends in the world was once a neighbor of mine. It is personal - I cannot deal with her. I feel rotten about it, but I would feel worse if I fostered a friendship with someone who stresses me out more than I can possibly express.

So, I processed my guilt over my incredible rudeness by writing a poem.

The Good Neighbor

I am a good neighbor.
If you need a cup of sugar or an egg,
I will gladly help you out.

When the TV belonging to the old lady
who lived downstairs blew up,
I took up a collection and bought her a new one.

When she was too weak to pick up her
case of Ensure, I toted it from the store to her door -
week after week.

When the single mom was caught with illegal cable
I loaned her the money to have it
turned on legally.

When Allison came to town and
the floodwaters rose, I woke everyone up,
and loaned strangers my phone.

Even while the floodwaters
were lapping at our door, I worked on
the plumbing for the old lady next door.

When my sickly neighbor fell down
and could not get up, I called 9-1-1,
because it’s the neighborly thing to do.

For two years and counting, I have collected one neighbor’s mail,
Delivering it to her, because she’s in a nursing home
and cannot let go of the dream of living again on her own.

I understand that you cannot help screaming at the voices in your head.
I understand that you have little in the way of social or coping skills, and
I understand that none of this is your fault.

Your presence is overwhelming and your need is all encompassing,
but nothing about you is stronger than my will to live in peace

without your drama.

I’ve tried my best to be friendly and helpful- to be a good neighbor
to all of my neighbors, because I enjoy it and it is the right way to live,
but you are insane – and I have to draw the line somewhere.


Anonymous said...

Fini, I understand your inner conflict, but you did a good thing. Let go of your guilt over it.

finijo said...

I'm working on it, but I really hate hurting people's feelings. Thanks for the support.