The first person I met in my new neighborhood isn’t a person I want to know. I met him on day two. He was helping his parents with a project. I went outside to take in the new neighborhood, and he hollered from three houses down, and then walked over for introductions and everyday niceties. Welcome to the neighborhood, let me know if you need anything, I’ll show you around if you want, and whatnot. We waved hello a few times, talked a couple of times, exchanged numbers. All was well. And normal.
A week later my car wouldn’t start. I walked home. He saw me walking.
“Didn’t you drive out of here?” he asked.
“I did, and now my car is dead,” I answered.
“Need a jump?” he asked. “I have cables.”
“I’d appreciate it.”
Long story short, my battery wasn’t dead. My gear shift wasn’t entirely in park. Car started, problem solved. All was well. I offered to buy him a beer one night as a thanks.
A day later I walked out to my front porch, because I have an awesome front porch, and he hollered, “Hey girlfriend!” I responded, “Hey neighbor.” Because I am no girlfriend. Fast forward a few days and he’s hollering, “Hey sweetie.” And I respond, “Hey neighbor.” Because I am no sweetie. Discomfort was beginning to rise.
Still, I agreed to meet him the next week to get to know more people in the neighborhood. I had a thank you beer obligation to meet. Then I got a flat tire. I saw it when I was heading out to go grocery shopping. I shut the garage door and pretended I hadn’t seen it. As I sat on my front porch enjoying an adult beverage, he walked down to say hi.
“How’s the car? Starting all right?” he asked.
“Been fine ever since,” I answered. “But now I have a flat tire.”
“You need a man in your life,” he said
“No I don’t,” I said. And I changed my own tire.
A couple of days later I let him pick me up, knowing full well that I was within walking distance no matter where we went. When he pulled up to my house, he honked. I took my sweet time walking out the door. The plan was to go to the local watering hole where “most people” from the neighborhood gathered to watch football. And then he took me out of the neighborhood. Discomfort rose like bile.
“What happened to the neighborhood restaurant?” I asked.
“You’ll like this place,” he answered. “They have an outdoor seating area.”
“So does the neighborhood place,” I said. I’d already seen it in my wanderings, so I knew.
“No one will be there yet,” he said.
I checked my über app to make sure it was available in the area. It was. I already knew it was, but the comfort of double-checking helped.
As we drove to the restaurant, a whole five miles, I recognized the area and commented that I had actually spent more time in this area than I had in my own neighborhood.
“What’s his name? Who is he? How many times have you seen him?” he asked in rapid fire succession.
“The post office, the bank, Chuck E Cheese, and the movie theater,” I answered. “As if it’s any of your business.” I was not happy. We were less than ten minutes into the evening at this point.
“You go to Chuck E Cheese alone?” he asked.
“No. I do not frequent Chuck E Cheese alone.”
That I have two kids who are my world was never a secret in any of our conversations.
We were sat at a lovely outdoor table. I had a view of a lake with a lovely fountain. He a view of the parking lot. He texted through most of the meal. He stopped to ask what was it I had just asked him when I bothered to try to get to know him. He stopped to tell me most of the people I’d meet later were couples, but there were a few single people, like him, who were still looking.
“Add me to the single table,” I said. “But I’m not looking.”
“What do you mean?” he asked. “You’ve been single for a long time.”
“It’s a choice,” I said. “I choose to be single.”
“You ever think about having more kids?”
“No,” I said.
“Not even one more, just one?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “It’s not possible anyway.”
“We can untie that,” he said.
“No, we can’t.”
He also stopped texting to holler at people he recognized as they parked or walked into the restaurant, and introduced me to everyone. One couple he yelled to as they walked in was a film maker and his girlfriend.
“I wonder if he needs a writer?” I wondered aloud.
“Probably. I’ll introduce you on our way out.”
The film maker and I had a good conversation about writing, the next book he wants to turn into a movie, and how scriptwriters use a well established formula to create the proper arc. We talked until their food came, and then we took our leave. As neighbor as I were walking through the parking lot, I asked to make sure I remembered everyone’s name.
“Ok, so the first guy was Carl*, and the second guy, George*?”
“You don’t need to know their names,” he said.
“Yes I do,” I said. “George, right? He’d be a good network contact for me.”
“What do you think you need him for?” he asked.
“I’m a writer. That’s why you introduced us in the first place.” But I dropped it and instead googled the writing theory George had talked about.
We went to another establishment, the one I thought we had agreed upon in the first place. Things were fine. I met a lot of people and had a lot of great conversations, none of them with neighbor. I ended the night when it was proposed we go a great distance to a club. He dropped me off at home. I got out of his car before he could put it in park. I thanked him, and went inside. I went to bed.
I woke up the next morning to a missed call at 10:45, an hour after he dropped me off, and a missed text: “Can I come over?.” I have my phone set to go on do-not-disturb automatically every night at 10PM. I saw it all at 6am. I did not respond. Not responding the night before is exactly the response I wanted.
If only it had ended there…
*not their real names