There was one more night out with neighbor. Since calling him “neighbor” isn’t entirely accurate—his parents are my neighbors three houses up, and he lives in another section of the community—for this post, he shall be called Tom*.
*not his real name
As I was nearly jumping out of his car after the first night he said, “do it again next week?” I said, “okay” and shut the door. No thanks would have been just as easy to say, and I was shaking my head at myself as I high-tailed it to my front door.
I somewhat hoped that missing his call and text, and then not responding, would be enough. But it wasn’t.
Two days later, as I was leaving to run behind my kids riding their bikes, my phone chimes a text: “Hey sweetie how r u today.” My kids were already on their bikes in the garage. My daughter had pressed the button and the door was opening. My son was poised to ride down the short hill into the alley. Not a moment to answer a text, even if I had wanted to. I shoved my phone in my armband, slid my armband up my arm, and ran out the door behind my squealing kids…right into Tom. He and his father were talking in their driveway.
“Hey buddy!” he said to my son. My son just stared at him like the stranger he is.
“You going for a run?” he asked me as I jogged to catch up with the kids.
“Only way to keep up with them on their bikes,” and I kept running.
A few days later, I’m sitting on my front porch. I don’t even have furniture out there yet, but I love sitting on the steps watching the lake and the neighborhood activity.
I see his car parked in front of his parents’ house and thought about going back inside, but stayed exactly where I was in defiance of my trepidation, in desire to refuse to be held hostage in my own home. He walked out onto his parents’ front porch with his mom and waved. I put up my hand in acknowledgement. I like his parents. They are nice people. We chat a lot. They are often sitting on their front porch and I walk somewhere almost every day, and that takes me right past their house.
With the columns and bushes, I can’t see far up or down the sidewalk when I am sitting on the steps. Tom was at my walkway before I even realized he had left his parents’ porch.
I stood up. He walked up my steps. I walked to the far column and leaned against it. He leaned against the frame of my front door effectively blocking me from entering my own home.
“We going out again Thursday?” he asked. I hesitated. I wanted to go out. I didn’t want to go with him. I can meet people on my own. His introductions could make that easier. He was blocking my door.
“Sure, I guess.” I said.
“I’ll pick you up at 5,” he said.
“Make it 5:30,” I said.
He left. I went back inside, locked my door, and vowed never to go out front again if I could see his car on the street. I have a back patio. It’s not nearly as pretty, with a prominent view of my air conditioning unit, but it is outside. I already use it in the late afternoon when the sun is beating down on the front porch—if I sit out front I’m sweating is six seconds and sunburned in sixty. But I have since rejected that feeling. This is my home. I will sit where I want to sit and no amount of asshole is going to make me afraid of my own home.
The day of the second going-out arrived. Around lunchtime he called.
“Is Melanie there? I might call her Mel, but that would probably make her mad,” he said after my hello.
“How’s it going?” I didn’t even acknowledge his joke.
“Can we make it 6? Safelite is coming at 4 to fix my window and I don’t know how long it will take them,” he said.
“Works for me,” I said. His window wasn’t broken the week before.
“Great,” he said. “I don’t want to put it off. I’m tired of my car getting rained in.”
“It’s fine. See you at 6.” And I hung up and went on with my day.
At 6:15 he called again. They had just finished. He needed 20 minutes and he’d be at my house. Thirty minutes later he pulled up. I was sitting on my front steps waiting. I didn’t want to be honked at again.
I got in his car and asked about his window.
“Took them a while,” I said. “That had to be frustrating.”
“It was,” he said.
“Which window was it?”
“That one,” and he pointed to the driver’s side backseat window.
“It was your fault,” he said.
“No it wasn’t,” I said. “I don’t go around breaking windows.” I said no more about the window. I noticed his scabbed hand.
We went to a different restaurant for dinner. I picked this time. We arrived and walked in. I stopped at the host station. He kept walking. The host asked me how many and he turned around and said we were sitting at the bar. He walked past the bar. Then I noticed there was an outdoor bar. It was a nice night. It was perfect for sitting outside. There was one open table. We took that one.
“You’re looking lovely tonight,” he said after we sat down.
“I could spend all night just looking at you.” And then he looked at everyone else in the restaurant, most especially the ladies at the table next to us.
Our server brought our drinks. We were still looking at the menu. After a few minutes we decided not to eat there. I had had a protein shake at five o’clock and still felt full. He wanted to get drunk. We decided just to get a slice of pizza at the neighborhood restaurant.
“You’re going to do shots with me tonight,” he said. I had refused his offers for shots the week before.
“No, I’m not,” I said.
“Yes you are. Let’s do one now.”
“No. I can’t handle liqueur. And not in an I get fun way, but in an I throw-up way,” I said. He dropped the shot talk.
As he finished his drink our server came over and offered us another. I told him since we were going somewhere else I was fine with the one I had already had. He asked for the tab.
“It takes you like two beers to get drunk, doesn’t it?” he asked. I just looked at him. There was no good answer to that question.
“I’ve got you pegged,” he said. “I know you inside and out.”
“No you don’t,” I said and finished my beer. We got up and started the walk back to his car.
“I’m going to take advantage of you tonight,” he said.
“No you aren’t,” I said.
When we got to his car he did not open the door for me. It was the first time I had to open my own door. I was just fine with that. It signaled a turn, one I was happy with. He didn’t say anything as we drove back to the neighborhood. I pulled out my phone and checked social media. I started typing responses to comments.
“You texting your boyfriend?” he asked.
“Yup,” I said. “All 10,000 of them.” There was no more conversation for the rest of the drive.
We arrived at the neighborhood restaurant and joined the same group we had sat with the week before. I ordered a pint and a slice of pizza. He did the same. Someone new to me joined the group. I introduced myself and we started talking. Tom got up and left the table. More people joined. Tom came back to eat his pizza and then got up again. For two hours I sat there and talked and Tom wandered, only sitting every now and then. Then we left. He dropped me off at my house. There was no, “do it again next week” question with this drop off.
His words make me nervous. The red flags are bright. His words are enough. They speak volumes.
But, even with the discomfort of this series of unfortunate events, it hasn’t ruined my happy. I am so thrilled to be here, to be close to my kids.