She came over to let me know that she had called my landlord to complain about my dogs. I didn't have a landlord or dogs, so I had no idea what she was talking about. I smiled politely and tried hard to choke down the sudden feeling of buyer's remorse growing in the pit of my stomach. She hiccuped and apologized for calling the cops as she stumbled out of my yard. I wrote her comments off as drunken ravings of a lunatic and wondered if this sort of thing is what the realtor meant when he said the neighborhood had “character.”
A few minutes later the police showed up in at my door asking about some dogs.
And thus began my life at Deer Lake Circle.
Growing up, my neighbors were all related to me. Any quirks they possessed or any squabbles that arose were the kind common to family and all easily ignored. Living in a neighborhood of people I had no previous relationship with has taught me the wisdom in the old adage, fences make good neighbors. I'd like to amend that to razor wire, and maybe a nice 12-foot moat, make good neighbors.
In the six years I've lived in my house, I've had neighbors come to my door for various and sundry reasons. Here is a list of my favorites: To tell me they're committing suicide, to give me a pie they baked for me, to tell me they just found out their boyfriend is cheating on them, to ask me to drive their child to school (I'd never met this lady before), to tell me they just found out their daughter was a lesbian, to ask if they can plant tomatoes in my front yard, to ask if they can borrow a beer, to ask me to hide some pills for them, to ask if I'll buy them liquor the next time I'm out, to give their friend directions to their house over the phone, to ask me to help them look for their dog ... and my favorite, to ask if I'd testify for them in court.
It's not a bad neighborhood - really, it's not. It just seems to attract drama. I guess in that sense it's a bit like a low-rent Wisteria Lane from “Desperate Housewives.” Except nobody in my neighborhood looks like Eva Longoria or Teri Hatcher, and the lawns aren't nearly as nice.
Generally, I find the neighborhood shenanigans entertaining in a sad kind of way. Occasionally things get kind of ridiculous, though.
For instance, a few nights ago, right around midnight, I was lying in bed, being rocked to sleep by the gentle sounds of three of my drunk neighbors talking about God knows what right outside my bedroom window. No biggy - I've learned to sleep through this kind of thing pretty easily.
Apparently, not everyone in the neighborhood can fall asleep quite so easily, though, because about half an hour into the yard party, my walls suddenly came alive with flashing blue and red lights. Someone had called the cops. A warning was given, drunken apologies were made and the cops left. I finally drifted off to sleep, visions of crushed Pabst Blue Ribbon cans and restraining orders dancing in my head.
I can only describe the sound that woke me up an hour later as a meaty thud. One of my drunk neighbors had fallen against her cement front steps, and the sound actually woke me up. If it hadn't, the resulting screams of agony would have. The hours that followed were filled with two more visits from the cops, an ambulance, more cursing than I've ever heard in my life, a suicide threat and an eventual arrest. I got about two hours of sleep that night.
Stuff like that can make you really dislike the people that live in your neighborhood - all that drama and stupid behavior. When stuff like that happens, I start counting the days until it's financially feasible for me to make a move to a nicer neighborhood - a place with nicely manicured lawns, where the weirdest behavior I'd ever have to endure is a nosy old widow or a some middle-manager type who dumps his lawn clippings over on my side of the fence in an act of passive-aggressive retaliation for me leaving my trash cans out all weekend.
Then I think about what it says in the Bible about neighbors. Somebody asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment. Jesus told him the greatest commandment was to love God with everything you have, and the runner-up was to love your neighbor as yourself. The guy who asked the question made sure to ask Jesus who exactly qualified as his neighbor. He probably lived next to people who were as affluent as he was so, you know, no big deal. Jesus told him that anybody in need was his neighbor, not just the folks next door.
In my case, it's the folks next door who are a little hard to love sometimes, with their late night police dramas. But Jesus says I need to love the denizens of Deer Lake Circle the same as I would if they were lumpy suburbanites with boring middle-class problems.
I'm gonna try to remember that the next time they wake me up in the middle of the night with their alcohol-fueled antics. And maybe the next morning, I'll help them pick the beer bottles up out of their yard, or pay their bail, or whatever.
That's what neighbors are for, I guess.
Patrick Drury can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Patrick recently published his first book, “PatchWorks Volume One,” a collection of his columns. To purchase the book, visit http://www.cafepress.com/patchworks.54813581