Monday, January 20, 2014

Speaking with the Neighbor

“I like your new truck,” my 86 year-old neighbor said pointing at the dilapidated pick-up parked in the street.
“It's not mine, Harold,” I said collecting the mail.
“It's parked in front of your house.”
“It's still not mine.”
“Norma," he hollered toward his front door. “It's their truck alright!”


I already knew Harold was old, grumpy and opinionated but now I had to add “hallucinatory” to that list of descriptors. I explained that just because a vehicle was parked in front of my house didn't make it mine. Also I explained that even when a truck was parked for six days in front of my house, that that didn't make it mine. But Harold wasn't hearing any of it. In his mind the truck was ours and we should move it. 

“It's been there for six days already,” he said returning to his house.

For two weeks he referred to the truck as belonging to us. Little did I know that this truck business was the tip of the iceberg when it came to Harold's unique language. Not long afterwards I saw our neighbor watering his weeds.

“I saw your pet last night,” Harold said as I parked our real car in our real driveway. 
“Jackson didn't go out yesterday.”
“He was sitting on your p├ętanque court.”
“Jackson's afraid of it.” No truer sentence did I ever utter than to say that our feline was deathly afraid of... dirt. It wasn't because Jackson was particularly fastidious in his personal hygiene but because he was a real chicken about animate and inanimate things, the latter of which really scared the fur balls right out of him.

After some serious questioning that saw Harold sitting in a hard backed wooden chair and me standing over him with crossed arms demanding answers the likes of which have been seen in every episode of Law & Order, CSI and Judge Judy, he finally confessed.

“It was a raccoon,” he said with a shrug.
“Very funny, Harold,” I said which made him chuckle. He was laughing at his own joke! 

Okay, maybe Harold was not hallucinatory about the truck, he was just a bad joke teller.

Not long after that, Mr. Wonderful and I saw Charles and Stephen taking a walk right by our house. They stopped and we got to swap vacation stories and get caught up over the next 60 minutes. After waves, hugs and goodbyes, they turned toward home while Mr. Wonderful and I noticed Harold sweeping his garage.

“How are the boys?” he asked pushing the broom.
“Whose boys?” I said with furrowed brows.
The boys,” Harold said jutting his chin toward Charles and Stephen's house. Wait. What?! How could he call two adult men in a committed relationship who owned their own house the boys? Clearly Harold was out of touch. Charles and Stephen demanded the respect of being called the "neighbors", the "men" or that "cute couple who loves musical theater". 

Before I could protest or say anything, Norma opened the house door into the garage. 
“Dinner's ready, Harold. What's taking you so long?”
“I'm talking to the kids,” he said putting his broom away. The kids? The kids?! Excuse me, my brain squawked! Mr. Wonderful and I were in a committed relationship, owned our own house and we weren't born yesterday! 

I paused. Harold could have called us the “crazy ones”, “them” or the “super annoying people with all the questions who lived next door”. Hmmm. I guess if we had to be called something, “the kids” wasn’t too bad.
“He called us the kids,” my spouse said turning to me with big eyes.
“That's exactly what our 86 year-old neighbor should call us. And that's fine by me." 

Since then I don't protest to Harold's unique vocabulary. And when he calls us “the kids”, I come running.