November 9th, 2002 | Published in Uncategorized
The woman from across the street came to our door this morning with a question.
I don’t remember her name. Alison knows it and corrects me whenever I get it wrong, so I’ve taken to just offloading the job of knowing her name to Alison and I settle for variants on “Marcy,” “Trixie,” “Peppermint Patty,” and “Mommy.” Her husband also has a name I’ve decided to not remember, and he’s alternately “Dexter,” “Thurston,” or “Derwin.” For purposes of this dispatch, call them “Trixie” and “Dexter,” though Alison tells me they’re really “Spencer” and “Jean” and little baby “Fiona,” who Alison wants to call “Fabian.”
So we were still in bed at 9:47, sleeping off last night’s little gathering, when the doorbell rang. It ended a troubling but interesting dream, which was irritating. I peeked around the corner of the hallway and through the window to the front porch. The shades hid the upper body, and I did not recognize the crotch or ass that were shifting in and out of view as their owner impatiently jiggled and bounced and twisted.
As I pulled on my pants, our visitor pounded on the door. A lot of thoughts went through my head as I walked out of the bedroom: did I park on someone’s cat last night? Is the stone Buddha under the tree idolatrous and offensive to a heretofore unknown fundamentalist living on the block? What? What? What had I done?
I pulled open the door. It was Trixie.
Trixie has been the source of some discomfort for us since she and Dexter moved into the neighborhood last Fall. Alison mistakenly called baby Fiona a boy, which seemed to induce some irritation. With some people, no mistake is innocent and everything is obvious, including the sex of a two-month-old child wrapped head to toe in a blanket with only the nose and mouth showing.
My own single interaction with Trixie prior to this morning involved my car, which I used to park in front of our house, across the street from the opening of Trixie and Dexter’s driveway. That changed a few months ago when I came home from the store and Trixie was waiting in her driveway. She called me over, and when I walked over to her she said “You shouldn’t park your car there. I have a big SUV that I back out of our driveway every morning and I can’t see behind me. I’ll probably hit you.”
I nodded and thanked her for the warning, because I’m a passive person and it never occurs to me to get indignant over foolishness when it’s happening… I’m far too compliance-oriented.
I took her warning to heart, though, and since I only drive my car about once every week or two, I decided it best to move it out of her SUV’s way, and did so immediately. As I got out of my car the second time, she was still standing in her driveway and she called out to me “I didn’t mean you had to move it immediately!”
Since my reflexive passivity was wearing off, I thought to myself “Thanks for clarifying your orders, ma’am,” but I just shrugged at her and went into my house, dwelling on the sort of impotent sourness that would make me think sarcastic thoughts instead of pointing out that she should consider parking on the street, and thinking that perhaps what at first blush seemed like a colossally arrogant and irresponsible approach to neighborliness was mere uncharitable bitchiness on my part.
When I saw someone parking opposite her driveway that night, I walked up to him and said “this is really stupid, but the neighbor lady says she can’t be held responsible for backing into our cars if we park them there.” He gave me a sullen shrug and huffy laugh and went on his way. I was put off that my warning was ignored because it made me feel like I’d become some sort of tool for Trixie, doing the dirty work of broadcasting her irresponsibility instead of letting her wander the neighborhood until someone more honest tells her to just park on the street.
The next morning, there was a loud crash. Trixie had backed into his car.
The next time I saw Trixie, she called across the street to me “See!? I hit a car!”
I called back “What are you gonna do?” and shrugged expansively. Dexter glowered.
I didn’t get many data points to add to the Trixie and Dexter file for many months after. Here are a few:
- Trixie can sometimes be heard shouting in a high, piping voice at either baby Fiona or Dexter.
- Dexter appears to give music lessons.
- Trixie carries herself in a way that implies one of those people always in search of a Kodak moment. No moment of spontaneous play or laughter ever happens in that yard that doesn’t end with Trixie looking around at neighbors and friends in a furtive, questioning manner. “Was that moment not wonderful?” her glances ask, “was it not what being in a family is supposed to be all about? Am I not plainly glowing with pleasure?”
- I have seen Trixie in local markets with baby Fiona in her arms. She reads labels very carefully and sometimes nods her head at the ingredients in a way that indicates both edification and perhaps the satisfaction of newfound knowledge.
- Sometimes Trixie stands in her front yard and stares at nothing in particular. When you’re between her and nothing, it’s a little unnerving. Small waves and nods go disregarded.
So that brings us to this morning, and Trixie is standing in my door with a question.
“Do you own a Honda?”
“No.” (I’m relieved… whoever did something wrong, I can’t be responsible.)
“A blue Honda!?”
“No. I don’t own any Hondas at all.”
“I just hit a blue Honda.”
“Damn blind spot! Aaaaaargh!”
She turns and runs down our steps.
“Damn FUCKING blind spot! I hate that damn blindspot! aaarrrgh!”
Her voice is echoing off the buildings on the street. I close the door and go back in the bedroom.
“Who was that?” Alison asks.
“Trixie,” I say, “She’s hit another car.”