Another Neighborly WaveThe Green Silk Journal 2011
I’m not unfriendly. I nod hello to my neighbors and wave or smile when they wave or smile at me as I’m driving by their houses or they mine. I’m invited to the neighborhood picnics every year but always call in my excuses. Laura hated that about me. It’s not why she left me but it’s symbolic of our problems she’d tell me. You’re symbolic of our problems I’d say back to her and she’d go silent on me for a couple of days. That was at first and then it became a couple of weeks of silence after one of our spats. If it weren’t for our spats we’d have had no communication at all. Spats were the glue that held our marriage together for the last couple of years.
We haven’t spoken since two months before our separation and divorce. She just moved out and had her lawyer send the sheriff to my office with papers. That was well over a year ago. So when she called one day out of the blue and I didn’t recognize her voice she gave me an attitude that I didn’t deserve. If you’d been silent on the phone I would have said hi Laura, how’s it going? I’d for sure recognize her silence—certainly more than her voice.
She wanted to come over and see me she said. Finish up the unfinished business that I didn’t even know we had. Suit yourself I said and there was a familiar quiet on the phone line and then she hung up.
She showed up Saturday morning. I was raking the leaves and waved to her as she went by me heading for the driveway. I didn’t know it was her I was waving to—I assumed it was one of the neighbors.
You thought I was a neighbor when you waved didn’t you she asked? Maybe I said but what brings your chatty little self out to the house? I could see her jaw tighten and she knew I’d catch that so she relaxed her jaw and asked can we go sit down and talk?
I’m moving into the neighborhood she said and I told her it was okay by me and she said she was getting remarried and I said that too was okay by me and I wished her luck and stood up but she wasn’t finished. I’ll be living two doors down she said like it was an apartment building. I’m marrying Tommy Grints. Which side of this house two down is Tommy Grints I asked and she told me that his wife had died a couple of years ago and I said sorry to hear it but which house and she pointed out the blue cape and said that he’d been living there before us and I should’ve known his name by now and I said okay.
Grints is a funny name I said are you going to take his name? We haven’t talked about that yet she told me and I said you’re starting off just like us not talking about things. She didn’t try to untighten her jaw as she silently left the house. We didn’t wave to each other as she drove away which got me to thinking about whether I’d have to wave to her every time she passed my house going to her Grints house and maybe I should just stop waving to everyone to save on all that communication with the ex.
Her first note came as a ‘dear neighbor’ invite from the newly married Tommy and Laura Grints inviting one and all to a meet the couple barbeque. I tossed it. When people started filling up the backyard of the blue cape I happened to be outside planting a new flowerbed and every time I looked over that way someone was waving to me and finally a couple of guys with beers walked across the neighboring back yard and handed me a beer and introduced themselves. It’s criminal to refuse a beer so I thanked them and started to go back to my garden when they began chatting me up. The next thing you know I was in Grints backyard being handed a hotdog from the grill. I went and sat down on the stoop to eat and not minutes later Laura joined me and told me she was glad I could come to her first party and then she handed me a real estate card with her picture on it and told me to call if I or anyone I knew could use her services. She never told me she was selling real estate or if she did I must have tuned her out. She left me and I watched her mingle and pass out her cards all the while smiling and talking. I walked back to the grill and pointed to a burger and the guy in a tall white hat slipped one on a roll and put it on my plate. There you go neighbor he said and I walked back to my house but I should’ve stuck around for another because it was a damn fine burger.
Later that month I got a do you know how much your house is worth card from Laura and it suggested I call for a free no obligation market analysis and she had written in that she’d call me because we both knew I’d never call. I was kind of curious so when she called I asked her how much and she said that she’d have to come over and look at the house in order to do a proper job. But you lived here for twelve years I told her and she said that was different and she now has real estate eyes and would have to see the house for herself so I said why not and let her set a time.
She walked around the house asking dumb questions like do you have a basement and how old is the roof both things she new but had to hear with her real estate ears. How much? I asked and she said that she’d have to come back after doing her paper work to figure out a price. You act like you’re in a hurry to move she said and I said that I wasn’t but if I were I’d certainly consider her services and she walked out but not before handing me another business card on the way. I put it on the counter with her other card.
Laura called two days later and told me that she worked up the market analysis and could she come over to present it and I asked her why she couldn’t just give me the how much over the phone. She said because that’s not how it’s done and in her field and she’s known for being exact and on top of things and even though I wondered how long she’d been in her field I kept it to myself and told her to come on over and she told me that she was busy until Wednesday and was that okay for me and I said sure. On Wednesday she insisted on sitting at the kitchen table and going over her entire report before she got to her price. Well what do you think she asked when she finished and I said I was impressed by Real Estate Laura and she said that’s nice but what do you think about the price and I told her that if I decided to sell I’d consider both her and her price. She stood thanked me shook my hand and then reached into her blazer pocket and pulled out another business card attached to a calendar and slapped the magnet on the refrigerator. Thank you for your time she said and walked out the door got into her car and drove two doors down. I’m in a Thursday night bowling league. Most of the teams are comprised of people who work together but mine’s made up of guys from my chess club and while I’m not the best I sport a one seventy-four average with a high game of two forty-three. I’m a consultant so I don’t usually work in a place long enough to form bowling team bonds although I have filled in several times in different places. I’m a rocket scientist and what makes the jokes even worse is that I’m a freelance rocket scientist. I travel mostly in commuting distance to my Connecticut base but every once in a while I take a job out of state and once spent a three month stint at very high pay in Japan. Truth be told I’m not a top-notch rocket scientist—a NASA type, but I am good enough to make a decent living as a Rocket for Hire type guy. At one time I wanted to have business cards printed with HAVE ROCKET WILL TRAVEL but decided it was to frivolous for the type work I do but that doesn’t keep me from saying it and getting a chuckle every time I use it.
I usually get home from bowling about ten thirty and there’s always a light on at the Grints’ house and cars in their driveway. On weekends they party up a storm with barbeques, bocce and badminton or anything to keep active. This is the life that Laura wanted and never got from me but she never said anything about it maybe because when she thought about it she was in the middle of giving me one of her silent treatments. I wonder how she treats old Grints when she gets pissed at him.
Laura knocked on my door one Tuesday and I said hello and let her in and she went into the living room and took her old chair and sat quietly reading a magazine she’d brought with her while I watched the tube. I asked her if she wanted a snack or something to drink and she just gave me the look like she used to when I was getting the silent treatment and went back to her reading. After an hour or so she got up and let herself out without a word.
This has been going on for three months now and I’m worried that Grints is going to think there’s something being rekindled with Laura and me but there’s no kindle to re but appearances and all that so I broach the subject with Laura. She refuses to talk about it or even talk to me those nights at all so I stopped asking but I’m not all that comfortable and have actually gone out to the movies on a couple of Tuesday s to avoid Laura’s silent visits.
Come celebrate our first anniversary with us the festive card read. I threw it away but it had an RSVP date on it and Laura called two days after that and asked if I was planning on coming to their party and I said you know I don’t like to go to parties and she said well then I’ll put you down for a yes because not only should you get out more often but there’s going to be a couple of single woman here and we need some single men. All the more reason for me not to go I said and she said nothing but didn’t hang up the phone. Finally after about three minutes of the treatment I relented and said I’ll come and she said nothing but hung up.
It was about an hour into the party when Grints looking not to happy walked over and asked might he have a word with me and I knew the dreaded confrontation moment was coming so I nodded and figured we ought to get it over with. We sat outside on the stoop and he thanked me for letting Laura come over. The first time Laura gave me the silence it threw me for a loop because, Emma, my late wife and I talked constantly and never went to bed angry. The next time it happened I told her why don’t you go back where you came from because I won’t put up with a woman who don’t talk to me so she said okay and walked over to your house. It felt kind of strange not having Laura here to talk to and knowing she was just two doors down and at the beginning I was tempted to walk over and drag her back or call and tell her to get home where she belongs but I’ve kinda gotten used to having a little quiet time and I thank you. Grints stood and stuck out his hand for a handshake and I looked at him and left him on his stoop with his arm outstretched and went home. About half way to my house I turned around to look and he was still on his stoop. He waved a goodnight neighbor wave and without waiting for my return wave walked back into his party. The next night I called one of the divorcees I met at the party.