50 VIEWS OF THE MAN WHO LIVES ACROSS THE STREET, OR LIME, SAND, AND WATER
1. While he peers through the bent blinds of his front window, his neighbor from the rented house next door steals his Sunday paper.
2. Just before midnight, a squally evening, rivers rushing past and jumping the concrete curb, he steps out onto his front porch, what he calls a porch but some might call a stoop, and hurls a cucumber into the street where a speeding Audi (fast and bulbous!) runs over it.
3. Watering his azaleas, he rests the hose on his hip as if pissing through a long, green penis.
4. He checks his reflection in his car window when he walks out to get the paper—lifts his baseball cap, attempts to enliven flattened hair, cuts his eyes left to the house next door—not a rental—for a glimpse of his attractive, younger neighbor. To his neighbor on the right, in the rental, he will refer to her as a MILF, because she is, and laugh, unconsciously shifting his penis from one side to the other.
5. He turns his face to the wind and closes his eyes, bending like a tree.
6. In red tank top, brown corduroys, and matching harness boots, he opens the front door, sniffs the air, turns and closes the door behind him.
7. From her front porch, the six-year-old daughter of his attractive, younger neighbor, an adorable girl with long, skinny legs, watches him on his front porch. He smiles, and she runs inside, the door slamming behind her. She returns, watches, he smiles, and she runs again inside, the door slamming behind her. This goes on for fifteen minutes, within which the door slams 22 times.
8. He stands in his second-floor, arched window, arms crossed, searching the skies for—
9. —a plague of grackles, purple in the winter sky, leaves him glossed in violent shadows. He sits on his front porch waiting for them to return, to revisit the joyous quiver of wings overhead.
10. He retrieves his paper at roughly 7:00 every morning—if his neighbor in the rented house hasn't walked out earlier to steal the paper—not his—as if it is.
11. He circles his house five times, each time turning the front corner with a little more stumble in his stride, a little more lean to his gait.
12. With his bag of tools and a roll of weather stripping, he moves cautiously through a bed of roses—Mr. Lincolns—to his attractive, younger neighbor's house. Since he sat on his front porch for his evening drinks—gin and tonics, it's summer—the door has slammed shut, really slammed!, four times, one for each drink.
13. He sleeps on the front porch under his gray flannel sports coat, briefcase for a pillow, doormat for a mattress. House keys dangle from the door lock. Mosquitoes gorge at his already swollen and further swelling face and neck.
14. He clutches plastic grocery bags in both hands, stops to talk to his attractive, younger neighbor—she has a Facebook page and he does not. A grapefruit slips through a tear in the plastic bag and rolls to the street where a speeding F-350 (knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door!) laden with landscaping supplies runs over it.
15. A Saturday afternoon: naked, he darts before the front window, his pale flesh reflecting sunlight between the tilted shutters. He looks like an angel.
16. He thinks: these streets are awash in blood. But actually says it out loud as a speeding Prius (mum mum mum mah!) flattens a scampering chipmunk.
17. He rips mums from their pots, tossing them under a magnolia. He wipes sweat from his brow and tilts a bottle of beer to his lips. A scampering chipmunk darts past him under a boxwood hedge. He leans low, his head nearly upside down, peering into the boxwood hedge. He does this for 48 seconds and returns to his lifeless mums.
18. He is a ghost dashing (dancing?) naked before the front window bright with sunlight.
19. Through the blinds of his front window, he watches his attractive, younger neighbor get in her boyfriend's car—a speeding Mini Cooper (do you realize?!) that once ran over his foot as he was talking to his attractive, younger neighbor. The bottom half of her bikini—the backs of her thighs shimmer beneath an oversized t-shirt.
20. Checking his USPS mail, he looks left then right, farts, opens and closes the mailbox door. He sniffs the air, looks left then right, wrinkles his nose, opens and closes his mouth.
21. He clutches his chest and pitches headfirst down the steps, twelve of them, landing ass and legs-up against his white sedan. (A speeding ambulance (you don't mind a little pain!) drags his fifteen-year-old Japanese maple up from its roots.)
22. He clutches plastic grocery bags, stops to talk to his attractive, younger neighbor—she has a Facebook page and he does, too, though he has never requested her friendship. Through a tear in his plastic bag, bottles of blue mint mouthwash and chewable fiber tablets fall but do not roll, though the bottle of mouthwash cracks and leaks mint blue down the driveway and into the streets. The street is awash with mint blue.
23. He whips his speeding, dirty-white Taurus (readin' and writin' and readin' and thinkin'!) into his driveway, running over black ants that have built a mound while he was away at work. He turns off the engine but does not get out, his head in hands.
24. He thinks: don't sweat the small stuff, don't sweat the small stuff. And kicks at the stucco crumbling from the foundation of his house.
25. He thinks: lime, sand, and water. That's all I'm made of, and I won't last forever.
26. He thinks: I grow old, I grow old. But not exactly like that.
27. Friday night: the television flickers inside, behind frosted glass, machine gun bursts of perpetually shifting light.
28. Saturday night: smoke rises from his backyard, the smells of burning meat and citronella, the hover of laughter and music.
29. Sunday night: a pizza is brought to his door by a woman in a speeding Honda Civic (in your white, white sun!) who drops then runs over her cash bag as she backs out. The neighbor next door shuffles out after a few minutes, looks down at the bag, fires a pretend gun into the side of his head, picks up the cash bag, and shuffles back inside.
30. Out the door on his way to somewhere important, he finds his car has been bombarded with bird shit. He begins to flick at the crustal crap, one, two, three the hardened splatters fly across the hood, the windshield, the roof. When he leans in to reach one in the center of the roof, bird shit from the side of the car smears purple—for Christ's sake!—across his beige linen suit.
31. He wishes: he could take back what he said to his neighbor about his younger, attractive neighbor being a MILF, though she is. He thinks his neighbor told.
32. He wishes: he could find a way to see his younger, attractive neighbor from his living room window without her seeing him. But he won't try it, he won't find out. He will hover a nose length from the window, the smell of his own minty-blue breathe bouncing off of the faux wood, waiting for the courage to raise a single blind just enough to see if she is there.
33. He wishes: she would stay away longer when she does go. Just stay away and leave him alone.
34. He waters his azaleas, hose on hip, then points it to the sky. The toddler daughter of his younger, attractive neighbor—there is no dad, no husband—runs under the spray of water, her arms in the air, little blue jeans. He laughs and his younger, attractive neighbor leans against her front post smoking a cigarette, smiling, at her daughter, at him.
35. He wishes: he could help her with that sweetheart little girl, relieve her of her burdens, give her some time for herself. He thinks: a spa treatment would be nice, while he and the sweetheart little girl watched Mary Poppins or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang together. Really, any Dick Van Dyke movies would be fine.
36. He wishes: he hadn't thought about his rental neighbor passing on the MILF comment to his attractive, younger neighbor. This illness between them now.
37. A woman is visiting from out of state: California. She parks her car next to his.
38. He thinks: it's about choosing between letting the world close in around you or fighting for your life.
39. He walks to the end of his driveway, turns, and looks toward his attractive, younger neighbor's house but doesn't stop. He ends up on the other side of the street, looks up into a giant oak tree, then to the ground and back up to the tree again, as if looking for his lost kite or a robin's egg that might at any moment fall to the sidewalk and break apart.
40. He leaves the house with the woman from California, both of them dressed for an evening out. An hour later they return. When he opens her door for her, she gets out and chucks a take-out box into the street where it is run over by a man on a speeding recumbent bicycle (bicycle bicycle!).
41. He thinks: and confesses to fantasizing about calling his mother. She's dead but she would have the extraordinary ability to speak from the beyond to the living. He calls her, she answers.
42. His attractive, younger neighbor's six-year old stares at him from her yard, a bottle of bubbles in one hand, a tiny plastic bubble wand in the other. He smiles, she blows bubbles, and they watch as they rise and fall on the slightest breeze until one floats into the street where it is run over by a speeding UPS truck (here come, here come, here come!).
43. He picks up trash from the sidewalk—a plastic drink top and its centered straw, a balled-up tissue, three cigarette butts, and a Girl Scout badge, now weathered with rain and mud and foot traffic. He whistles but does not sing: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. He wonders out loud why no one picked up the badge and places it on the brick wall in front of his house.
44. He thinks: he shouldn't pity the dead—time is no longer the enemy.
45. He sits on his front porch. A squirrel falls from a misstep on a telephone line as a speeding aircraft carrier (you bought it, you name it!) splits it in half, the front legs continuing on without the back until collapsing in his driveway.
46. He thinks: the earth is one big globe dripping with blood. Like the Sherwin-Williams logo but with blood instead of paint.
47. A summer night, he props open his front door. Boston's "More Than a Feeling" streams to the street where it is run over by a speeding 1967 metallic blue Cougar (talk about things that nobody cares!) with a white vinyl top and custom porthole windows, a Cleveland 351 rumbling under the hood.
48. He walks out, he walks in. He walks out, he walks in. He walks out, he walks in.
49. On his way to retrieve the newspaper—he can see it!—he walks through the space where his car should be but isn't.
50. He wanders to the street, shirtless in his underwear—Hanes boxer briefs, and looking for his missing newspaper, where he is run over by a speeding, dirty-white Taurus (it ain't me, it ain't me!).
I live in the city and enjoy sitting on my front porch to watch the city people pass by.
I also like the written collage. So, I wondered what collective impression over an extended period of time a passerby or neighbor might have upon seeing me sitting there, in and out the front door, peering through blinds, and walking to my mailbox and the perimeter of the house. What did that collage of activity reveal about me? How much of what they interpreted from these observations was truth?
Then I made up everything else.