Andy is not the most outgoing guy on the planet. He’s perfectly polite and even warm if you greet him, but he will not go out of his way to meet you. Andy had lived in his townhouse for about 5 years before I moved in and we got married. He said hello to exactly one neighbor.
Andy read this over my shoulder – which I hate — and protested: “Not true! I always said hi to the neighbor on the other side of me. Until, you know, he died.”
“Oh, I didn’t know. I’m sorry!”
“Don’t be. I got his couch.”
Me: “THIS couch?!”
Me: “We’re so getting a new couch.”
Once I moved in, of course, things changed. Andy left a door open. Bat Cat escaped unnoticed. Andy shut the door. I found her at 2 AM, her ear bleeding. I was sure Bat Cat had been bitten by a diseased raccoon. I frantically tried to arrange a vet visit the next day. While I was on hold, a neighbor saw Bat Cat in the window. Bat Cat hissed at her. The neighbor knocked, introduced herself as Anna, and explained that Bat Cat had come in her cat door the previous night, helped herself to some of Anna’s cats’ food, and gotten her ear notched in a fight with one of Anna’s cats.
By the time I learned Anna’s cats had all their shots, we were chatting away like best buds. (Possibly I needed someone to talk to since I refused to speak to Andy for 24 hours after he confessed to locking Bat Cat out.)
Anna introduced me to three other neighbors. I invited them to our housewarming party.
“Why?” asked Andy.
“Because they are our neighbors,” I told him. “We’re supposed to be friendly. Say hi. Know their names, at least.”
“I know their names from the Home Owners Association meetings.”
“There are HOA meetings? Really? And everyone’s there? Can I go?”
“NO! I mean, no, your name isn’t on the mortgage so you’re not a homeowner so you’re not allowed.”
“Fine. I’ll make some cookies for you to take to the next meeting, though.”
“Don’t people bring snacks?”
“Uh, well, some.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Let me guess. Not you.”
“Well…no. Why should I?”
“OH. MY. GOD. Five years, you’re mooching on everyone else’s snacks and you never brought any? For your neighbors?! This is your cousins all over again!”
“Did you not have neighbors growing up?”
“We did. They complained about our mango trees and my mom complained about their dog getting in our yard.”
“That’s not how it’s supposed to be. You’re supposed to know your neighbors.”
“We did know them. We knew they were assholes. So we kept to ourselves.”
“But that’s all wrong,” I argued. “You’re supposed to be friends. You take new neighbors cookies when they move in next door.”
“Cookies? For real?”
“Unless you’re in the South,” I explained. “Then you bring a pie. And you dish up pie along with all the neighborhood dirt, compare family trees, and assess if the new neighbors are ‘your’ people.”
“This sounds complicated,” Andy’s voice became plaintive. “Can’t I just go on ignoring them?”
“No,” I insisted. “You are part of a community. Be proactive! When you see them, wave, at least. Say hi.”
I sent Andy to the next HOA meeting with a giant plate of cookies. He returned with none, and grudgingly admitted that everyone had been pleasantly surprised.
A neighborhood garage sale was arranged. So was a barbecue at the pool. We participated in both, met other couples, and got invited to other events. Andy even enjoyed himself a few times. (I said, “I told you so” more than a few times.)
Andy had an end townhouse unit, which was nice – the northern side of the house had lots of windows and lots of light. Across the walkway along the north side of the townhouse, another couple replaced the Dead Couch Neighbor in a townhouse that mirrored ours. So every one of our windows to the north looked directly into their windows to the south. (Sometimes you wonder what the hell architects are thinking.) I insisted on curtains as soon as I moved in.
Our northern neighbors did not have curtains. Maybe they were clueless about the way light and windows work. Maybe they just didn’t care. But one night Andy and I returned from an evening out. Our master suite in the townhouse opened into a giant bathroom/ closet, with steps leading down into the bedroom. I stepped into the bath/ closet area. Straight across from the doorway was a huge picture window. Straight across from our picture window was the neighbors’ picture window.
And framed in the neighbors’ picture window were the neighbors. Naked.
TOTALLY NAKED AND I COULD SEE ALL OF THEM.
I stopped short. Andy stepped in behind me and reached for the lights.
I yelled, “Don’t!”
Too late. Our light illuminated us – and caught the attention of our naked neighbors. Both of their heads swung our way. We stared at them.
They stared at us, staring at them. Naked.
Andy said, “Should I wave?”
I yelled, “Gahhhh! Turn it OFF!” I dove left, down the stairs into the bedroom.
Andy turned off the light and followed. Chuckling, of course:
“Do you think we’ve seen enough of the neighbors now, honey?”