I snuck away to the front porch during bath time, which is always more fun, messy, and loud with daddy. The darkness that teased of another thunderstorm had passed and the bluest sky was scattered with thick chiaroscuro clouds.
Four feet away, she was sweeping her front porch and it being the first time we’ve crossed paths in five weeks, I introduced myself.
I wonder at which I point I should use fake names for my neighbors, in case I become wildly famous and one day, they start reading stories about themselves on the world wide web. Until that point, I’ll call her Ophelia, which may or may not be her real name. And which allows for the opportunity to say, “Ophelia and Olivia,” in the same sentence, which she thought was pretty spectacular too. Bonus points to the one who immediately thought of Shakespeare.
Ophelia wore a stylish yet comfortable denim wrap dress and a bright orange tank top underneath with a pair of cute flats. She’s a single black lady who has lived in the house for 20 years, in her 50’s perhaps? Upon getting a good look at me as she pulled down her glasses, she asked how we liked the neighborhood. I felt like it was a trick question. If I loved it, was I oblivious to its horrors? If I hated it was I an awful and judgmental Northerner? I went with the truth and responded, “We like it, and we haven’t had any trouble so far. It seems like it’s an interesting place, but we like it.” And with that, she stopped judging me. Apparently, I passed the test. I noticed her eyes soften during our chat and when she told me that she had been wanting to meet us for a while, but wasn’t sure if we liked black people, I laughed out loud, at her bold, unhindered honesty and assured her that we did. I like a person that doesn’t prance around with the small talk.
And that’s when I learned that Ophelia is full of wisdom and she knows the not-so-secret workings of some of our neighbors, including the ways of the drug culture. It wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to know which section of the street this may or may not be happening and she is tired of the “visitors” parking in front of our houses. In her words,
“ The drug culture, they don’t care. They don’t care because they don’t have anything to lose or anything to work towards. And they certainly don’t care about parking in front of people’s homes. In fact, this guy, (pointing to an SUV), he pulled up here three days ago, with no overnight bag and nothing but a towel on his shoulder and he hasn’t left since. Now, he doesn’t live here and he only shows up with a towel, he can’t be up to any good.”
She’s fed up and she’s tired of the drug culture messing up our neighborhood. She’s going to call the cops.
I mentioned that we had only met the neighbors across the street and that we’ve heard some interesting stories, and as I did, I noticed Rose (the cat lady) rocking on her front porch with her fire red ringlets and company of cats. Ophelia’s eyes got a little shifty and gave me a knowing smile.
“Honey,” she said, “everyone has stories about everyone and they all think the other person is crazy,” she narrowed her eyes over the rim of her glasses. “How in the world are we supposed to know the truth? I’ll tell you. You believe what you know and what you see, that’s how. You trust your instinct and you’ll know the truth.”
And then she remembered that a blue Frisbee landed in her yard a few days ago, and that she was keeping it safe until she could properly return it to us. I went to leave my porch to retrieve it, but she stopped me, “Oh no, I haven’t done this in ages,” she laughed with a twinkle in her eye. “Now stand back, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” And she tossed that Frisbee into the air hitting the top of my porch and it fell directly two feet from where she was standing. She nearly fell over laughing and I started and we both just really laughed together. It was kind of great.
Our conversation came to a close as the family who lives across the street from her came home and she had to talk to them about all this traffic problem. Ophelia is a woman of action, I tell you. And she told me not to be a stranger, to knock on her door sometime soon and we’d have coffee. And that she’s so glad she met me, she’s probably going to bake us a cake.
This neighbor is a gem, a real gem. Until next time…