Last night, while I was washing the cars and Steve was mowing the lawn, our next door neighbor came and extended his hand across the fence. Nice gesture after two months of playing a game of hide-and-pretend-you-didn't-see-me-just-dash-inside. Our neighbor had a friend with him, who he introduced as Mike, the previous owner of our house. "No he isn't," I replied, as if the idea was so far-fetched. I'm not sure why I didn't believe it, our house didn't previously belong to Lou Ferrigno. But I soon realized that Mike really was the previous owner of our house and wasn't amused by me calling him a liar.
Mike had made small talk about the bush we ripped out, how he used to be constantly trimming it. He mourned the loss of those ugly, droopy flowers in the corner which he called "pretty." When I couldn't stand anymore of that prattle, I uttered some pleasantry and returned to my chores. They sat at the patio table, chatting amongst each other and observing us. Mike watched Steve mow the lawn which used to be his. He watched me suds up the driveway which used to be his.
Mike had mentioned (OK, I had asked in my very intrusive way) that he was now living with a buddy since he had just gone through a divorce (did he say messy? Or was I thinking of the state of the house when we received it as he was talking?). I imagined him wishing he still lived in this house. Ours now, no longer his. No longer mowing his lawn or chatting over the fence with his neighbor. I wondered if he was jealous of these punk kids who took over the place where so many of his memories were created.
I thought I should do something. Perhaps go offer him that stone I found while weeding that his son wrote on with a Sharpie marker. Perhaps offer him some of his old 2x4s as a peace offering. A "thank you for your home," of sorts while doubling as a way to finally get rid of those monstrosities (everything is a monstrosity when you own a tiny car). Perhaps I should invite him in?
But I thought against it. I thought maybe it would be best to let things be. Things change, and I'm afraid Mike didn't want to be reminded of that. Gauging from his reaction to those flowers, I'm sure he would have had a panic attack when he saw I painted his old bathroom eggplant purple.
Although perhaps I should have just said, "thank you for your house." Then again, I wouldn't know the first thing about etiquette. I couldn't differentiate myself from any other Joe Schmo without some odd comments, awkward silences and and complimentary smirks. So Mike, in retrospect, I should have been more polite. Thank you for your home and the best of luck to you. And feel free to swing by and pick up all this crap you left in our basement.