That awkward moment of trying to put your shoes on, put your kid's shoes on, and your next door neighbor's client is waiting for you to finish so he can go in to her place and get…serviced. And you know why he's waiting and he knows you know why he's waiting.
Small tight sort of polite smiles all around.
Yes. My next door neighbor is a prostitute. She's in her mid-50's, has kids my age. We share a landing and in the first few months we lived here, I wondered an awful lot about this long, long (long, long, long) stream of men that were coming in and out of her door. I wondered aloud at some point to my downstairs neighbors "The Aunties" about all those men, what was going on, anyway? And the Aunties – who get to hear everything thanks to mighty thin floorboards! – confirmed it. It's sex in there, all right. Although, to be fair, I don't actually know if she receives money for all that going on.
It really bothered me for a good period of time, then I realized that most of the 20, 30, 40 men were the same 20, 30, 40 men. We knew them all after a while. They were older, pretty normal "nice" guys. Aloha shirt wearing. Community members.
Then the men sort of changed and we thought she was back with her drugs (she shakes like a tweaker) – the Aloha-shirt-wearing guys were getting replaced by extremely skinny, extremely pale blokes who like to smoke cigarettes in our backyard.
In our backyard. Here. We have Micah and Moxie.
I've had a bad week. Horrible, even.
First the Dodge Dart wagon broke down on the freeway in San Francisco then stopped altogether on the Bay Bridge. That involved 3 tows and 6 hours to get home. Later, that same car broke down in the rattiest area of San Francisco besides the Tenderloin: Hunter's Point.
Then the Volvo 122-S broke down on me – over 5 times in one day alone. No tows involved but stops in the middle of downtown Oakland to have me waddling around and checking car fluids with people cussing me out and kids crying. Good times, my friend. Good times. Good thing I'm deaf, too.
I'm tired, inexplicably nauseous. Heartburn is my worst-best friend. I can't breathe well, my uterus is crushing everything around it including my lungs. My body feels huge, packed, worn. My skin, dried, desiccated and I look at it and feel kind of sorry for Boo, who, fresh and sprung will get a withered mother. Poor kid.
And in the middle of this? It's marijuana season. The smell of it is all over us, it being that time of the growing season and our backyard being full of plants, grown by our neighbors. Once tolerant of weed, I now loathe it with passion. I feel sometimes like I can never get away from the reeking wafting plant emissions, either the actual living things or the smoking of them. It's outside, inside. It's in my bathroom, my bedroom, comes in through any open window.
Back to smoking: my next door neighbor and her "guests."
My foot has come down all over the place with this backyard-"guest" hanging out, and "guest" cigarette smoking thing. Completely, absolutely unacceptable and not allow-able.
The other parts of it, the parts about her being a prostitute, well, they might be harder.
Years ago, when I was deep in my religious studies, I thought for ages on that "love thy neighbor as thyself" bit. No Prophet, Manifestation of God ever said, "hey, love those nice neighbors over there, the ones who make you pie and are clean, nicely groomed and have well-behaved kids!". No. the point to it all, to me anyway, is that I've somehow got to sift through the murk and baloney to find something in people to love. Like Jesus, with his disciples and the dead dog. I think the point is to find, as in the case of the dead dog, the gleaming, white teeth in everyone, in every rank piece of decaying flesh that is swarming with flies.
Not that, you know, my neighbor's body is rank or decaying or swarming with flies…right.
But there is this border, this boundary that we have to draw up. Find the good, seek out the good, focus on the good but not let what lacks good to walk all over us. Preserve, enhance and grow what is important to us, protect those that need it. Know how to say, "no" clearly, firmly, compassionately.
We're always only going to be treated one way, after all: the way we allow others to treat us.
We need to stand up for what we feel is right and still love each other. Agree to disagree. Make sure that ourselves and our own are safe, yet we really do not need to surround ourselves with the comfortable people in our lives, the ones who think, talk, act, walk like we do. That this life is not an either/or: we can focus on the gleaming white teeth and we can hold the view that the dog should really be buried.
You know what I'm saying?
Love. We've got to use it to grow more of it.
Love, when it's hard. Love, when we don't necessarily want to.
Love, because it's going to make us happier, in the end.
I suppose I ought to be grateful I have so much to practice on. With the love bit. Through the discomfort – pain even – of my present, I get to practice on finding joy, keeping it and holding it close. Looking at the gleaming white of the rancid dead dog's teeth. So to speak.
Wish me luck.
In the spirit of gratitude, here's a great coupon for 10 free thank you cards. xo love you, too.