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October 28, 2007

City Limits

I was born to a woman with a casserole reflex. Kicking in upon funerals, births, or any general time of need, and so it has always been my inclination to be neighbourly. I was raised on television which prized neighbourliness as the surest way to heaven, and I don’t know any other way to be, but recent events have tested my limits.

Or even not-so-recent– this has been coming on for a long time. When we lived in England my neighbourliness was conspicuous in a nation full of people who try to mind their own business. In my row of terrace houses, neighbourliness comprised mainly of twitching lace curtains. Sure we could hear our neighbours making love or peeing, but one didn’t say hello. My husband-the-native tried to warn me the day I decided to help the new neighbours move in: they were unloading their truck and it was raining, and I thought two more bodies would get the job done faster. I didn’t listen and dragged him over with me, offered to help, the offer was accepted and in we carried their van full of crap. But no one spoke to us, or even introduced themselves; when the truck was empty, I said, “Well, I guess we’ll be going” and someone answered, “Off with you then,” and that was the last I ever saw of those people.

Upon our return to Canada, things haven’t gone much better. You might remember that I recently made muffins for the family of my dead neighbour who hadn’t actually died. Well last night something happened that was even more awkward. We have new neighbours down below us– a middle-aged Spanish couple. They have control of our thermostat, so I thought it would be best if we made friends with them. We bought them a plant, and knocked on their door. It took awhile for the man of the house to answer, and once he had it was clear that he was naked. Completely naked, and very very old. He also spoke little English. “Welcome,” we said, and held out the plant. To receive the plant while continuing to hide his naked self behind the door was a difficult maneuver, but he just about managed. At the very least he was smiling. He took the plant, said thank you, and shut the door back up again.

So I’ve had it, really. It’s not so much the lack of reciprocation that bothers me, but rather the social awkwardness that has inevitably ensued from these gestures. Neighbourliness shouldn’t make you want to die, and mine perpetually does, and so I’m through with it. I’m through with the undead nakedness, and I’m not going to take it anymore.

6 thoughts on “City Limits”

  1. patricia says:

    You are a treasure. I want you for my neighbour! I would LOVE to know how you would cope in MY neighbourhood…my next door neighbour is despised by quite a few people on the street. Apparently before we bought the house, there was some serious, serious squabbling going on, which resulted in damaged property, police calls and endless complaints on everyone’s behalf. The fighting seems to have died down, but I feel stuck in the middle, trying to be nice to everyone. This hated neighbour is to say the least, a character. He does not work that I can see, and as soon as the warm weather hits, he’s almost naked sitting on the porch, drinking himself into a happy stupor. He drives a HUGE old Cadillac which as real bull horns on the front of his grill. I’m sure they’re not legal – they could easily gore animals and small children. This year I would say a police car came to his house at least 10 times to serve him a variety of summons. I’ve been warned by the old ladies on the street to stay the hell away from him and his wife.

    I try to keep a friendly distance, and yet…he mows our front lawn without our asking, he has given us bottles of delicious homemade wine, and as crusty and strange as he is (he loves hunting, and has told me many times the joy he gets out of killing anything that moves) he is the most interesting person on the street.

    If you came to my house bearing muffins, I would happily take them, thank you, and invite you in for tea.

    Oh and yes, I would be fully dressed.

  2. hip_ragdoll says:

    How disappointing to have your good neighbourly vibes dashed by these awful experiences.

    You must by a house in our ‘hood next year when you’re ready so my husband and I can show you what good neighbours we can be. We’re still friends with many of the people we lived beside in our apartment on College Street. And he’s already helped people fix various bits and bobs of houses along the row where we live.

    But naked Spanish man, simply, why did he answer the door? Seriously?

  3. Beth says:

    I can’t believe your incredible bad luck regarding your gracious manners!
    I’d urge you not to give up but I don’t know…maybe it’s a curse!

  4. Kerry says:

    Thank you for your support everybody. A treasure!?! I will definitely pinpoint your hoods when I’m on the hunt for a new place next year. And I probably won’t really stop being neighbourly either, because if I didn’t nothing hilarious would ever happen.

  5. Stephany says:

    That’s hilarious. You should put together an anthology of bad neighbour stories. I admire your persistence, I really do.

    It’s a little easier to be “neighbourly” online. You have no idea if the people you are typing to are naked. You know, unless they *tell* you.

  6. Anonymous says:

    You need to know that I too was born to a woman with a casserole reflex. Perhaps your next victim will be dressed or really dead. Good luck.

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