That's what I was yelling this morning at two-thirty. I'm glad that I live in a house now and not in a duplex whose wall I shared (for sixteen years) with various people. I suppose what my erstwhile neighbors would have thought of my outburst would have depended on their own experience in life, coupled with what they could glean of my life, living, as we did, bedroom-by-jowl, but without being friends.
I knew, for instance, that Sharon arose at six each day and went through a ritual with her two very large dogs. First they chased a ball. Then they leapt into the air. Then they wrestled over a toy. Sharon would clap her hands again, and it would be breakfast time. Face to face, though, she and I barely spoke. She silently disapproved of my rolling-in-the-dirt Benji and the sprawling, wandering Sunny. She'd stand at the corner of the building, her giant canines at her side, waiting for us to tumble and bumble past before they began their orderly, educational walk.
Wes, my first and favorite neighbor, was never home.
Nadia herself was quiet, but had a short-term boyfriend who crowed like a rooster each morning. He was very good at it, and I was out of work by then, so I didn't mind the disruption at all. In fact, I liked it. It's an exuberant start to the day.
In the house next door was a couple about my age with a grown daughter who had some kind of mental illness. She'd be fine for months and months, but then there'd be a sort of breakdown and she'd get out the lawnmower. She'd mow and mow and mow, furiously churning the dust – this is Florida, remember – first muttering to herself, and then yelling to herself, and then finally sobbing. I was always so impressed that they'd discovered mowing as a way for her to release her steam.
One time I went out to my car and found the father and daughter tinkering with the mower. She was still hiccuping with sobs, her mascara mixing with dirt, but her dad and I chatted about the weather as if an hysterical nutball of a daughter were the norm – which it was, after all.
Of course, I provided some entertainment, if not consternation, for my neighbors, too, but it seems to me that people who live in groups – that is, us – simply must pretend that they don't hear and see what they hear and see. That's part of being a good neighbor, like not using the chain saw too early, or taking packages inside when it's raining.
So I don't know if anyone heard me last night when I yelled at Henry. He's one of four six-month-old kittens. I remember vigorously wiping something off my face a couple of times, and then I woke up to find him stepping on my face. That's when I yelled. Three of the cats flew off the bed, but Henry stayed. He probably thinks he's showing me acceptance and tolerance, whereas I'm wondering if someone had dropped him on his head when he was little – and if not, why not?