Monday, October 25, 2010

Face Value

"Not on my face, Henry! Not on my face!"

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?


Jason said...

Time to get rid of Henry. Any animal that gets THAT close to your face while sleeping doesn't belong around people. It's only a matter of time before you feel something warm and moist on your face, and it won't be a tongue.

Augusta said...

Barbara, you made me laugh out loud again! Well, guffaw actually. You may think that's normal, but I can assure you that it is rare for me to read something and actually guffaw out loud.

Henry is just expressing his male felinity; indifference and yet, needing to be near your face. I am sure it's a cat thing. My cat gets right up to my face and wants to stroke it...with his claws, ever so gently. In the 11 years I've had him, I have not yet figured it out.

Anonymous said...

I kept reading, wondering what you would say about your neighbor the Pet Portrait artist who lived next door and had a Toyota wagon JUST like yours (except NOT artfully painted). But apparently I wasn't funny or unusual enough to qualify for your blog (which was, as usual, a delight to read), and that's OK. Wish I had a kitten of my own (if a cat can ever really BELONG to anyone but itself), but those days are gone till the aforementioned car dies and I can't be out and about so much; not fair to leave a critter without a companion for too long, and my apartment building allows only one pet. Sigh. But I can enjoy vicariously your tales about the furry companions in your life; blog on!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog today, what a great find for me. You have put a smile on my face and make me feel like I have a new friend that I can't wait to intoduce to my other friends.

Don Moore said...

Very insightful and poetic. Don't think you will ever outdo this.

matheus said...

i like

Kaye from Kingman Arizona said...

I really like reading your blog. The "Face Value" was really funny and brought many memories of "old" neighbors of the my past. Keep writing.....Kaye

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