Do You Hear What I Hear?

Our neighbors down the valley had a party Saturday night.

You can see the lights, here, glowing in the deepening evening, backed by the sunset. It was perfect weather – warm and still. Ideal for sitting outside, which David and I did. We sat on our patio for hours. The way sound carries here, we could hear the party like we could see the lights, glowing in the distance, a happy tumble of voices. Then someone played guitar and sang, his lovely tenor voice carrying up to us. Our own personal concert.

Sunday morning, our other neighbors made themselves heard and not in such a pleasant way. They’re new, renting the house closest to us that didn’t sell after over a year on the market. Of course, the owner won’t drop the price, so he moved away and left it to renters instead. They haven’t moved in a lot of furniture and these houses all have adobe walls and tile floors, which makes for good acoustics.

I don’t know exactly what the fight was about, but I have a good idea. He didn’t like how she’d behaved the night before. Really didn’t like it. “What did you do?!?” was a frequent refrain. Shouted at the top of his lungs. At first I wasn’t sure if he was yelling at a woman or a child, until I heard bits of her protests. The loudest part was when he shouted, over and over, “Do you want to be in my life or not?”

We haven’t met them yet. Now I’m not dying to.

I’m not much for fighting. I’m especially not for yelling. When I hear those angry voices, something in me cringes. I feel injured and attacked, even as a bystander. I couldn’t be that person, standing so close to the yelling, having it hurled at me.

I wanted to tell her that the answer should be “No.” Don’t be in that angry man’s life.

It’s not my business. There was no reason to think the abuse escalated to physical. I’ve only ever called the cops on a domestic disturbance once before and I’m not sure it was the right thing. It didn’t change anything and they knew it was me who called. They didn’t thank me for it, as you can imagine. I know I can’t save the world.

So I went to the back patio and sat under the grape arbor. Their fight ended and they were quiet the rest of the weekend.

I said my prayer of thanks, for a peaceful and happy life.

Yvonne’s Lover

Isabel outside my office window again, this time having a stand-off with a bunny who came up to nibble on bird leavings.

She loves to watch the rabbits, but isn’t entirely sure what they are. They look like prey. Awfully big prey.

They stared at each other, motionless, for easily ten minutes. Then the bunny hopped away again.

We went to a little neighborhood party yesterday afternoon. Part social, part neighborhood watch. This gal who’s originally from the east coast organizes it for the whole community. It’s a funny thing to me because she’s methodical and deliberate about creating what to me is a natural relationship. Meet your neighbors, she says. Get to know them. Be friendly.

Um, okay.

We lived in a small town for 20 years. She asked me if we had neighborhood watch programs. I said no, we were just all in each others’ faces all the time.

The other day, on our morning run, we saw an odd car parked on the road in front of Dick & Yvonne’s mailbox. Nobody parks on the roads here. The driveways are long, often with circular elements, so people pull into each others’ driveways. Then there was the placement of the car – smack dab in front of the mailbox. So, when we got home, I emailed our neighborhood watch block captain with the description and plate, just in case it was “bad actors” in neighborhood watch lingo and not just an inconsiderate guest.

There is a pattern of break-ins here. Almost always between 8 and Noon on weekdays. Apparently thieves park and watch people leave for work and slip in. They always take the same things: flat-screen TVs, jewelry, guns, laptops. So we’re suppose to watch for unusual vehicles in the neighborhood.

Our block captain passed it along. I considered my duty, if slightly paranoid, done.

But no.

At the meeting, this gal castigates me for not doing more.

Did you call Yvonne? she asks.

No, I did not, because it was 6:30 in the morning, I say.

You should have called the police and Yvonne, she says. For all you know she was being burgled right then.

Yvonne, who is easily in her mid-eighties calls out, Jeffe – I’m glad you didn’t call, because that was my lover and I wouldn’t have wanted Dick to find out.

She’s a hoot.

Later she asks me more about it – nothing happened, but they also didn’t know – and I tell her it was a fairly decrepit vehicle and that she needs to upgrade in lovers, if that’s the case.

She thinks it was likely a young guy they have doing the yard work now, which is what David and I had speculated. We’d see the young guy out in front with Dick, working on the yard.

He’s the live-in boyfriend, Yvonne says, of the daughter half of the mother/daughter team who cleans her house. They all make $25 an hour, but are very sweet and a giggly bunch, Yvonne says. Expensive, she says, but worth it. They just can’t do everything around the house by themselves any more. Having help keeps them living out here.

That $300 a month keeps them out of the retirement home, she says.

She and Dick just finished designing and painting a set for a new production at the children’s theater. She figures if they moved to a retirement home, they wouldn’t do that kind of thing any more.

Next time, she says, go ahead and call at 6:30. She can always find a new lover.