Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My neighbor is my neighbor no more.

It’s been five days since the man living three doors down died.

There was yellow police tape all around his front yard, strewn up like lazy birthday streamers between the trees, enough parked police cars (those with lights and not) to clog my too narrow street and the wary, almost tiptoeing onlookers on the outskirts, they with the hushed tones and darting eyes. The mind races in a happenstance like this one, tries to make sense of what it sees, this scene borrowed from the movies.

Who shot who? What drugs were involved? And I thought I lived in a safer neighborhood than this.

I added myself to those curious onlookers straightaway, wanting to ask someone, but not knowing anyone enough to do so, each of us in search of answers. Wanting to ask one of the policemen so intent on their reports, but not doing so. Instead, it suits my purposes to peek, wonder in quiet and hope to piece together a story with any possible clues. Only there aren’t any. No body or bullet holes or bloodstains. And it’s as quiet as it always is, where the number of cats here outnumbers anyone else outside and the bird conversations take up more airspace than the human ones. 

And then there’s the next-door neighbor whose name I can’t recall, the too-old-for-braces wife of a sometimes writer, she whose welcome home greeting to me not so long ago was a rather matter-of-fact: “You have a beard.” She’s faking the lightest of yard work and, lucky for me, is all too eager to share her version of the story. She must’ve asked what I couldn’t.

It sort of goes like this. Man from Puerto Rico, a 70-years-old sort who didn’t speak so much English, working on a car in his driveway. Engine was running, was in park. Popped out of park and came at him, pinning him between two cars. Force pushed this erstwhile mechanic of a man and a parked car into his backyard, where all three ended in a heap in a shallow, empty swimming pool. He probably died instantly.

His wife heard a noise in the backyard and called 911. It’s when the cops came. They needed a crane to pull the cars and body out. But, hours after it happened, they still hadn’t done so.

He was a pastor of his own church, she’d said, mentioning a sect I’ve never heard of nor recall now, and their family had been wanting so badly to go back to Puerto Rico. It was in their cards and plans.

I never knew the man. I’ve been borrowing this house so near his since mid-June and have seen him only once in that time. He was parking a boat of a car and doing a fantastic job not hitting the other neighbor’s garbage can in the process. It seems he checked out doing what he so loved to do only I’m not certain what’d his family might choose for an epitaph, these being such very peculiar circumstances.

And the questions should be posed, he being a man of God and prone to such strong beliefs, as to whether or not he felt it was his time to go before he did? In those last fleeting seconds, when that long life of his flashed so suddenly and unexpectedly, was he at all prepared to do so? Had he felt this in his old bones before it’d all taken place? Was his strong desire and plan to go home to his country really a misplaced premonition that he’d be heading home to his God?

Cats predict death so often. It’s not so far-fetched that an old Puerto Rican man goes and does the same.

I want to bring them a plate of brownies this week or so later, offer it to those who still live there, they with the always-closed doors and pulled shades, but I’m fairly certain I won’t. I’ll just keep driving by the house in the morning and remember and wonder and hope they’re adjusting to one less life in their midst.

Seventy years was a lot. I just hope it was enough.


The Durham Project said...

Nicely done.

Mel said...

Great post. Thought-provoking. Sad story, though. You should follow your gut on the brownies idea. :-)