Sunday, 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.