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When you look up the word “weenie” in the dictionary, you’ll find a smiling photo of me, hands up, with a “What can I say, you got me!” expression on my face. I have no problem jumping out of a plane or riding a motorbike in Vietnam, but sleeping alone in my own home gives me butterflies. Walking alone in the dark to my car parked just outside my house? Who do you think I am, Catwoman??
So you can only imagine the Depends I should’ve been wearing when I walked out of my house at dawn yesterday, dressed in my running clothes and bathing in my self-satisfied morning-person glory, to look across the street and see a hooded figure meandering in the exact direction of my jog. At 6:15 in the morning. In 70 degree weather. Without a dog or any other sane reason for being outside at that hour.
Our eyes met from across the street—or at least I think they did, considering the huge dark hood blocking his face—and I can only imagine that my expression resembled that of a squirrel caught with a nut. “Oh hey! I wasn’t doing anything here! I’m clearly sleepwalking (err, jogging?) and didn’t mean to disturb you violating my neighborhood with your terrifying early-morning hooded sulk! Please, continue on your way to frighten other neighbors!”
I crept back inside as nonchalantly as one can in that situation, then did what anyone would do: watched him ramble down the street until a safe distance away, then ran to my car holding my keys like a weapon, locked my doors immediately and held my breath until I got to the gym.
An hour later, I come back from the gym having nearly forgotten about the whole thing, until I see him. Standing in front of my neighbor’s house. Trying to look nonchalant while admiring her rose bush. Up close. For 15 minutes straight.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be huddled inside the closet, posing for Webster’s.
It’s strange to think about your house belonging to someone else. I came home from work one day last week to greet a woman speaking with my older neighbor about growing up in my neighborhood. Her mother had passed away several days before, and feeling nostalgic, she decided to drive to her childhood home. She told us stories about the swingset that used to be in the backyard, and about her and her siblings stopping at the local flower shop on their way home from school to pick up discarded flowers to take home to their mom (isn’t that sweet?). It was fun to hear her reminisce and I couldn’t help but imagine what the neighborhood was like twenty years before I was even born. Just as I was thinking about what a lovely moment it was, and got ready to say my goodbye, the conversation turned toward my home.
You guys, my home used to be owned by a crazy lady!! The nostalgic vision I had of my neighborhood circa mid 1960s melted away as I listened in feigned disinterest (and internal horror) as this visitor joked with my neighbor about the previous owner, who apparently suffered from extreme paranoia and agoraphobia. She would stare out of the windows all day long, but never answer the door or come outside. One day, the kids were playing on the side of their yard—albeit across the fence—from where this supposed crazy lady kept her trash cans. Apparently paranoid that the eight-year-olds would go through her trash, the lady leaned out of her kitchen window—MY KITCHEN WINDOW!!—grabbed her trash cans, and pulled them back inside THROUGH THE WINDOW! Now, I’m all for admirable displays of one’s contortionist/gymnastic skills (and also for laziness when it comes to taking out the trash), but this really takes it to the next level.
In addition to leaning out of windows so as not to get paparazzi’d by oblivious children, the lady also refused to answer the door when my neighbors wanted to replace the fence adjoining their properties, leading my neighbor to seek approval from one of her family members. My neighbor’s (now deceased) husband tracked down the lady’s brother only to learn that her family hadn’t heard from her in decades and had no clue of her whereabouts, or her contortionist capabilities.
I have to admit that hearing this freaked me out a little bit. (I can’t help it, I’m dramatic about these types of things. When I was a kid my Dad bought a bunch of silverware from an estate sale and I absolutely REFUSED to eat from it because the person who last ate off of it was dead. I relentlessly referred to the cutlery as “death forks,” “death spoons” and “death knives” until everyone in the family was sufficiently freaked out and my mom threw the silverware away). It’s just strange to think about my happy little home as a kind of inescapable prison for someone who was obviously suffering. (I also now kind of wonder how far I could reach out of my kitchen window. Seriously, that lady had skills.) Do you guys know anything about who lived in your house before you? If you heard something bad, would it bother you? I’d love to hear. xo