Across the Street

Across the street is a single-level apartment complex. Complex is the wrong word. It is a handful of apartments that overlook a courtyard with a pool in which no one ever swims. It is almost cute from the outside, in all its pink stucco. Cute, that is, until four police cars swarmed the place one afternoon a few weeks ago while I was walking the dog. I watched as the officers hid behind lamp posts and and palm tree trunks, sweaty and awkward in their bullet proof vests, while I was in full view, wearing shorts and a T-shirt and flip flops, of whomever they were trying to shield themselves from.

Across the street is a bungalow that was on the market since I moved here ten months ago. It sold a few weeks ago, just like that, for $300-thousand something. I personally think the buyer got some kind of bargain, even if it is in a South Florida market that is ruled by foreclosures. Because I live in a neighborhood that is already seeing the beginning of a recovery in real estate, barely. Because I know from real estate, and my neighborhood will be among the first of the neighborhoods to recover, because I always pick THAT neighborhood in which to live. Yep, the bottom has hit, at least here, across the street. Too bad I am renting a stupid apartment from an even stupider landlord, across the street from another house on the market, a house that I actually covet.

Across the street, I watch the new buyer of the bungalow visit the renovation project every day. She is preppy thin and wears Lily Pulitzer outfits every day. She has bobbed, straight gray hair that screams, “I will never be colored because I won’t do that!” She would be invisible in Naples, because she would look like so many, at least in my stereotype view of Naples, a place I have never visited. I notice her every day, across the street. And I wonder, where is her husband. Surely, there is a husband. Right?

Across the street from the bungalow under renovation is a white stucco rental house with purple trim and a sizable lawn that is overgrown with weeds. A white minivan often pulls into the driveway of this rental house, and in the minivan is often a little girl–five years old, if a day–who hops out, every day, across the street. Some days she is happy and skipping and running to fill her arms with the dirty, matted white poodle that greets her from the open door of the rental house. Most days, however, I watch her wrap her feelings in her arms that she wraps around herself, shielding herself, hiding herself, from her father who screams at her mother, “Are you f—ing drunk again? Are you? F— you! You have a five-year-old! Do you even give a shit?”

Across the street from the bungalow under renovation, I walk right past this five-year-old every day. And every day I watch her expression as her angry father curses at her alcoholic mother–in person or on the phone–and I watch her trail her hand along the bushes in front of her rental house across the street from the bungalow under renovation, lost in a world that takes her away from her real world. Just once, maybe tomorrow, I want to ask her if she’d like to pet the soft head and cheeks of my sweet dog. Then maybe I will worry less and be more hopeful about this five-year-old. Maybe the brief contact with my magical pup will allow her to survive her nightmare existence in the rental house that is across the street from the bungalow that signals the beginning of the end of the depressing housing market in South Florida.

Across the street is a sophisticated, older woman who never ceases to invite me to impromptu brunches, pool-side cocktails, and all the rest that goes along with a designer-calibre bungalow that is a bungalow no longer, but rather a designer show house. I decline every week, because I have to work. The older woman does not understand my restaurant hours. She thinks I simply do not want to socialize with her and her friends. I cannot convince her that actually, I just have to work.

Across the street, I fully expect to see several of my neighbors walk through the front door of my restaurant. When they do, I will be gracious. I hope they will be, too, when they see me at work.

I hope the bad guys were caught across the street. I hope the renovation goes well across the street. I hope against hope that the little girl who lives in the rental house across the street feels my willed gift of strength to grow up strong and well, despite all the crap that swirls around her.

I don’t really care if my neighbor across the street calls me again. I don’t really care about the police action or how the renovation unfolds across the street. But please, someone–anyone–hear my prayer for the five-year-old who lives across the street. She needs all of those prayers. She needs all of us. Even this girl who walks her dog, across the street.






11 responses to “Across the Street”

  1. Michael Avatar

    I will say a prayer for this little girl. The fifty times I pray these words tomorrow, I will be praying for her:

    Heilige Maria, Mutter Gottes, bitte für uns Sünder jetzt

  2. Krista Avatar

    Long time reader, first time poster…Just a beautiful post, written so well….Well enough that it made me have tears with my coffee this morning and then go hug my two and three year old years.

    Thank you

  3. JoeInVegas Avatar

    Such a variety of things in your neighborhood, and you did notice the little girl. I hope that she likes your dog (well, how couldn’t she?)

  4. Augs Avatar

    Amen….well said

  5. mur Avatar

    RG, I don’t know why I feel compelled to say this, but don’t hesitate to alert the authorities about this precious child. Use your own good judgment about if or when to call. I don’t want her to be in the car driven by a drunken parent, or in the line of fire if her father’s anger spills over into an unthinkable act. Your compassion to notice this little child and your common sense about when to act may be the answer to the prayer she’s already said.

  6. Lauren Avatar

    I lived in Naples, FL. No one is like that there. If they’re skinny and preppy, they color their hair and lots of botox. If they have gray hair, they’d be 90 years old. Trust me on that one.

  7. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Michael–Thank you, so much.

    Krista–I had no idea what I was going to write as I sat down to compose this post. Then I cried as I wrote it, knowing how sad this story really is.

    JoeinVegas–I will never forget the pain in her eyes when she looked at me and my dog, but was really looking so far past me. It will disturb me forever.

    Augs–Amen, indeed. At least, let’s hope so.

    mur–I will, I promise, when I know I should. It is so hard to tell, right now, because this girl and her dad clearly spend more time together than she and her mom. And she is always “happy” with him when he is not screaming at the mom. God, what a mess. But, I am not letting her go it alone, even if she never knows me, that I promise.

    Lauren–See, I just have this vision of preppy Bethesda, MD relocated to Naples, because I know of so many who have relocated there. Botox and yellow hair? That’s here on the East Coast side of SoFla!!! Okay, I guess it is there, too. I stand corrected. 🙂

  8. Kim Ayres Avatar

    Beautifully written and you should definitely try and record it for The Storytellers Blog. If you can pick up a cheap microphone to plug into your computer, you can download “Audacity” from the internet which is a good, free, recording programme. I can give you more instruction via email if you want. I would love to hear some of your stories read out loud.

  9. A Texas Fan Avatar
    A Texas Fan

    RG, you continue to be write beautifully and are so kind to share that with the world.

  10. maureen Avatar

    I will say a prayer for the little girl & her mother & father . growing up in a hhome with an alcoholic who is now reformed gives me faith that they can all be helped

  11. Hannah Avatar

    Another prayer added. God bless you, too.