He throws a half full bottle of beer into the street. His partner throws a plastic cup into the fence. He yells. So does he. For a half second a tense silence shimmers in the dank humid air, then they notice the girl next door, across the street, who sits on her front porch. In that half second they watch her sipping wine and slowly rocking in her cute white rocking chair that needs painting, but why bother when you live in this climate. When they see tears reflecting on her cheeks because the bug light on her front porch is too bright, they mumble something to each other and go inside.
“Is the music too loud?” asks the man next door. “I can turn it down, just tell me.”
“No, it’s fine. Really,” she says to the man next door, whose house is mere inches from hers, knowing that at any other moment in her life she would be grateful to have such a considerate neighbor. She wipes her tears and does her best not to sniffle as she says this and is grateful a sheer panel of bamboo separates her from him and the too bright bug light.
His 80s music blares on and on, and she wishes he would turn it up loud enough to make it impossible for her to hear her thoughts.
Her phone chimes. Her phone rings. She ignores it all. She is alone in a place she didn’t choose, but that somehow chose her. She is alone when she and her great guy agreed, no vowed, she wouldn’t be. Because who wouldn’t want to be in paradise?
She found work the minute she looked for it. He didn’t, although he still looks. When he is here. But now he is back where they met because that is where the work is for him, and after his work he goes to the places they used to go, sees the friends she left behind, texting her as he does this, telling her he loves her and all will work out.
And so she is alone once again in a new town, knowing no one, struggling to learn a new job that she knows she will quickly get but resents the learning curve to get there, as she wills her dog to finally take a crap in a town in which grassy spots are virtually nonexistent and tries to figure out who the crazy people are in her ‘hood vs. the truly scary ones. All as she berates herself for choosing this, for doing this. Because she did, after all, agree to it all.
Besides, the job is one hell of a resume-builder. Of course, that she needs a resume-builder makes her cry a little harder. Again.
“All of this is your own doing,” she scolds herself after she calls her beautiful and supportive children to tell them all is so much better and so great, so they don’t worry. Even as it is so not great. Even as she wonders what job she could get in either of their home towns. She misses them so much. And so the tears fall again.
Her phone rings. The text message signal chimes. She ignores them all. She cannot talk to him. Because he will leave there to come here in a second. And then he will resent her because she is working and he is not. And in this economy, when everyone thinks they can trade in a white collar to be a bartender or server in a town that is so closed you had better be related to the GM’s best friend from up north whom he hasn’t seen in years, she gauges the resentment potential and deems it unacceptable. After all, he has a life beyond hers, bills of his own, and really, does he even know her?
A couple walks their mixed-breed in front of her white picket fence. Her dog lunges after theirs.
“You live here?” the girl asks, holding her big dog back from the girl’s small one.
“It’s been empty for so long,” says her boyfriend. “Nice to see someone here! We live just over there, almost next door.”
The girl smiles as she decides not to care about her puffy eyes.
“I just moved in,” says the girl. “But it’s probably just short-term.”
“Oh, well, nice to meet you. Cute dog!” says the girl who is still wrestling with the mixed-breed.
The girl knows they are just being friendly and polite to the girl next door. To the girl who says she just moved here, who says this is now home, who tells everyone the job is great, who says she loves her great guy who isn’t here, who knows she will catch on to the new job in short order, who just, for once, would like to say, “I surrender. I’m done.” And then call it a day as the girl who is always next door.