I live in a strange neighborhood. I engage in running narratives about my neighbors stemming from my over-active imagination and my lack of social life coupled with my tendency to snoop and their odd behavior.
Brian, let’s call him, is the man I sometimes refer to as Creepy Neighbor Number Two. For a long time I suspected that Creepy Neighbor One might be a serial killer, but I digress . . .
Brian is more odd than creepy. I found it suspect that he and his wife, let’s call her Nancy, had a baby that we rarely saw, nor did we see evidence of said baby. On the couple of times when I saw either Brian or Nancy with the baby, they didn’t seem to know what to do with him. On one very cold day they had the baby in the stroller at the grocery store. He had on a hat and jacket, but nothing on his feet. Nothing at all. I hoped they’d get him home soon. Then other times, for weeks at a time, the couple would hold weekly yard sales, selling antiques, and though both were home, the baby was not.
When I was in the midst of exterior renovations and landscaping, Brian used to walk behind my home at least once a day, say hello and sometimes chat. He was painfully thin, with short-cropped hair, had bad knees and sometimes walked with a cane. Brian was always friendly and gregarious. I admit I’d go in the house when I saw him out and about. He made me uncomfortable.
But then, he was gone.
After Brian dropped off the face of the earth, I’d seen his wife Nancy from time to time, but not the baby. One fine afternoon she was walking a seriously drunk and belligerent friend home. On another occasion my kids witnessed her having a heated argument with a guy on a bicycle in the alley behind my house. My kids thought it was a drug deal gone wrong. Clearly, they’ve inherited their mother’s tendency to fill in the blanks. The last time I saw Nancy was at a convenience store — she didn’t acknowledge me and was very jumpy and very, very thin.
Drugs, it had to be drugs. Plus, she had no baby with her.
Then in the Spring Brian reappeared in the neighborhood after having been gone for at least a year. His appearance had changed. At first I didn’t recognize him. His hair is much longer and he’s put on a few pounds. He seemed healthier, had no cane and often was on a bicycle. Plus, he’d taken to going shirtless — most of the time. He is not cut. I mean, on a beach or in his yard this would have been fine, but every day walking or biking around the neighborhood?
On Friday evening Brian knocked on my door and invited me to his home for Saturday night. He wanted to cook me dinner.
“Hi Diane. How are you?”
“Good, It’s Roxanne.”
“Oh all this time I thought it was Diane.”
“Well, I have the house fixed up and I wondered if you wanted to come over for dinner tomorrow night, I’ll cook for you.”
“Oh wow, tomorrow? I don’t think so, not tomorrow.”
Awkward silence, which I then felt compelled to fill, bad Roxanne, bad Roxanne.
And I added,
“I’ve had a rough week . . . and plus I have plans with friends that may or may not happen.”
“Oh, well, if you’d like to come another time, just let me know.”
“Okay, I’m glad you’ve got the house together.”
“Yes, well, it’s coming along.”
“Okay, well, see you later.”
Ouch, right? Why didn’t I say yes? Did I actually have plans?
Well, I had plans with old college friends I rarely see that were never confirmed so no, no real plans. It is true that I’d had a hellish week and didn’t want to have dinner with him — or anyone else.
But let me paint a picture. Three of my kids were standing or milling about behind me and heard the whole conversation. I was mortified. He saw that the kids were there and asked anyway. The invitation did not include the children. It was painfully awkward. Plus, the kids knew that I had been avoiding this guy and that while I don’t think he’s a bad or menacing guy, I do think he’s strange. If I’d said yes, they would know either that I was lying about not liking him, or that I agreed to have a date with him out of pity. Not good either way.
And to be fair, I’ll admit that I knew the invitation would be forthcoming. He’d told me weeks earlier that once he got his house fixed up (his wife had trashed it) he would have me over for dinner and tell me all of the horrific things that have happened to him. In true overly polite and dating challenged Roxanne fashion, I’d said, “Sure,” thinking, hoping it would never happen.
Should it ever become a reality, I had decided that I would not accept his dinner invitation.
Still, when Brian made a followup dinner suggestion more recently I’d given him the classic girl response,
He had not been dissuaded, however.
So this time, I just wanted to say, “No.”
Though I’m single and I need more purely social interaction with adults, I don’t have to date the guys that walk by my house, just because they ask.
Plus, he’d previously turned me off by saying stupid things, like;
“We should get together sometime. Wait, how old are you?”
Dude, no, seriously?
And repeating the same statements to me. “Did you know you can get free mulch?“
One week later: “Did you know you can get free mulch?“
Another week later: “Did you know you can get free mulch?“
And he’d stopped by to chat on one of his walks, reeking of liquor. He’d done the same with the workers at my house, reeking of liquor. Though this was before the disappearance.
More recently he knocked on the door and asked to borrow DVDs from my son, though we had never had a previous conversation about sharing movies.
Just the other day he waved at my house even though no one was outside.
He’s just not quite right.
Call me shallow, but these are red flags to me.
People can get down on their luck, I know I am. But my instincts told me to say no.
And let me add more color and texture to the picture I’ve painted. The last time I had a conversation with Brian he confirmed some of my suspicions, telling me that his estranged wife is indeed a drug addict– a coke-head actually, and she’s crazy, that his child is in foster care (hence no evidence of a baby), that he’d been in prison for the last year for trespassing on his own property. Ahhh this is why he’s been, as the lawyers at the firm used to say, “out-of-pocket.” But for trespassing? Really? Now, given my experience with my own War of The Roses situation, I know that absent physical abuse or a restraining order one cannot be arrested for being on a property that one owns jointly with a spouse. So it must have been something else, or there was indeed a restraining order against him, which opens another can of worms. Brian also told me he used to make a lot of money in computers but is now unemployed and that Nancy and her mother had scammed him out of everything he had, including his unemployment checks. He also offered that he had recently called the police to have his wife removed from the house when she showed up uninvited. This information did not make me want to pass a pleasant evening at his home.
What if his drug addict wife showed up again?
Yet, even given all that, Brian seems like an “okay” guy, and it sounds like he’s trying to get his life together. If he has an addiction of some sort, it’s always a good sign when a person puts on weight. Truthfully, I’d been worried about the baby and was relieved to hear that the child has been removed and is in a safe, temporary home. But I didn’t want to hear any more of his stories, not over dinner alone at his house.
Maybe he needs someone to talk to and is reaching out, but he has always made me uncomfortable. Plus, I just wasn’t in the mood. Thanks to some of my own problems, I probably wouldn’t have dated any of People’s Sexiest Men Alive last weekend. So the usually shirtless Ex-Con didn’t have much of a chance.
I wanted to be alone, truly.
Still, when I refused him, he looked so sad I and I felt guilty. I hadn’t meant to hurt him.
It’s okay to say, no, though. It is. I don’t have to date the guys who walk behind my house unless I really want to. This I know.
Just Me With . . . no date on a Saturday night. And that’s okay.
Damn, this is an unusually long post that I apparently needed to write to convince myself that it was okay to say a very short word, “No.”