Neighbors at Night

My place in the moonlight
I drove to East Marion from the city in the dark tonight, slowing down for the last forty-five minutes through farmland and past vineyards, to keep from hitting deer and rabbits. I’m used to pulling into the long driveway and stopping in front of a dead-dark ultra-modern house (my landlords’ beautiful renovated army barracks), the shades drawn, the night overwhelming. I keep my car lights on then, and get out and walk up the two steps to where there’s an outdoor-light switch. I turn it on, and then I go back to my car, turn it off, and walk, always slightly spooked, along the dimly lit brick walkway, toward the steep wooden stairs that lead home.

Tonight, though, my landlords’ place was fully lit, the shades up. I could see the painter, Kes, at his dining room table, reading. I didn’t see Jerry. I always feel happy when they’re here (they were hardly here all winter), though during the day they play NPR too loud, and they have many screaming fights. Really, I don’t know any couple anymore that doesn’t fight. It seems to be the way of it.

To be alive is the thing. To be around human life, even if it’s downstairs in another house, is a party all in itself. Lamplight from a neighbor who knows you exist is a hootennany.

When I was little, I loved to lie in bed and fall asleep to the sounds of my parents playing cards with their friends: the thrum of the shuffle, the ting of the bridge mix against the bowl, the quiet of grownups thinking.

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