29.5.09

Neighbor Story

Smith Magazine has a section called What's Your Next-Door Neighbor Story. I like to read the submissions a lot and it made me think about the various neighbors I've had in my life - and I've had a lot.

This is my neighbor story:

In my apartment in San Francisco, my only window looked out across an alley where I watched a woman put on her makeup at the kitchen table every morning and saw a man ironing in the evening. I didn’t gawk or anything, but when it’s your only window, you look at what you look at.

One evening, the man waved across the alley. I waved back. The next morning, the woman waved. I waved back. This became a little ritual, our waving across the alley when we saw each other.

After I lived there for about 6 months, and had been waving at my neighbors for almost the same amount of time, the man yelled over to me, “Hey!”

I was surprised, but I yelled back, “Hey!”

“Do you think you could throw a couple of eggs over here?”

I guessed that the distance between the buildings wasn’t more than 20 feet. I said, “I’ll give it a shot.”

I got my carton of eggs out, popped the screen out, and opened the window all the way. I leaned out as far as I could. He leaned out, too. I tossed the first one wide and it fell five stories to the alley floor. I tossed the next one perfectly into his hand. The third was a near miss. I threw it pretty well, but he couldn’t get a grip and that one went down, too. But the fourth made it safely into his hands again. The whole operation had been carried out in silence – maybe because we were both concentrating pretty hard. When he caught the second surviving egg, he yelled, “Thanks! I owe you 4 eggs!” I leaned back inside and closed the window most of the way and went about my evening.

A couple of days later, the woman motioned for me to open the window. I did and when she yelled, “I have your eggs,” I realized that my neighbor was a transvestite. What I’d thought had been two people was one person. I never encountered my neighbor anywhere but across the alley. I never even knew his name. But we continued to wave for the rest of the time I lived there, although the egg-toss was never repeated.

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