Somehow I now live in a neighborhood where the man next door is perfectly okay with hanging a sign from his rented eaves. PSYCHIC SERVICES, the sign declares–bold white on not-so-bold, pretty or eye-catching puce–followed by a phone number. When I first saw the sign I muttered: No. No, no, no. No. It was as if a university marching band had taken over a cute, hushed library. My husband and I have owned our home for six years. We live in suburbia, on a leafy street where families stroll regularly and dogs are walked religiously. PSYCHIC SERVICES. No.
When we phoned the landlord–our former neighbor, he had lived in the house next door for over 28 years before relocating to a nearby, more upscale ‘hood–he was shocked. WHAT!!!! he exploded, and what has followed are refusals and outlandish behavior on the part of his tenant and a note with the month’s rent promising a ‘gypsy curse’ on anyone attempting to cash the rent check, you know, basic craziness, right next door to us, right next door.
One critical day I pulled into my driveway, brows pinched from noticing that the neighbor had removed the sign from the eaves and hung it instead on a tall, out-of-date bus/van-like vehicle that was suddenly in front of that house. As I got out of my car, the man, marching around the front lawn with his wife and child, was shouting: SHE HASN’T SEEN ANYTHING YET! THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING! I told my son to stay in the minivan, stuck my head around the hedge and asked the man to please stop shouting and just take the sign down and make the bus go away.
My bad. He could have been drunk, or worse.
He told me with rabid certainty that he would never take the sign down, that he would ‘report’ me for harassment and file a restraining order against me. He told me that putting the sign on the bus was my fault because I didn’t ask him nicely to take the sign down from the eaves in the first place, but went straight to the landlord (actually the landlord did not tell the man that my husband and I complained—nor were we the only neighbors complaining—but the man felt confident enough to accuse me). His tiny wife, so very tiny, stood behind him, silent and nodding aggressively. The man held his cooing pre-toddler as he berated me for ruining his life. I told the man that if he or his wife were actually psychic they would have known they would upset the neighborhood, wouldn’t they? I told him this silently because, as I said, if he really was psychic he would get the message all over my face. I did tell him outright that if he shouted at me again, I was calling the police. I told him to ‘knock it off’ and left that strange couple and focused on my son and our after-school routine.
That evening, when my husband returned from work, he went next door and ordered the man to never, ever, under any circumstances speak to me again. My husband can be damn sexy. He shouldn’t have gone next door because the man could have been drunk, or worse, but he did and held a tape recorder up as he spoke to the man. My husband said: I am taping this conversation. He said: I am letting you know that you are not to speak to my wife again. The man objected and tried to hurl accusations, but my husband cut him off. I said (my husband said with great calm, the kind that demands attention because it is reason in the face of madness, at least that’s what I gleaned from the tape recording), do not ever, EVER speak to my wife again. Have I made myself perfectly clear? The man backed down and my husband returned home. The man has never spoken to me again.
The man has taken the sign off the bus. The sign, it’s tummy-curdling puce, is gone.
The bus, however, has moved onto the lawn, along with a small, turquoise, topless jeep. An old pickup truck the man is constantly trying to start is in the driveway. He has cut down the landlord’s fruit trees for reasons unknown, claimed to have slipped and hurt himself on the back patio and that because of that shouldn’t have to pay rent, continues to pen ‘gypsy curses’ and I have no idea when we’ll be rid of him and no idea if his wife will ever wake up and protect their child, but I do know that the man has a history of violence towards women and perhaps that’s why he thought he could yell at me. I know he has this history because I discovered I know people who know people who perform background checks on people for people they know who are worried, or worse. I only wish the landlord had performed such a check. Hopefully the man will be gone by the end of the month. The landlord tells us this is the plan. If not—we will be calling Building & Safety to file complaints about the growing automobile collection next door. How do I know this to be true? I’m sssssssseyekick, baby.
I’m writing this partly to tattle and mostly because the experience with the neighbor has given me a short story idea and posting about gypsy curses and such helps write that story. I am writing this because I want you to know, because I didn’t, that even this deep in suburbia, so deep palominos are occasionally trotted down the street, shit happens.
Happy new year. I predict it will only get better. How can I make such a prediction so confidently?