Neighbor

My neighbors across the street moved out. They were old. They moved to a new single-story home they were having built so Jerry, the husband, could get around easier.

New people moved into Jerry’s old house. I’d seen a woman and man in their thirties coming and going for a while. Then, they finally moved in. I see the guy outside sometimes. He’s thin and dresses like a working class kind of guy. He’s always smoking. When we see each other, we wave. He told me his name is Travis. Sometimes I see Travis working on his car. Sometimes I see Travis out there playing ball with a kid.

I’m older than Travis. I’m fifty. But I’ve looked over there and seen blue collar Travis with that house, a decent looking woman and a kid running around and I’ve thought, “Maybe Travis has his shit together.”

I’ve thought maybe Travis has his shit together. Travis with his woman. A kid. His cigarettes. His house with a pool. Travis with some blue collar skills that got him all those things. I’ve thought maybe Travis has his shit together. Maybe better than me sitting over here all alone with some degrees, a decent job and little else but these goddamned words that go nowhere.

So, yeah, I’ve looked over there and wondered about Travis. I’ve wondered if some day he might come across the street and offer me a cigarette and I’d offer him a beer. Or maybe he’d invite me across the street to have a cigarette and a beer with him while we sit by his pool.

This is the stuff I’ve thought about Travis. Until today. Today I was sitting on my steps having a beer. Travis’ garage door opened and out came Travis. He didn’t see me sitting across the street on my steps. I was gonna wave, but he didn’t see me. He wobbled down his driveway and out to his mailbox. He got something out of it and started dancing right there in his yard. He kept dropping his mail and cursing. He’d bend over to pick up the mail, then have a real hard time standing back up. He was utterly fucked up on something. He went back in his garage and leaned up against his car and began groaning. I could hear it all the way across the street. He stumbled in and out of the garage a few more times and almost fell on the concrete. I was afraid he was gonna fall and smash his head or weave and wobble down his driveway and into traffic. I went back inside and watched through the window. I saw him take a stool out of the garage and put it in the driveway, just to take it immediately back inside. I watched him get in his car, then get out and crawl underneath it. He was acting spastic and erratic and agitated. Thankfully, he hadn’t seen me sitting there across the street, seeing him as fucked up as he was on whatever he was that fucked up on.

A few minutes later, Travis got in his car, pulled out of his garage and drove off down the street.

Now, as I’m sitting here at home, alone, with nothing but these words, I’m not comparing myself to Travis. It’s not a moral judgement. Lord knows I’ve been fucked up too, so I know what it’s like.

I’ve decided from now on I’ll try to be satisfied with what I got, even though Travis has his woman and the kid and a pool and his cigarettes.

Now, when I see Travis with his garage door open, I imagine I’ll stay inside with beer. But if I’m out mowing the grass or fetching the mail and I catch Travis out there working on his car or tossing ball with the kid, I’ll still wave.

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