Neighbors

Jacob Aiello

Jacob Aiello

If I happen to see you from across the street sitting on your front stoop crying, I won’t walk across the street to ask if you’re all right but will most likely watch you from inside my apartment, in front of the window, and speculate as to all the reasons you might be crying. I won’t ask if it has anything to do with one of your two children, or if it’s over a relationship with one of the three different men I’ve seen going into your apartment, though, if you were sitting on my stoop instead of your stoop I probably would say something. “Excuse me,” I’d probably say as I tried to get in my own front door because there’s really not enough room to comfortably walk by, and if you were sitting on my front stoop instead of yours that’d mean you were either in such a state of sorrow or confusion that you confused my front stoop for your own or were hoping to share in conversation why it was you were crying. But it’s not my stoop you’re sitting on. It’s yours, so I say nothing from inside my own apartment, which is what I probably would have said anyway.

Of course, it’s dusk and you have your head down in your hand and your long, curly yellow hair that reminds me of the French countryside surrounding your head, so I can’t really say for certain that you’re crying, but why else on Earth would someone be sitting out on their front stoop at dusk with their head in their hand if something really terrible hadn’t happened? Not because they like to watch the bats. Yes, it’s a nice evening so pleasant to enjoy outside on the stoop but not with a cigarette in your other hand when I’ve never seen you smoke before. Let me tell you something. Once or twice before, after something terrible has happened, I’ve stared at myself in the mirror, weeping uncontrollably, and for just a moment or two imagined myself split in two, with one part of me weeping uncontrollably and the other part of me looking at myself weeping uncontrollably and tell myself, “Look at yourself! You’re weeping uncontrollably!” And be both unable to stop it and unable to look away. So, maybe it’s like that with you. Only instead of a mirror there’s someone staring at you from inside their own apartment and that person is me.

Your apartment is a mirror of mine, across the street, with one bedroom nearest the boulevard to the north and a kitchen and dining nook facing you if you were in my apartment and me if I was in yours, next to what would be the living room with three large windows facing the opposite direction. I am right now sitting in a chair at the table in the dining room watching you. This is where I am. It’s an apartment that’s just the right size for me and my cat and my dog and my girlfriend. Though sometimes when I go into the bedroom and the dog’s on the bed and then the living room and my girlfriend’s on the couch and then the kitchen where the cat’s on the counter where he shouldn’t be, I have to go outside for some space and to smoke a cigarette and pretend that my arms are as far apart as they can be and swinging like a helicopter blade with nothing in my way. Is that what you’re doing? I wouldn’t hold it against you if it was. Your apartment is a mirror of mine that is just the right size for me but with two daughters and one of them nearing high school age and the other too big to not have her own bed, how is it you manage the space?

The bedroom, I know, belongs to your older daughter because I’ve seen the band posters on her walls. I bet you sleep on the couch in the living room. I bet it’s a futon couch. I bet you sleep on the futon couch every night just to give your daughter a door to slam, which is very noble, but what do you do when one of your three different men come over? And also, where does your younger daughter sleep? And also, all the lights in your apartment are off and where are your children now?

I can only imagine that you’re crying because either one of your two children is gone, one of your two children has said something to you about either you or their father, whom they may or may not share, that whether true or not makes you feel as if you’ve damaged them to such a point that you can very easily imagine either one making very poor choices at an age that’s especially unwelcoming to poor choices. Or they’re with their father. Or it has nothing to do with either them or their father and is about one of the three men I occasionally see going into your apartment, about an argument about either your two children or one of the other two men or nothing of the kind. Maybe what you’re crying about is having two children who may or may not be with their father and three different men who visit your apartment on occasion and despite all this company an apartment that is dark at dusk while you sit on your front stoop crying.

It could be about money. It could be about how expensive it is to raise two children even with, or especially without, the assistance of child support from their fathers. Or you were offered money by one of your three different men and are torn between feeling beholden and paying the rent. Have I exhausted all the reasons you might be crying? No. Not even close, though these are the most obvious reasons I think you would be sitting on your front stoop crying at dusk, which is to say the most obvious reasons for me to be sitting on your front stoop crying at dusk if I were you, which is an altogether entirely different thing and only encompasses the parameters of your life as I see them from outside my apartment window across the street.

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