Neighbors are a strange concept. We live in this spatial bubble with people who are virtually strangers — or if we are fortunate enough (depending on the circumstance), they are people that we know or have familiarity with. Either way, people that you know or may not know still harbor things that are deemed as private. From using a toothbrush to clean dishes, watching Hallmark marathons or having a love for something more promiscuous to the social norm like bondage. We all need privacy. So when neighbors breach that confidentiality, it’s always taken personally.
We all wish that we had the one neighbor that could bring us a chocolate cake (although the film industry has somehow made it fruitcake, which doesn’t taste good) and do the formal meet and greet. Most of the time, your first acquittance with them is them peeking over the wooden fence like Wilson W. Wilson from Home Improvement — except they lack the charm and advice to address with your life’s issues like that brilliant man. In my case, they liked calling the cops on me knowing my father was a police officer himself; sometimes he was even at home when the police arrived.
When I was a teenager, I wasn’t the best person, but I meant well. And getting the law enforcement involved was highly unnecessary. I posed no threat. Generally, being a police officer’s child can either go two ways — you’re either an exemplary child or you’re the worst kind of kid who reaps the benefits with a pompous attitude. I fell somewhere in between the two, now that I think about it. I was more on the class clown side of the spectrum. My neighbors, in our quiet suburban neighborhood, assumed that I was a bad child, all day, every day.
I’ll call them Richard, Todd, and lastly Julia — whom I never saw in the five years that I lived there. My friends and I theorized she wasn’t real, but my father assured us that she was — we still don’t believe him. Todd was the middle-aged son. We assumed he took care of them. They were reticent people besides when they were screaming at each other over prescriptions, rent, bills, and more. These shouting matches were at least once a week, and extremely long, and loud. They never adequately introduced themselves, which I didn’t mind. I caught their names when they had a shouting match outside. I would grab my popcorn and listen from a distance. Late in the evening, I would ride my bicycle around a small plaza nearby so that I could rid myself of the evening’s teenage angst. There were several nights when I felt like someone was watching me. I would see an orange glow coming off a cigarette behind their screened in porch. It was Todd, creeping. It was unsettling.
One Saturday in the middle of the summer, I decided to make my friends laugh by taking a shower in our front yard. I had my shampoo and body wash laying on the driveway as I scrub-a-dubbed. It was strange behavior, sure. But I had a bathing suit on and I was a kid minding my own business. Guess who called the cops? Richard, Todd, and Julia. Police were called on several occasions by the overzealous trio.
The last encounter that I had with Richard, Todd, and Julia, the cops weren’t called. My Father and I were moving to an apartment down the street, and I decided to have a going-away party. The party began after my father left for work. We snuck in some contraband, set-up a beer pong table, and put on some bad music from the late 2000s. The environment was tame; I was proud of myself despite being duplicitous to my father. I eventually fessed up. Then, there was a pounding at the door.
It was Todd. He was fiery red, wearing a blue dress shirt, khakis, and white tennis shoes. I was slightly buzzed, mostly because I wanted to keep my composure in case something like this would happen. I asked everyone to quiet down before opening the screen door. Todd lost it. It was at that moment that I realized it was mostly his voice that I’d overheard during their screaming matches. He began screaming at me about how terrible of a neighbor I had been, that it was too much to handle for his parents and him. He ended it by calling me a “juvenile delinquent.” I braced to defend myself because he was spitting in my face.
A man in his 40’s losing his temper on a 17-year-old didn’t embarrass me, but I did extract a petty form of revenge. I took advantage of being a cop’s son. So, I told everyone to be loud. I accidentally broke a window. A classmate of mine fell into a pothole in my backyard. Some strangers showed up. But everyone was safe. And they didn’t call the cops, probably after the entire party witnessed Todd threats at the door. The new me would strongly dislike old me, sure. But I wouldn’t be so bored to watch my every move like Richard, Todd, and Julia. They called the cops the next day — and to their dismay, I was eating breakfast pizza with my cat.