Neighbors.  I’ve got ‘em, and chances are, so do you.  If they’re anything like what I’ve got on my block, they come in all shapes and sizes, makes and models.  One might tickle your funny bone, another one might help fix your truck---again, and yet another one might just totally ignore your existence.  This is about that fateful night one month ago when the actions of one of my neighbors forever changed how I view my block on the neighborhood. 

Let’s start with The Guy With The Boxers, so christened because he has 2 purebred Boxer dogs. We sometimes take our Boxer over to play with his Boxers, like a play date for dogs.  He’s in his 60’s, really friendly, always waving and saying hello, and almost every year on October 31st, him and his wife throw a Halloween party.  We’ve always been invited, but with having two children to take trick-or-treating that night, we have yet to make it there.  

Next to him, we’ve got The Old Lady Across The Street.  She was like 110 when we moved into the neighborhood, and by God, she’s STILL 110.  She very rarely leaves her house.  She has her groceries delivered, the public library bookmobile stops in front of her house, she has a beautician that comes to her house to cut her hair, and her 70 year old daughter runs errands for her.  She’s really stuck-up, hates kids, and generally ignores and/or hates everyone on the block.  I have this mental image of her watching everyone through her front window, flipping the bird to all of us, and saying, “Fuck you, fuck you, and fuck you too!” 

Then we have the Jehovahs On The Corner, who reside in the corner lot diagonally from us.  I’ve only meet Mrs. Jehovah, but she’s really nice, and though she keeps an eye on the neighborhood shenanigans, she usually just keeps it to herself..   She also has the BEST gardens in the entire neighborhood, with well-tended flowers of every shape, size, and color imaginable.  They COULD be that mythical “Perfect Neighbor”, except that one evening a week, they hold some sort of meeting there, for their religion, and, judging by the massive amount of automobiles that park up and down the street on that night, apparently NONE of them have any regard for the words “car pool”.  On those nights, if my car isn’t parked in my driveway by 6:30, it WON’T be parked there until after 10:00 p.m., when the person who has blocked or parked THEIR car in MY driveway finally says his/her last Yahweh and drives home. Note to all:  Just because someone’s driveway appears unoccupied that does NOT make it fair game.  Parking YOUR car in MY driveway is not a right, nor is it a privilege.   Neither is blocking it off.  Go the hell around the block a few more times until one of the OTHER neighbors leave so you can block THEIR driveway.  Or better yet, YOU park 3 blocks up the street and huff’n’puff it on your own two feet, and leave my damn driveway ALONE.  Bitter much?  You bet. 

In the other corner lot, across the street from the Jehovahs On The Corner, is Jolene On The Corner.  Jolene is in her early 50’s and is very friendly.  She drinks enough to keep herself in that constant state of being just a teensy bit pickled, but never hammered.  Her two grandchildren come every year to spend the summer with her, which my children absolutely adore since they get kinda lonesome sometimes being the only kids on the block. 

Between Jolene On The Corner and us, is Merle and Iris, who have earned the dubious honor of being The Crabby Neighbors.  They’re old, and I suppose, at their age, they have earned the right to be crabby.  But there’s age-earned crabby, and then there’s I-hate-everyone-and-everything-younger-than-me crabby, and unfortunately, they fall into the second category.  Most of you might recognize a couple of the same type in your own neighborhood.  Any of these sound familiar: 

?         They hate our kids because “children should be seen, not heard” and when they’re playing outside at 4 in the afternoon, they make NOISE!  Can you believe the AUDACITY of my 4- and 9-year old?  LAUGHING and PLAYING in the middle of the afternoon?!  PREPOSTEROUS!!  What’s next---shootin’ H and wild orgies??…PUH-LEEZE…

?         They hate our cats because during the warmer months, they make it a point to piss in one of her backyard flower beds---along with the 100 OTHER neighborhood cats.  Mrs. Crabby even put down rat poison a couple years ago, thinking it would keep the cats out of there.  Pfft!!  Not my boy.  Ozzy just kept on jumping that fence and going back to it, like it was some kind of high-quality kitty crank.  So what if he lost weight, his hair came out in chunks, he peed orange, and he was twitchy all the time?  Merely a small price to pay for the luxury of peeing on forbidden ground.

?         They REALLY hate our dog, because -*gasp*- she barks!  I ask you all:  What is this world coming to??  Dogs barking, cats jumping fences, children laughing…why it’s enough to make someone sick…eyes rolling.  You know, I fully admit:  Our dog does bark--when someone unfamiliar walks by or if she senses a threat.  But that’s what dogs are SUPPOSED to do---SERVE and PROTECT.  In his latest attempts at getting her to stop barking, Mr. Crabby has taken to throwing golf and tennis balls at her.  What a dumbass.  First off, like throwing something at a dog is going to make them shut up??  That makes about as much sense as hitting a newborn to get it to stop crying!!  DERR!!  Secondly, my dog just thinks it’s GO time…“OH, BOY!!  Time to play!! OH, BOY!!  Do it again!!!  OH, BOY!!”…  All Mr. Crabby accomplishes is getting Chessie excited and happy, leaping all over the yard like she’s on puppy uppers, trying to catch all the balls.  Our back yard is an unofficial graveyard of slobbered-on Wilsons and Pinnacles, and yet, WE get shit because my cat took a whiz on some pansies??

?         They hate Ruben because he smokes, and during the summer, he does it outside.  The smoke drifts into their yard and apparently causes Mrs. Crabby---who is INSIDE her house, mind you---to have “the vapors”.

?         They hate me because I haven’t duck taped my children’s’ mouths or locked them inside the house 24/7, I haven’t chained my cats to a tree or put up an electrical fence to prevent soggy flowers, I haven’t sliced my dog’s throat open and removed her bark, and I haven’t nagged Ruben into giving up those 4 cigarettes a day.  Damn me.  Damn me to hell. 

ANYHOO…moving on…Next, we’ve got the neighbor on the other side of us, The Nice Lady Next To Us.  She’s almost the antithesis of The Old Lady Across The Street; polar opposites in everything---except that they’re both really old.  The Nice Lady Next To Us is forever talking to us over the fence, complimenting us on how well-behaved our kids are, talking about what a great dog Chessie is, feeding our cats scraps, and in general, is just such a nice person.  She’s always saying how she likes that we moved in because “it’s nice having a young family in the neighborhood again.”  When I grow up, I don’t want to be a Mrs. Crabby;  I want to be a The Nice Lady Next To Us. 

Finally, we come to the house directly across the street from us.  It’s an older house, a rental, slightly dilapidated, but livable.  SSince we moved in, we’ve seen 6 different occupants come and go, and each of them had their own monikers:  The Nice, But Odd Lady, Britny and Eric’s Dad, The Psycho Neighbor, The College Kiddies, The Chink Neighbors With All Those Yappy Dogs, and the last occupants, The Hippie Neighbors, who lived there about a year and a half.

The Hippie Neighbors, Mike and Deb, were so named because they smoked a lot of weed and drove a very hippied-out VW wagon. They were friendly, always very respectful of all the neighbors, glad to lend a hand or do you a favor, but at the same time weren’t exactly what you might call Orthodox Americana.  Their physical appearance never gave them a fighting chance with The Crabby Neighbors, and tended to mislead most who wouldn’t see past it---she sported some pretty serious dreds to her mid-back, and he had a huge band tattooed around his neck AND his left ear was gauged out to a massive 1 Ľ inches.  They were girlfriend/boyfriend living together, both in their mid-twenties, and they had 5 dogs, which were their babies.  She worked various “hair net and name tag” jobs, and he worked as a laborer for a roofing company that was continually promising to pay him, but very rarely ever did.  But, as long as they had money for weed, rent, food, food for their dogs, and whatever else caught their fancy, in that order, they were happy.  When the weather was warm at nights, and they saw Rube and/or I outside sitting or smoking, they sometimes came over and shot the bull with us, lit some bottle rockets off, etc…  We knew them well enough to know first names, pets they had, what kind of work they did, where they were from, but not so well that we knew their last names. 

When I heard The Hippie Neighbors fighting off and on for about a week, I was concerned, but not particularly worried, since I’d heard them argue before, and it never got really ugly or anything.  Rube was out smoking a cig one of those nights (you know, for the sole purpose of giving Mrs. Crabby “the vapors”) and Mike came over.  He told us that he had quit his job a few days ago, because his boss hadn’t been paying him again, and he had gotten tired of it.  He said that he and Deb had been arguing a little lately because they were worried about paying for weed, rent, food, etc…  Rube and I figured that it would all blow over in a couple days, as they usually had a way of “landing on their feet” and finding some money somewhere. 

A couple days passed by after that night, with not much activity going on over at Casa de Hippies, no one going to work or coming home.  We saw Mike outside once, tooling around with his bike as he was apt to do, messing with his chain for the 23rd time, and that was about it.  Then came THE night. 

I’ve lived here for almost 7 years now.  That continuity of time in this one place had afforded me the luxury of knowing the things that I could trust to happen, like clockwork, in my neighborhood.  I know that The Guy With The Boxers ALWAYS opens the car door for his wife.  I know that when the daytime temperature drops under 50, I can expect to smell wood burning from Mr. Crabby’s woodstove that evening.  I know that right before Easter, The Nice Lady Next To Us gives both my kids their own packages of Peeps.  And I know that on Halloween night, The Old Lady Across the Street will have every light on in her house, but will ignore all the hopeful ghosts and goblins that ring her doorbell.   I know a lot about what the normal sights, sounds, and smells are in my neighborhood.  But what happened that night broke the norm for me.  Because nothing I’d experienced, nothing I’d “felt”, and nothing I knew about my neighborhood and neighbors prepared me for what happened.  It all STILL feels so out-of-place.. 

It was a Wednesday.  Rube had to work that night.  Like clockwork, Rube pulled out of our driveway at 7:30 to get to work.  I straightened up the living room a little, and thought I’d check my email real quick.  A couple minutes after 8, I went into the living room to tell Kaelan it was time for her bath, and there was a knock on my screen door.  I had my front door open, and saw that it was Deb standing there, and she looked kinda upset.  I asked her what was up, and she said, “Can you come outside?  I need to talk to you.  I don’t know what to do.”  I agreed, turned the TV on to Cartoon Network to keep my kids occupied, and went outside.  

I stepped outside, and could see Deb clearer then.  Her face looked really pale and waxen, and she smelled strongly of beer.  But it was the look in her eyes that got my attention.  She looked so lost.  She repeated to me, “What do I do?  I don’t know what to do.” 

At this point, I remembered how I had heard her and Mike arguing throughout the week, and I thought that maybe things had gotten worse, maybe he’d actually gotten to the point where he slapped her or something, maybe he’d up and left her, maybe she wanted to leave him, etc…  So, I said, “What’s wrong, Deb?” 

“My boyfriend hung himself.  He’s hanging on a tree in the back.” 

Out of all the stuff I thought might come tumbling out of her mouth, THAT, most definitely, wasn’t one of them.  After I found my voice again, I said, “What?”  , and she repeated it, then added, “What am I going to do?  I don’t know what to do. I did it to him.  I have depression, and he couldn’t handle it.  It’s my fault.” 

I tried to assure her that it wasn’t her fault, that she wasn’t the one who put his head through that noose and killed himself.  Then, I tried to reply to her that we had to call the police, but she grabbed my arm and said, “Come with me, please?  You’ve got to come with me and help me get him down..”  And I said, “Deb, is he dead?”, and she said, “He’s hanging on the tree, we have to get him down.”  Now, as far as I know, disturbing a crime scene is bad news, and I didn’t want any part of the cops asking me my motives behind disturbing a body.   Also, truthfully, I did not want to see it.  I’d heard stories of people who had hung themselves, what they looked like, and I plain out did not want to see it first hand, and then relive the sight of it for the rest of my life.  If that makes me a weenie, than baby, throw on some sauerkraut. 

So, I told her no, that I couldn’t go over there because I didn’t want to leave my kids alone in the house, and then I told her that she had to call the police.  She seemed to be nervous about it, but then finally asked if I could call the police, because they didn’t have a phone.  I told her I would, and she left, saying that she’d be right back; she just wanted to “check something”.  At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what her comment meant, but she was pretty distraught, and I thought maybe she was going back to verify again, to her own mind, that Mike was dead?  But, looking back later on, I strongly suspect that she left to flush her stash down the toilet before the cops got there and busted her…and I can’t say I blame her.  Finding her boyfriend hung off a tree in the backyard is rough enough on a person without having to get busted for possession, you know? 

So, I called 911 and found myself reporting the suicide of Mr. Hippie Neighbor, something that I’m sure none of us ever imagine that we’ll find ourselves doing..  I know that I had never once thought about it.  With having so many older people in our neighborhood, I had thought that if I ever had to call 911 for something, it would be because we hadn’t seen any activity from The Old Lady Across The Street for a couple weeks and there was an icky, funny smell coming from her house…or because The Nice Lady Next To Us fell and broke a hip…or because Mrs. Crabby got in the way of one of those golf balls and got a concussion or something.  The idea that I was calling 911 to report that my 26 year old Hippie Neighbor was dead because he had hung himself, had never once entertained a notion in my head.   

I know this is going to sound so gaggingly, eye-rollingly cliché, but Mike just never “seemed the type”, you know?  He always seemed so at peace with himself, who he was, and appeared pretty content with his life, for the most part..  Sure, he and Deb argued once in a while, but even then, it never turned into anything violent.  He was always willing to lend a hand to anyone, and quick to joke and laugh with you.  I don’t ever recall seeing him depressed or down, and I just STILL cannot believe that this vibrant young man, who incidentally had the MOST gorgeous, brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen on a man, took the time to hang a noose for himself off a tree in his backyard, and killed himself..  Un-fucking-real. 

Halfway through the 911 call, Deb stumbled back over, taking desperate swigs off a cheap beer she was holding.  She was shaking, very obviously upset and in shock, and I think she mistakenly thought that drinking a beer was going to calm her nerves.  The 911 guy wanted to know last names, and what happened, etc… so I handed the phone over to Deb, so she could fill in some of those vitals. 

After I did so, I realized that in my own shock over the news, I had never yet asked her exactly what happened---if she knew why he did it, when he did it, or what she had been doing when it happened.  So then, I thought to myself, exactly how long had he been hanging there?  There’s a pretty high wooden fence around the backyard, and I considered it possible that he might have been there for some time without anyone noticing.  Their van hadn’t been gone at any point that day, I hadn’t seen anyone come or go, so they’d both been home all day..   

At that point, Deb started throwing up, and I grabbed the phone from her before it got covered with beer-flavored vomit.  I rubbed her back, and had talked with the 911 guy maybe 15 seconds more, when the first cop car pulled up--lights flashing, siren going..  Deb saw it, and said, “I gotta go.” and she went.  I told the 911 guy that a cop was here, just as a second, and then third, cop car pulled up, and the call was over. 

When I had went inside the house to grab my phone to call 911, I had sent the kids into my room to play my playstation, hoping that they wouldn’t hear anything, and even made the phone call from outside.  But, as they say, little pitchers have big ears…but not necessarily perfect hearing, which I was thankful for that night.  As I was closing the curtains in the living room to give Deb the privacy and respect of one less neighbor gawking out their window, Joe came out of my room, and asked me, “What’s wrong at The Hippy Neighbors?  I heard you say something was hanging from a tree. I hope it wasn’t Ozzy or Jinkies..”  I told him no and not to worry about it, that it was time for bed, and not to ask any more questions tonight.  I then went and got Kaelan to put on her pajamas, while Joe got ready for bed, too. 

On his way to dump his shoes in our shoe place, he looked outside the front door, saw all the cop cars (at this point, there was probably 5 cop cars there, plus a couple unmarked cars, plus we could hear the ambulance coming), and remarked, “COOL!  They got the WHOLE police force here and everything!!” …pause… “Are you SURE Ozzy and Jinkies are okay?”  I again reassured him that they were okay, and sent both the kids to bed. 

I went back into the living room, sat down on the couch, looked at the clock, and couldn’t believe that just one little hour ago things had been so completely routine and normal.  Rube had been pulling out of the driveway to go to work, the kids had been trying to cram in as much playing and TV watching as possible before bedtime, and I had been blissfully ignorant to even the idea of one of my neighbors killing themselves.  I just could NOT wrap my mind around it, at all.  Could not conceptualize it.  If someone had told me that one of MY neighbors was going to do something like that, especially Mike, I would have laughed in their face because even the idea of a suicide on my block would have been absolutely absurd to me. 

I called Rube.  I didn’t have to worry anymore about the boss ragging him for being on the phone, because he had just gotten promoted to head supervisor for his crew and he WAS the boss now.  Or, as Rube puts it, he’s the “King of the Nighttime World”…yes, my wonderfully egotistical husband is a KISS freak… 

Rube said hello, and I blurted out, “Mike’s dead.  He hung himself.”  I heard silence for about 5 whole seconds before Rube said, “Mike…Hippy Neighbor Mike?!?”  He couldn’t believe it either.. 

Every once in a while, I’d check outside, just to see how it was going.  A 24-hour tree service truck was out front at one point.  I assume that it was there to cut off the limb that Mike was hanging from, in order to preserve the state of the body and any potential evidence that might get ruined if they physically took him down with their hands?  Then, about an hour or so later, a Metro Animal Control truck came and took away the 5 dogs, which didn’t surprise me. Neither Deb nor Mike had any family at all living in this state that could have took the dogs in  until Deb was able to take care of them again. 

Right before 11:00, I looked out, and all that remained were one cop car and one unmarked.  A few minutes after that came the knock I had been expecting all night. 

She was blonde, in her mid-40’s I’d say, and introduced herself as being the one in charge of the investigation.  Yep, it was a chick, which struck me as very cool, because as a general rule, there doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot of female police investigators.  She told me that because Deb was really distraught, they were going to take her somewhere that night to keep an eye on her.  Then, she asked me simply, “So, what can you tell me?” 

So, I told what I knew.  When I got to the part about how I had been reluctant to help Deb take down the body, she assured me that that it was normal to not want to see somebody like that and added,  “There was nothing you could have done, anyway.  He’d been hanging there for quite some time.” 

After I answered any questions she had, she left, and I immediately started pondering over that one statement.  And I still cannot get it out of my head. Exactly how long is “quite some time”?  15 minutes?  30 minutes?  An hour or two maybe?  Or had he been hanging there for hours?  Was he hanging there when Rube left for work at 7:30?  Was he there earlier, at around 6:00, when Mr. Jehovah gets home from work?  Could he have been hanging there when I pulled into my driveway at 3:40 that afternoon, after picking up Joe from school?  Maybe he had been hanging there all day, while people were passing up and down our street delivering the mail or thinking about what they were going to fix for dinner that night or reminding themselves that they needed to do a load of laundry so Jr. had clean socks to wear to school tomorrow?  Or perhaps even while my kids were outside riding their bikes, or later when they helped The Nice Lady Next To Us pick up some of the pinecones that had fallen from the massive pine in her front yard? 

Did his lifeless body sway and twirl in the wind, while his sightless eyes and protruding tongue bore witness to the fact that life in our neighborhood didn’t stop for his death? 

The lady investigator told me that his neck had not broken, and that he’d died from asphyxiation.  Did he die with the sound of cars passing carelessly by, or perhaps with Kaelan and Joe’s argument, over whose turn it was to ride in the wagon instead of push, ringing in his ears? I wonder if the last thing he saw before the vessels in his eyes burst from the pressure was one of us, one of his neighbors, going about life as usual, while he ended his. 

The morning after, I took my kids to school, and Rube and I went out for some coffee at Perkins and talked about things, about Mike, and about how we hoped someone was taking care of Deb.  On the way out, Rube stopped at a crane machine to try his hand at a Wish Bear for Kaelan.  Suddenly a voice comes from behind us saying, “I never have luck at those things.”  It’s Mrs. Crabby, standing there, SMILING at us (WTF??), along with a couple other ladies.  Now, we’d run into Mrs. Crabby around town plenty of times BEFORE, and she’d never once even acknowledged our existence, much less talked to us.  She asked how we were doing, but we all know that she didn’t give a flying flip how we were doing; she just wanted to know why the entire available police force had descended upon The Hippy Neighbors’ house last night, so she could have the honor of telling everyone she knew that she “…KNEW they were trouble from the get-go…”  I’m sure you all know me well enough by now to know how I feel about THAT shit.  We smiled back, politely said, “We’re doing well.  Well, talk to you later!” and we left her hanging there, with the questions burning a hole through her lips. 

Later that evening, Mrs. Jehovah came by my house.  She had always been on good terms with Mike and Deb, calling them “good kids”, and Mike had helped her out a few times in her garden with some heavy stuff.  I knew her concern for them was genuine. Plus, she didn’t try to beat around the bush half-assedly like Mrs. Crabby, and instead, just asked me what was up with “the kids”, and if they were okay.  We talked about it outside, and when she was leaving she mentioned that she was going to go and let The Crabby Neighbors know..  Apparently, they had been calling her and Jolene On The Corner all day, worried that The Hippy Neighbors had gotten busted for making “methane” (I kid you not, they actually said METHANE, lol), complaining that the neighborhood was going to have a bad stigma attached to it now, and should they be concerned with drug runners, prostitutes, and drive-by shootings? 

Concerning my own self and the impact that it made on me, my life, and the way I “feel” things, the first week afterwards was absolutely horrible.  I was trying desperately to stay unconnected to it, but couldn’t very well ignore it.  The house, and the area directly surrounding it, came to exist only in my peripheral vision.  I would NOT look directly over there.  I was so afraid that I’d see or feel something that I didn’t want to know.  I remember one time, accidentally leaving something in the car, and here it was, 10:30 at night, and I had to FORCE myself to unlock my front door, and go get it.  I ran like I had the Hounds of Hell-ena running after me.  I was so afraid that if I stayed outside too long, that my “feelers” were going to really connect with those bad vibes, and I didn’t want to. 

But, aside from that, I did feel that something was lingering, and was afraid that maybe Mike was “caught”.  I told Mike he was dead, and to go to the light, but it didn’t help.  I couldn’t sleep worth a crap because even if I was consciously trying to think good thoughts, when I would start to drift off, those negative feelings of what had happened would sneak in, and like a fog, obscure the good stuff.  Lack of adequate sleep, of course, was leading to me having an even harder time in keeping my “feelers” at bay.  

Then, someone wise told me that the energy left behind by such an event is like burnt popcorn---you can throw it away, but the smell of it lingers for weeks.  Finally, I understood that Mike WAS gone, but what he did, the energy it left, the way it negatively impacted ALL the neighbors and their thoughts, was NOT.  I got a couple of good suggestions, and they did take the edge off what I was feeling.  I was able to fill some of the holes and cracks that lack of sleep had put into that mental wall I had up to protect me from “feeling” Mike’s death until that energy could dissipate. 

Deb came back twice.  Once, a few days afterwards to grab some clothes, and again, a couple weeks later before she left to move back in with her family in Texas.  That last time, she was in and out of the house in about 10 minutes, taking only a few things with her that she had wanted to keep.  She was still pretty upset, and didn’t want to talk to anyone about it.   

I had had a dream about Mike; he saw Deb in pain and said he was sorry for “not giving tomorrow a chance.”  So, while I accepted the fact that Mike was truly gone, I still had a hard time dealing with all the negative vibes I felt coming from across the street.  I really wondered if I would ever again be able to sit alone, in my porch chair at night, watch the stars, and listen to the crickets?  Would I ever feel safe enough again to find that comfort I’d always had, before, in my own neighborhood? 

The big break for me came when Mike’s family was here a couple weeks ago.  Whatever Deb had left in the house, they were hauling off back to their home in Colorado with them.  As they loaded that big Budget van over the weekend, I kept imagining that with every piece they packed in there, a bit more of Mike, and that negative energy, went with it.  All that weekend, I felt a strange feeling of anticipation, of looking forward to something.  I felt giddy…almost excited, even. 

When I pulled out of my driveway to go pick up Joe from school Monday, it had to have been fate that that’s when the van pulled out too.  I kept an eye on it in my rearview mirror.  We traveled the same path for a bit, but when the time came for me to turn on the road to Joe’s school, it went straight on, towards the interstate, and I said to it’s reflection, out loud, “Good-bye, Mike.” 

I’ve never been a great proponent of that philosophy called Mind Over Matter.  It’s never helped me say no to that Snickers bar or that extra tamale, and it sure as hell didn’t do anything to lessen those labor pains.   

But after I said goodbye, and when that van---carrying all of Mike’s stuff in it ALONG with the negative, black, burnt energy that I had mentally packed in it with---finally disappeared from my view, how else do I explain the feeling that ten tons of bricks just got lifted off me?  That swirling blanket of fog finally lifted and I could breath easy again.  Mind over matter.  I think I might have to look into that a little more. 

Later that day, I sat outside and really looked at the little house across the street, for the first time since it all went down.  There wasn’t dark clouds swirling above it with lightning bolts aimed to kill, and I didn’t see a scary vision of Mike hanging off the tree, as I half-jokingly expected.  Instead, the first thing I noticed about it was how empty it looked.  Mike’s family had taken all the different kind of wind chimes that had hung out front, including the Chinese lantern from the fireworks that we had lit off together on the 4th of July.  The Beware of Dogs sign was gone from the front screen door window, as were all the blinds and curtains.  Missing, too, were the 4 small tires stacked one on top of another that they used as a chair while they were outside.  Another glaring omission was the lack of bicycle frames and parts lying against the fence..  Mike was continually collecting parts for his bike, from garage sales and what-not, to change out the parts on his own bike that were falling apart.  He also had a couple of kid bikes he’d made from different pieces and parts that used to lean up against that fence, for when his younger brother and sister would visit.  The house looked so empty and forlorn, lobotomized almost.  There were no discernible signs left that The Hippy Neighbors had lived there, been a part of my neighborhood, for almost 2 years.  Not one visible reminder had been left behind. 

Except one..  On one of the trees in the very back, a tree that’s almost hidden from sight behind the old, wooden garage that has been slowly rotting since 1910 (or so The Nice But Odd Lady told us once), there is a thick limb, that had once rose out and up towards the great blue sky in all it’s vivid glory, but was now, recently, cut short. 

I still feel some of that energy that Mike’s traumatic suicide caused him, but not as strongly as it had been, and for that, I am truly thankful.  Mike was a very cool, nice guy, and even if it was self-inflicted, I hated knowing that he had suffered in his death.  I think of what’s going to happen to the house now, and wonder if the owners will sell it or rent it again.  I wonder who will be the next people to reside there, and become a part of my neighborhood, my block, my little world, as it were.  But most of all, even when the newbies move in, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to call that house anything other than The Hippy Neighbors’ house. 

Somehow, I don’t think so. 


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