Every morning, I crack the blinds to sit on the couch with a bowl full of cereal to watch the neighbors. I might try to make it sound less creepy by saying that I’m keeping an eye on things for them, but it wouldn’t be true. To be quite honest, I’m not keeping an eye on things for them, I’m keeping an eye on them for my own entertainment.
They have quite the routine worked out between the two of them, which varies only if one of them is already gone. I can tell the order of expected events for the day by the cars parked in the driveway. If they are both home, the wife is the active one. She starts by tying the curtains back in the picture window, kicks the dog out, and sends her husband out to warm up the car. Shortly after that, she bustles out carrying a bag on both shoulders with a thermos of something in one hand and a baby carrier in her arms with what appears to be a bundle of blankets tucked inside of it. Although I can’t be certain, I have to guess that this is Baby Dum-Dum wrapped up and ready to go.
When it’s just the husband, the tried and true expression comes to mind that when the cats away the mice will play (or in this case, just the mouse). He usually emerges when my cereal is halfway gone, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes. It’s always the same old grubby green sweatshirt that he wears with the sleeves pulled over his knuckles and his thumbs shoved through holes when he lights up a cigarette and blows smoke rings into the cold air. I’m sure the wife smells the smoke on him, especially since he appears to only own one raggedy sweatshirt.
As I’m finishing up my cereal, he’s stamping out his butt on the concrete steps. He’s careful to pick it up and carry it off for disposal at a different location where his wife won’t find it. Effort counts for something, I used to think. At least he’s not a litter bug.
Then it snowed a few times and the routine changed. His car was gone every morning and his wife continued on as usual. Where has he gone? Is there a divorce in the works? He must have died or been arrested. There was a good deal of speculation from across the street that was quickly squelched out, like one of his secret smokes, when the truth was brought to light.
His car was parked in the tiny tool shed. It left one morning, completely ice and snow free while his wife remained in their gravel drive way, scraping away at her windshield while continuously checking in on young Dum-Dum, wrapped and ready to go.
What a chump. What a bunch of chumps. Yet, who am I to say anything as I rinse out my cereal bowl and wonder how often they peer through our blinds that open every morning at the same time as their curtains are pulled back.
“On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.”
― George Orwell, All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays