Monday, June 27, 2011

The Lady Next Door

There's something going on with the lady next door. Only I don't know what. She has been there for years, and I notice her without noticing her. I notice the children she babysits (kind of like background music because they spend a good deal of the time bawling their heads off), I notice the friends she has over (and old lady), I notice her getting thinner and thinner, I notice her going out with a girl, for lunch.

I notice without noticing.

And recently her "husband" who left her and went to China came back, all smiley and pleased with himself. He had his new wife and little baby in tow. Proudly showed them off. Here, right under his wife's nose. His first wife, that is. He showed up just after the disaster in Japan, when the radiation could have spread to China. He showed up and just expected to be put up. I don't know what happened but he was there a few days and suddenly wasn't there anymore.

I couldn't believe he could do that to her. To not only leave her like that, but to show up and rub her neighbours' faces into his new life. This was a nice guy, a smiley guy, it didn't seem like the kind of thing that he would do.

But then, he didn't seem like the kind of guy who would ditch his wife and take off with some nubile young thing.

And he did.

And she grew thinner and thinner. She took in these spoiled, annoying kids to make ends meet. Kids who would start screaming their heads off the moment their parents tried to drop them off.

It couldn't have been fun.

And she rented out rooms.

Except that recently, it doesn't seem like she has any more tenants. No one parks inside. The tenants always used to park inside.

And I never thought about how lonely she must be. And how miserable. I never thought that maybe, one day, when I made muffins or red velvet cake, I could have offered it to her over the fence.

Some gesture. Some friendly gesture.

Yes, I know there were friends and she was rarely alone.

But I never allowed myself to think about how miserable, sad and lonely she must be.

And today, one of her friends was banging on the door. I was outside and I looked. Her friend smiled sheepishly and continued to bang and call her.

No answer.

And just now, I heard someone calling again. And this time it penetrated the thick fog of white noise that envelops me, making me oblivious to my surroundings.

Where was she? If she had gone off on holiday, why didn't her friends know?

Could she have...would she have...?

And for the first time, I thought of the slow rotting inside...the sense of betrayal, the anger, the having to survive somehow, while he was smiling and happy and showing off his new wife, his new kid.

What must it have been like for her when he came.

What must it have been like for her when he spoke to us and said, lookie here, my wife, my kid...lookie here.

And that look on her face, the look I saw without seeing.

How could I have been so oblivious?

I will watch out for her tomorrow. I will watch and see and update these pages, some record at least of a person, a sad, lonely person, who is here near me.

I once sat next to a woman on a park bench and she spoke to me about her life and all I could see was her loneliness. That's all I registered.

But she wasn't just her loneliness. She prayed for everyone around her. In fact, she managed to get me to follow her home and put me on her hard as board sofa and I heard the Rosary beads clicking as she prayed for me that night, glad I was there, glad that for one night at least, she didn't have to be alone.

And I fell into a deep, sweet sleep, one of the deepest and sweetest sleeps I have ever had.

She was a powerful prayer.

We were on the train and a young man, the long-haired dodgy-looking type came up to her and said, do you remember me? And she looked down, afraid, because she tends to attract violent types.

But he said...I was one of those youth in that church...and you prayed for me. Thank you.

He said that to her.

She was a powerful prayer.

And I think about her now because I'm thinking...all this time, I couldn't spare one prayer for the poor, lonely lady next door. Couldn't say, God, please lift her spirits, strengthen her, raise her up, give her back her joy in life.

I say it now.

Now, when it may be too late.

No comments: