Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Something like normal

As some of you might remember, my neighbour's son got into some trouble with loan sharks a while back. And when they didn't pay up, things just got worse.

It's been almost six months since the last incident.
Looking back, I now realise not only did my neighbours adapt, so did we.

Not looking each other in the eye became easier, and like dancing partners learning each other's timing, we knew just when to leave the house so we'd never run into each other and be faced with the awesome pressure of making conversation.

Two weeks ago, my dad – always the friendly one – started a conversation with my neighbour's daughter's new boyfriend. It was actually so he could tell the young man to please stop throwing your cigarette butts on our front porch thank you very much. Before long my dad knew his name, that he was from Canada, and taught English somewhere in the city.

That one conversation broke the dam, and our families started greeting each other over the fence again, conversations progressed beyond two words ("Hi, Hey") and the wife cooked meals for us.

You need your neighbours at certain points I think. And there are few things harder than not being able to connect with your neighbours, given that neither of you can easily move to cut the tension. So if you ever find yourself in a tough family situation, it might do you good to open up.

But not too wide.
Because maybe your neighbour's son is one of those that wakes up at 6am to run.
Maybe when he comes in to put away his running shoes he sees something through your front door.
Like you sitting nervously watching a replay of last night's security tape, fed from the night-vision camera mounted on your roof.
Scrutinising every face that passes in the lenses view.
Including the 6:23am version of himself, stretching in front of your house.

And maybe he now realises that the seige hasn't ended. It just moved inside the house.
And maybe normal isn't always what you think.
Just what you can see.

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