I saw her mouth moving. She was saying something.
There was my neighbor, in her open doorway, saying something. To me?
I looked around. Yes, it was to me. And I was shocked because this woman who lives right next door has pointedly not spoken to me for years. Even when I offered a cheery hello, nice day greeting.
And here she was, speaking to me.
“What?” I asked.
“Asshole. You’re an asshole.”
The words shot out at me like bullets. I think my mouth may have opened in surprise.
This wasn’t the greeting I was expecting.
She went on. I was walking over her lawn, wearing down the grass.
This wasn’t true. I was walking on the grass of the parkway, going from my car to my building.
I mentioned that the village owned the parkway, not she. Very evenly, almost cautiously I offered this information.
“Asshole,” she reiterated. “You do it all the time.”
Then she presented her argument. She took care of the parkway in front of her yard. I assume that meant that she felt entitled to restrict people from walking on it. Especially this asshole.
I said I didn’t think I’d injured the lawn in any way and I apologized if I had.
She continued her expletive-rich diatribe for a little longer. I walked away.
And her door closed.
And then I felt good that just two days earlier I had moved out of the building to another place in the next town. Presumably a place where neighbors will talk to me pleasantly. Where neighbors will not tear out plants I put in at the edge of my lawn. Who will not mound up garbage and recycling canisters (which aren’t used) so I can hardly make it to the alley.
Yes, it was a good thing that I have left Oak Park. To have left the neighbor on the OTHER side of me who had yelled at me so aggressively that I was afraid to leave my house, and considered calling the police. (On that occasion I was charged with being the reason their house was going into foreclosure.)
I am not sure what it says about me, that I don’t fight on occasions like these. In fact, just last weekend, in a much different arena, I was yelled at (unjustly and without reason) by a young woman. And I chose just to leave the situation. Not be in a place where it was considered acceptable to communicate that way.
I could fight. Yes, I think I could yell back. Most certainly I could respond with some very well chosen words that would attack the very essence of the person. I am good with language, I know. I could rip a person apart, without ever raising my voice.
I choose not to. And I choose not to put myself in situations or with people who rely on anger, raised voices, and expletives.
I choose peace.
And aren’t wars started from little things like walking over contested real estate?
Yes. I choose peace. I wish also that my country did.