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I have never associated with my neighbors. I have lived in a total of three different houses, and one condo throughout my sixteen year old life and I’m sure there will be more. I have never had that best-friend that I’ve known since I was in diapers across the street or next door. You know, like in the movies where the best friends have known each other since they were born. They go to the same school, their parents are best friends, the whole she-bang. Yes, I have friends at school, but like the amount of houses I have had, my friends have never been steady.
Until a month ago.
A month ago, I was coming home at about four-ish from school. I got off the car and apparently as the middle sibling, it is my duty to get the mail every day. I got my things out of the car and left them inside (by this time my younger sister and mom were already inside the house) and I made the 106 inch trek to the mail box. Walking over, I saw a moving van pull up to the house next door and several thoughts ran through my head.
First of all, I had not been aware that the house next door had no occupants. Second, it’s a bit odd to be moving in the middle of the week, specifically, a Wednesday. I don’t think it’s very ideal to have a life changing event smack-dab in the middle of a working week. These were just my humble opinions that went through my head as I opened the mailbox, and grabbed the various magazines, coupons and bills.
For all I knew, it could be a young, hip, newly-married couple who were on marriage leave (if that even exists). Even better, it could be an old couple moving on from their old run-down house after much suggestion from their family members.
I was already picturing the new additions and adjustments that the old couple would make to their new home.
They would put old rocking chairs passed down from her grandfather on their porch. They would be made out of old cherry-wood that he cut down and shaped himself. They would use them on sunny Sunday afternoons; he would be reading a book and she would be feeding the neighborhood birds bread crumbs that she had saved.
The front yard would be overflowing with pots of different shapes and sizes blooming with geraniums, dandelions and lilies of every kind. She would water them religiously everyday and her grandchildren would run amuck with flowers in their hair when they visited.
Their faded, dirty fence would be repaired and re-painted white by their grandson and he would do it out of the kindness of his heart. Because when he was younger, they cared and spoiled him to bits.
They would always keep orange and vanilla 50/50 bars in the freezer for when family members decided to stop by surprise, which they would and often.
I was dreaming up all these fantasies in my head as I walked back to my house, not once even noticing the sound of another car arriving at the house. As I turned to pull the door closed, I caught a quick glimpse of a boy about my age getting off a black car. He was wearing a red cap and carrying a skateboard. As I shut the door, I heard the clack of the wheels hit the pavement and the sound of take off.
Later on that day, I came to discover that the boy with the cap’s name is Gabriel, Gabe for short. He had just moved from another part of town and he would be starting at the local high school (where I attend) on Monday. The move was quick and sudden, he explained. He doesn’t like the smell of chimney smoke, but he loves the color red. He played soccer when he was younger, then he discovered BMX biking. Since then, it has become his passion. He didn’t brag, but he did mention he can get quite fast on the track.
I acquired all this information and more after an unexpected run in after my adoring little sister Carlie kicked her soccer ball over the fence and into his backyard while prepping for practice.
Once again, assuming the role of the middle child, I went with her to ask for it back due to the fact she needed it in approximately fifteen minutes for practice. I figured I looked decent (after all, I had just come from school) and I went over with a worried seven-year old in tow.
“Hi, (insert semi-smile) we live next door and she (acknowledge existence of Carlie next to me) accidentally kicked her soccer ball into your yard.”
“Oh yeah, sure. No problem, (insert smile of complete understanding) I’ll be right back.” he replied.
He walked off to get the ball as we stood awkwardly outside his front door. The uncomfortable moment where if you step inside, you feel like you’re intruding and if you stay outside, you remain on a hi-every-once-in-a-while basis.
Finally he came back with the ball, “It fell into some muddy dirt but I cleaned it off as much as I could. Here you go.” handing it to Carlie with a caring smile, as if he knew how little kids were, as if it was not a problem at all.
“Thanks” I say, as I gave another friendly smile.
This is where I normally would have walked back to my house with a happy Carlie next to me. “Thanks” should have been our last words of interaction until my sister kicked over her ball again in a couple weeks or so.
According to the unwritten laws of communication, after I smiled, I should have walked away back to my house. But I didn’t. Curiosity gave my mouth power that over-ruled my brain’s reasoning to keep it shut.
I opened my mouth and let my interest flow.
I don’t think we would have become such good friends if I had kept my mouth shut that Wednesday.
That Wednesday, I gained a new neighbor and a friend.