Neighbor  This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 10, 2010
I could always see your shadow looming through the sheer glass window with the long branch framing your profile. You never moved, staying steady and still, your gaze followed my movements. You, with your radiant eyes and greasy scalp, would always travel with a can of hairspray and a comb, but you had no hair, except if you counted the thin strip of dyed black hair which drew a circle around your oily scalp. When I noticed your stare, I quickly shut my blinds thinking, what a creep. When you talked to me, you rambled on, telling me stories about WW2, “You know I was there,” you’d say ignoring my desperation to escape from hearing the gory war stories. As you continued to speak, I would stand there in my driveway, nodding my head, pretending to listen. But rather I was singing songs or daydreaming about some boy from school. 
            When I was little, you terrified me. Your dark shadow would loom over my room, - illuminated in the night by the glowing street light. I always avoided your gray house, making certain that I used the back door to enter and exit. My first encounter with you proved that my instincts to stay far away were correct. I rang your doorbell caring boxes of Girl Scout cookies; my mind was set on winning the grand prize, a sparkling brand new bike. Unfortunately, I was nowhere near winning any prize at all. I rang your doorbell and covered up my fear with excitement. I remember you slowly walking to the door, strongly gripping your walker. You saw my smiling face, radiant and hopeful, but before I could ask you the question (which I practiced reciting beforehand) you told me you don’t eat cookies because of diabetes. But, I had my mind set on the gleaming pink bike and was determined to sell you something, at the very least. 
            “We have sugar free cookies” I said innocently. 
            “I said no!” You yelled, your face fuming with impatient anger.  
            Ever since then I tried to avoid you, mostly because I was afraid that you would yell at me, or would talk to me - and never stop speaking. I grew accustomed to dodging your stories, and always closed my blinds when I came home. As I grew older, I learned to deal with you without ignoring you or being rude. When you spoke to me, I was patient, and nodded my head, and sometimes responded with a quick, “Oh, that’s interesting” or “Very cool”. That seemed to satisfy you well. 
            Because every adult on the block learned to avoid you for the most part, I was the one to whom voiced your paranoid worries. You accused me of “allowing the deer to eat off my apple tree,” and called the police when I did not water the plants correctly (apparently, it is a law in N.J that you have to use a spray nozzle when watering plants). There was no forgiveness, and I thought that you concentrated on making my life difficult. You became “the crazy man that lived across the street.” Part of my daily routine was either talking to you, or avoiding you, depending on my mood that day. 
            As I watched, you stared at me from your window across the street. I thought that you tried to meddle into my life, and frankly, I though that it was strange. I didn’t know what to make of your constant phone calls to the police for seemingly trivial things, or your incessant need to talk to me for hours about things you did when you were younger. But, while part of me is relieved that I don’t have to evade from your restricting gaze, I miss looking out of the window and seeing you staring back.  You were the “crazy man across the street” that influenced my morning routine. You were cruel to me, harassed me, and creeped me out. Although I was annoyed by your actions, a small part of me also cared about you. You were the man who I had compassion for, who sometimes made me laugh, and always gave me good stories to share with my friends. I suppose that small caring instinct was the part that cringed when I saw the accident. The part of me that cried when I saw you tumble down the stone slabs, that you took pride in walking up and down everyday. I wasn’t used to seeing you so fragile. You were always super-human, superior in strength, despite your age. It was like you gave in, surrendering all your power and might. Your pride diminished, and cheeks red. For you had fallen before, but then you quickly grasped the white railing, and picked yourself up onto wobbly legs. You never failed, deep beneath your stubborn, wriggled face, you were brave, never willing to part.  
            Now, I don’t think you were a bitter old man. You were just worn out from convincing yourself and everyone else that you were a success. You had this image to hold onto, and refused to let it go. Your personally could never be subdued, your character was strong. You knew what you wanted, and were filled with courage and determination. When you spoke to me about your past, a toothless smile would always be on your face. It was radiant and wide and the only time I saw you smile. I understand now that you did not try to annoy me or pester me. You were just finding a way to pass time and make yourself content. When you looked at my window, you were not looking at me, but gazing through your past. 

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lovelastforever said...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 7:24 pm
I really love this! Very interesting, and it kept me wanting to read on. I also really like the ending. Overall, a job well done. 
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