Won’t You Be My Neighbor?


Yes, someone please be my neighbor.

My current neighbor is a woman with a rat-dog, which is an animal that might be a rat or might be a dog, depending on the angle. This woman chain smokes on her stoop every day. I feel sorry for the rat-dog; I assume he has the lung size of a lima bean and the fumes will surely end him before his time.

I have come a long way with this woman. When I first moved to the block a year and a half ago, I would say, “hello,” to her and she would glare at me and turn away silently. I nevertheless continued to say hello to this woman every time I saw her, which is every day, because those 6 packs are not going to smoke themselves. A few months in, she started grunting and waving her Camel to me. (“camel to me” would be funnier if it were “camel toe me.”)

After a year of grunts, I passed her smoke haze and said, “hello.” She said, “low”—the second syllable of the word “hello.” I was on cloud nine! The next day, my spirits bright with the possibility of hearing both syllables of a salutation from her, I blurted an overly excited, “Hello!!” She did not say “hello”…she said an entire sentence! Her sentence was, “Say, do you have two dollars?” I felt so betrayed. All this time, I thought I was breaking through her steely, tobacco-stained exterior to reveal the true princess inside. I said I didn’t have two dollars, even though I did have two dollars. But I earned those two dollars by dancing like a fool on a talking bus and there’s no way I’m giving them to Big Tobacco.

So now things are awkward between Smoky McPufferson and me.  She knows I have two dollars because I buy things that are more than two dollars and carry them home. Like cereal.

My landlord recently warned me about Smoky. He says she has a “program.” Like she’s a con-woman. A year and a half of grunts then asking for two dollars is the longest and most ineffectual con ever.