Neighbors are intimate strangers. They’ve witnessed the shameful number of times it takes me to parallel park, the embarrassing amount of trash I accumulate in a week, and the mortifying frequency of online shopping UPS drop offs on my doorstep. They know way too much to ever put me on that initial friendship pedestal. And isn’t being blissfully unaware of each other’s flaws one of the enticements of starting a sparkly new friendship? But, as I learned recently, we should reach out to our neighbors anyway.
In the fifties, women were always dashing next door to borrow sugar, seeking a momentary respite from all that solitary domestic bliss. We should bring back the “Cup of Sugar” excuse. Let’s just start borrowing shit from our neighbors to get the sense of community flowing. And if you’re not the kumbaya type, remember there are times when you might not want to be alone, when you might need to reach out: say when you need to borrow their ladder because your roof is leaking, your hair dryer burned out thirty minutes before a hot date, or when you need to hook up to their generator post-apocalypse.
My big phobia is being sick and home alone. Not like sniffle sick. Like body attacking itself, gonna die sick. Six years ago, I went into anaphylaxis after taking an antibiotic. Hitch makes anaphylaxis seem funny; It wasn’t funny. It was potentially tragic My Girl unfunny. (Did that film emotionally scar anyone else?) Luckily, I was with my parents, and we made it to the ER moments before a tracheotomy would have been in order. If I'd been home alone, I might have crawled under my Anthropologie duvet and asphyxiated. So, when my body freaks out, I reach out.
A couple weeks ago, I was home alone when I started getting sharp abdominal pain. I couldn’t stop trembling. I began to sweat, and I started seeing stars. I called my husband, but his phone was off. I was desperate not to be found passed out on the bathroom floor—it was too Hollywood actress cliché. In crazy pain and flush with embarrassment, I hobbled over to my neighbor’s place. I banged on the door. She answered. (Make artist neighbor friends. They’re usually home). She asked if I was okay. “Oh my God, you’re shaking. Are you okay? You are really shaking.”
I brushed past her and ran straight to her bathroom. I know what you’re thinking. Don’t worry: nothing happened! But my stomach hurt so much, I had to sit there in case a surprise baby was going to pop out like in those episodes of “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”. From her toilet seat, I made an emergency appointment with a gastroenterologist. She gave me some medicine and a glass of water and kept me company. And, gradually, I started to feel better. (It may have been a gallstone. I know...so sexy).
My sweet neighbor had seen me all too human. I was pretty sure I’d have to move or at least avoid making eye contact with her. But she emailed me a couple days later….
Thank you so much for leaving the delicious smelling candle on my doorstep. The gesture was unnecessary, but delightful. The pleasure was all mine. Your life is a life well worth saving. Please don't be embarrassed. I have seen you shaking on the can; We are now true friends.