Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Behind Fence Number One

There is a team of very tired, very hot (as in Texas summer hot, not Channing Tatum hot) men replacing one section of my fence today. Not even two frosty Gatorade bottles from my fridge can allay my guilt at sitting in air conditioning watching these guys labor.

What fascinates me most about this project is what it revealed about my neighbor. I've long held the opinion that we would freak if we knew half of what goes on behind our neighbors' doors. Ten years of living on this street has uncovered everything from snotty Pottery Barn obsessions and cross collections that would put the Vatican to shame to divorces, extramarital affairs, drug use, emotional and physical abuse, life and death, all hidden behind daisies in Terra cotta pots and lacquered front doors. Behind my neighbor's brass kick plate, Roman door chimes and manicured lawn, I was certain lay more opulence, more orderliness than Martha Stewart's jail cell.

Boy was I wrong.

Yesterday, the fence came down. My neighbor's backyard was a biome unto itself. Grass high enough to brush an NBA player's fanny. Relics of children long gone. A tangled nest where a garden once stood. Why would someone who mows and trims and edges and pots daisies bother with the front and not the back? Rules, I suppose. But it's more than that.

Everyone has a pocket of chaos in their life: a junk drawer, the backseat of a car, that closet at the end of the hall. Something they don't want anyone to see. I once wrote a character obsessed with orderliness. The one exception was her purse. At first, quirky, non-purse items would fall out to reveal character. But as the story progressed, the overstuffed bag became a metaphor for all the things in her life she couldn't compartmentalize. As her trust in the hero evolved, the degree to which she shared her bag's contents deepened until dark secrets tumbled out like used tissues.

I suppose my neighbor's chaos is no more than evidence of a busy man who must have two jobs to support his family. A father who doesn't want to forget the sound of children's laughter saturating the yard on a hot summer night. A gardener who gave in to the natural world's relentless ambush.

The writer in me wishes he was hiding something in the tall blades. The neighbor in me does not.

Where are you hiding your chaos?


Charles Gramlich said...

I like a yard in chaos, but my chaos is intentional.

the walking man said...

Uhhh here we would be curious if perhaps there was human cadaver decaying away in that tall grass. We've grown pretty nonchalant about cadaver disposal.

Sherry Isaac said...

I heard once that you should pick the room in your house that you would least like company to see, then examine why, because that room will say the most about who you are and where you are at.
At the time, it was my 'so-called office'. Because I had to share the space and computer with 4 kids and hubby, when I my turn came along, I had to move school papers and hubby's contracts to get at the keyboard. I rarely wrote. Go figure.
Now the space is mine, all mine, and claiming that space mentally as well as physically went a long way in claiming my role as writer.
Like travelling through a magical portal, poof! I became Writer.

L.A. Mitchell said...

@Charles-I'm guessing you don't have potted daisies, then ;)

@WM-Exactly what I was thinking. He does keep strange hours and I rarely see his family. Hmmm.

@Sherry-Interesting. That's easy--the upstairs bedroom. Unfinished projects on the bed. It *does* say that I prioritize. It becomes worst when I'm under deadline. I suppose that means I have my priorities and photo albums are not priority. Thanks for the visit, girl ;)