That is a really weird sentence. Wherever your mind just went, rein it back in. Stick with me here.
It was a meeting that I had signed up for, but I could not predict at the time how it would go or what would unfold. (I wish I could be less vague for you, but this is the best I can do at this time. Deal with it.)
(I'm sincerely saying that last sentence in my nicest tone of voice, although I know it does not read that way.)
I recorded the conversation that I had with the complete stranger in this odd encounter. (Yes, I am aware that this is PA: all parties consented to this recording. Everyone just chill out.) Twice, I have played back this conversation. Twice, I have listened in almost-agony to the permanent conversation that plays from the past like some weird, creepy, scary echo that won't stop bouncing around. Toward the end of the conversation, the other person offers me a bizarre non-sequitur: "You know ... you really should move." To which I vehemently reply, "WHAT? NO. I HOPE I'm not moving. No, that's not happening." And the silent pause that fills the next several seconds on the recording is remembered as the stony blank face that answered my swift response. I can hear the annoyance in my voice; I can hear myself rolling my eyes: "Yeah. No. No one's moving."
|Whatever. I don't know. Also, this is the lock screen on my cell phone.|
October 2013 feels like a really, really long time ago. Maybe that's because it was. On the particular day of this conversation, it was warm enough for me to wear shorts--cast-offs from Leslie--and a black T-shirt and a ton of long gold necklaces. Big gold hoops in my ears. Perfect hair day because the humidity was gone. I was nearly done with physical therapy after foot surgery (remember that?), but there was still a lot of puffiness and I was grateful it was still warm enough for sandals (only the prettiest, of course) because I could still barely fit into normal shoes. A few weeks prior, I had just secured a job in a different department at a new school and given notice at the school that had almost totally leached the soul from my bones. Stuff was shifting ... slowly. Slightly. The earth was moving though. I could feel it. It didn't seem that anyone else really noticed. I was ok with that.
2014 came. And it went. And I breathed a sigh of relief. We hadn't moved. "I knew it! I knew what I was talking about. No one's moving. I'm not moving. Why would I move? hmmm ... let me think, let me think ... Oh wait! duh! I wouldn't move! So this is a dumb thing to ponder! ok! on to the next!" And then I probably started planning my outfit for the next day or something like that.
2015 began, and things were off to a good start. Winter sucked as usual, but my life at school was good--I tried not to waste too much time wondering why I didn't leave that other school sooner. There was a much needed trip to California in there somewhere. My ethics class only had 8 people and all of them were awesome. I'm trying to think of what else ... I can't come up with anything, but all of it was good and things were just moving along. The spring semester ended, and summer was coming and our back deck was a mess, covered in that green mold that any northern-facing physical structure tends to acquire. Ron gave up an entire weekend to power-wash and restain it, and this was enough time because he only restained the interior of the deck, i.e., the floor and the inward facing sides that you see while on the deck itself. He skipped the exterior with my blessing because life is short and staining outdoor living spaces sucks as bad as living through a PA winter.
|Again, I don't know. Why do people think I can answer these questions?|
TWO WEEKS later, I'm in my summer Intro course at school. It's Crito-time: I've taught the Crito (at last count) at least thirty times. blah blah blah it's a long story, but the conversation devolves into this debate where Joe--a 26 year old in the Army reserves with several tours of Afghanistan under his belt--is arguing against HOAs and I (because this is a debate) find myself defending them. I'm pointing out all the normal stuff (i.e., "What if my neighbors are CRAZY? I want to know that I have an organization to defend me if they want to pile trash on their lawns, etc!") and Joe keeps going back to the original example I offered: "WHY DO YOU LET ANYBODY TELL YOU WHAT COLOR TO PAINT YOUR FRONT DOOR??? WHAT IF YOU HATE GREEN???!!!" And I keep saying, "THIS IS ABOUT TRADE-OFFS!!! I PAINT MY FRONT DOOR GREEN IN EXCHANGE FOR PROTECTION AGAINST POTENTIALLY AWFUL NEIGHBORS!!!! JUST LIKE SOCRATES CHOSE TO LIVE IN ATHENS AND DO EVERYTHING ATHENS' WAY--INCLUDING ACCEPTING AN UNJUST EXECUTION--BECAUSE ATHENS' LAWS LEGITIMIZED HIS ENTIRE EXISTENCE." Joe totally got the point, but he just kept shaking his head at me and saying, "I've worked too hard for anyone to tell me what color I'm painting my front door." I just kept laughing and saying, "It's really not a big deal!" It was a lot funnier than it sounds here.
THAT SAME DAY, I came home from school and walked to my mailbox. I dropped the mail on my kitchen table like I always do and immediately began sorting it. Lo and behold, there's a letter from the HOA. Whatever--they always send us letters. I don't remember the exact words of this particular letter, but it went something like this: "Your deck looks awful. Clean it and stain it in the next 30 days or we'll fine your ass and make your life a living hell."
Everything that happened next is a blur. I just remember screaming "SON OF A BITCH" maybe ten times like Sonny in The Godfather when he knows that he needs to go kill Carlo once and for all, and the next thing I knew I was on the phone with Molly and Dan's realtor. When I hung up the phone, I had two appointments on the calendar: one to discuss selling our house and one to discuss buying a different one. I remember staring at the now-silent phone in my hand for a few seconds: What just happened? Did I really do that? And then I called Ron to tell him what I had done.