The Good Neighbor

Photo by Tracy Fuentes

By Tracy Fuentes

I’ve never been a really good neighbor.

I’m always too shy and awkward to even wave hello to my neighbors. I usually avoid eye contact and pretend I’m busy doing something or that I didn’t notice them so that I don’t come off as rude. They probably still think I’m rude anyway, despite these efforts to not seem this way. Actually, I’m almost certain that they think I’m being rude, yet I can’t bring myself to look up from the sidewalk or the side of the car.

When I do resolve to say hello, I mentally review how it will play out. I’ll just smile and wave really quickly as I cross the street to get the mail! They’ll wave back and we’ll both go about our business. It’ll be simple and quick, but good neighbor behavior! 

As I’m crossing the street, I’ll keep glancing at my neighbor to see if they’re looking at me. Because in my mind, nothing would be more embarrassing than me waving to them and them not seeing it. Awkward awkward awkward. Each time I glance they’re not looking, or I can’t tell. I keep glancing until I’m finally at my mailbox, and still nothing. I grab my mail and go, walking with my head down in shame. Mission failed.

The simplest act of being a model neighbor, and I can’t do it.

Even with my friendly neighbors, right next door to us, I’ve been awkward with the small talk. I do my usual routine of keeping my head down and going about my business, feeling awkward. My boyfriend is much more social than me, easily entering casual conversations with them. I usually stand there, smiling my head and nodding, never able to add to the conversation because I just don’t know what to say. 

When you think about it, the relationships between neighbors can be quite strange. These are people who you don’t really know personally,  who you didn’t really choose to be in your life. Yet they know personal details about you simply from proximity. First off, they know where you live. You could chat with someone every day at work or school and they could know everything about your relationship, your school life, your dreams, but not where you live. Strange. 

Your neighbors know who lives with you, what car you drive, who comes to visit you. These are random yet very personal details. At the same time, they may not even know your name. I know my neighbors don’t know my name, and I don’t know most of theirs. It is strange, how we know so much about each other, but also so little.

I really do want to be a good neighbor. I get envious of people who have good neighbor relations, who create a sense of community in their neighborhood, who tell tales of a neighbor bringing them food when they learn that someone in the family is ill or a neighbor who gives them some items they no longer need but are still valuable. In return, they do the same. My desire to be a good neighbor is not just about exhibiting proper etiquette or potentially gaining something out of it, but I don’t know, it just seems….nice. Nice to have that sense of community.

So I’m going to continue to try my best, to wave hello and learn how to keep up small talk. Maybe one day I’ll finally be a good neighbor. 

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