Thursday, February 16, 2006

Monday Night

Monday night something dark happened. I know what I think happened, but that could be just conjecture, so I will lay it all out here: in facts and then in theories and then in conclusions.

The objective facts:
Around 11:30 Monday night an engine type noise started up and it seemed to be coming from behind the Taj Mahal next door, way in the back. It sounded like a car engine, but higher, different. A thought it was a generator; I thought it was someone working on a car. At any rate it was loud and annoying and after about 20 minutes I went out to see just WTF was going on. I couldn't find a flashlight but the moon was full. I went to the end of my yard and tried to see. The old blue volvo was parked way in the back, which was odd, since it's usually on the street, and the noise seemed to be coming from it, or maybe from behind it. The windows of the volvo were opaque.

I thought, oh my god, someone has run a hose from the exhaust and is committing suicide in that car. Then I thought, oh, don't be ridiculous, it's got to be some kind of broken machinery coming from the pool in the yard of the house behind here, that you can't see. I thought, you watch too much Six Feet Under, nobody really commits suicide, certainly not next door to you, certainly not in an old blue volvo. I went back inside and wondered if I should call the police but I don't like to call in noise complaints - I have parties, occasionally, after all, and a favor is a favor.

The noise stopped. The police came, and an ambulance, and a fire engine. A & I watched from our windows as somebody was put on a stretcher & then a gurney & then into the ambulance. At first it looked like that person was sitting up, then I thought that no, it was just a trick of the light, it was one of the four police/EMTs clustered around. The ambulance left, slowly, without a siren.

An hour or so later a fire engine and a tow truck came and took the volvo away.

Conjecture: What happened?
My assumption is that the owner of the blue volvo did in fact commit suicide in it.
I assume that it was this one neighbor I have seen around a bit, who I mentally categorized as recently divorced father although it wasn't all that recently, since he's lived there since last summer.
But it's also possible that he was working on his car and hurt himself somehow.
It's possible that the pool machinery went kaflooie and electrocuted someone, next to the blue volvo. I suppose, in the elastic realms of possibility, it all could have been an elaborate anti terrorist training game, or aliens, or some kind of complex white collar crime. I don't know. I didn't go outside and ask anyone; that felt uncomfortable, like rubbernecking, nosy in a particularly ghoulish and unpleasant way.

I don't know my neighbors at all. I'm shy, I keep to myself and as a result there's only one neighbor on this street where I have lived for 5 years who I talk to regularly and that's because he is also a painter and a dog freak. And then, the apartments, are, well, apartments: the only apartments on this street of small 1920s bungalows. The man I think was Blue Volvo Guy - and, it is possible that Blue Volvo Guy is not even the owner of Blue Volvo, who could have been someone else entirely, someone I've never even seen - is/was about my age and had the look of someone who is not accustomed to apartments. He has/had two kids who come every other weekend. This is why I always thought of him as Recently Divorced Man. I spoke with him briefly once or twice, over the fence, about the dogs: he seemed nice enough. His apartment is visible from my house in the winter; his window was sometimes open which made me think, aha, he's a stoner. This is Asheville, you know.

Assumptions are interesting. They say more about me than they do about Blue Volvo Man; I can already tell that simply by writing them down and not just keeping them shuffling about in the back of my head. He may well be alive over there right now, opening his window because he likes fresh air. He may be at work. He may not be divorced; those kids might be his nephew and niece. I know nothing real about him.

But I lay awake on Monday night for quite some time and I thought about all this. I thought, I should have called the cops right away, I should trust my instincts more. That one, I think, is valid. I thought, oh, I should have talked to him more, I should have reached out, invited him over for a beer, or dinner, brought over a casserole, met his children. That's probably true too but it's unlikely that I will ever change that much. I thought, well, am I my brother's keeper? and I thought, yes, you know, you are. That is true, we are all supposed to keep each other but we don't, too often we forget that simple fact and a neighborhood, this neighborhood, is not really a community anymore. These are conclusions, you see, assumptions, ideas. They could be wrong. But I don't think they are.


deborah said...

You did call the cops. DO NOT beat yourself up about what you might've done differently.

mygothlaundry said...

No. I didn't call the cops. Somebody else did, probably right around the same time I was wondering whether I should have called them. But I didn't call. It's true though, that by the time I got worried enough to call, it was too late, and someone else had done it, so no, probably it made no difference.

Frisbee Girl said...

Felicity, this post has been knocking around in my brain for the last several days. Specifically, community and brother's keeper and shit dawgs, it's a tough area to negotiate; after all, it is a social contract.

The older I get, the more often I'm surprised by people's lack of personal responsibility in the area of the own actions. When a person demonstrates a lack of mental connection between action and consequence, it has a tendency to make me extra wary. At what point does being your brother's keeper keep you from living your life and what do you do then?

I dunno, these things make my heart heavy some days. Even moreso when I hear stories like this. I'm sorry, lady, that was a stark reminder of life and the nitty gritty.

mygothlaundry said...

It's a hard call. I envy people who are close to their neighbors sometimes, but that envy is more that they are the kind of people who get close to their neighbors, since I'm really not. I should be, but I'm not.

I know what you mean about personal responsibility, and being your brothers' keeper - I used to be the unofficial head of the rescue association, particularly when the rescuees were handsome alcoholic Irishmen. I don't do that anymore - I decided to try to rescue myself instead - but still, it's hard to know that despair is so close to so many.