My kitchen sink faces the back of our lot
one neighbor’s graveled yard literally
five feet from the window. I’ve known
the comings and goings of this neighbor
from my post, heard her crunching steps
and listened to the clip-clip of laundry hanging.
I watch demurely, hoping she doesn’t catch
my eye through the sparse hedge.
In spring, pink blossoms grow on those bushes.
I could tell time by her taillights, backing into
the drive after work, or her faucet on, with bucket
filling, as she readies water for the plants. I only
see the back of her house, but it is
immaculate, a place for everything and
everything in it’s place. My eyes move to
the sink below, filled with the remains of
yesterday’s dinner and this morning’s breakfast,
carrot peelings and dried, old milk drops.
How different, our lives. How often does
she wash dishes, I wonder? Likely, more
often than me.
This summer, we had a small pool in
our parental employ, located very close
to that evenly distributed gravel, to those
sparse bushes. It promised to be a very loud
August for our neighbors, their windows open
to catch some Pacific breeze, fans whirring.
This time, I tried to catch her eye.
“I’m afraid we’ll be rather noisy this summer,”
I said, hoping my shaky smile would alert her
to the things I couldn’t say. Things like: “I know
you run your house like clockwork, and keep
your hedges trimmed just right, but will you
let my children play crazy like summer kids
should, splashing and laughing and most certainly
fighting? Will you still like me as your neighbor?”
This woman. Somehow, she knew.
As she filled her bucket, the sound of that
faucet that I could recognize from any point,
any room in my home, readying the water for her
flowers, she said, “It’s no problem at all. I love
the sound of happy children.”
What a gift to me, this woman couldn’t know.
I can watch her pull towels from her
basket and clip them, spread them out, but she
can’t see my sink or its contents, my dining table
littered with paper scraps, Legos, crumbs, books.
Sometimes I long for that clockwork, the
security of that immaculate yard. Then I imagine
myself at 60, in a quiet home, everything in its
place. I see myself watering plants at the
same time each night, my taillights illuminating
red in some other woman’s back kitchen.
I look at my dry, old milk drops, and they
seem very different.