Photo: I bought this beautiful salmon at Wegmans today on a whim and was totally delighted and surprised by how totally fresh it was when I brought it home. Good fresh fish should smell like the ocean when you unwrap it, and this salmon smelled like the Outer Banks on a perfectly clear day. It took me straight to vacation. If you’ve never had the pleasure of unwrapping a gorgeous and perfectly fresh piece of fish from the grocery store, I hope you’ll seek the opportunity. It’s such a simple joy. These two filets cooked up real nice!
Time Lord that I am, my schedule was fairly tight today: raucous breakfast with my dear friend at my favorite haunt, followed by a trip out to Wegmans, then back with enough time to put the groceries away before heading back out to pick up two little bears and head off to guitar. A full, tight day. I allowed myself a little wiggle room and stopped by to see another friend before high-tailing it home. When I pulled up my driveway and parked the Blackmobile for a quick unload of groceries, I was dismayed to see my next door neighbor trudging across the lawn with a grim look on his face.
“Just wanted to let you know, there was a guy here in your driveway for a while. He dropped off a package, but then stayed. And then I didn’t know if it was going to keep raining, so I went over and put it inside for you. It’s just some Amazon thing for [The Husband].”
I know that my skin can’t go pale in the classical sense, but a bit of glow must have drained from my face. He looked at me with concern. “It’s not a big deal. Just a package. Are you ok?”
Truth be told, when my neighbor said “some guy was in your driveway,” I panicked. There was an incident yesterday that has made me a little jumpy.
Yesterday afternoon, I stood at the bottom of my driveway waiting for the boys. The bus had a substitute, so it was late. I stood and stared at my phone like a good Millennial. I don’t love standing at the end of my driveway. I live on a busy street, so cars zip by entirely too fast, and I feel oddly exposed. As the world has seemingly deteriorated under this new administration, I’ve become increasingly jumpy every time a pick-up goes barreling by. It’s irrational, I suppose, but not so irrational.
Across the street from my home is a multi-generational family: An ailing grandmother who requires 24/7 care, her middle-aged son, and his two (I think) grown sons who are in their early 20s. The youths are in and out of the house because of work, I presume, and possibly classes. I’ve only interacted with one of the young men, during a random encounter last year during the 3rd or 4th day at school. Then, the young man approached me while I was waiting for Major’s bus. “Uh, excuse me? Can I help you?” He had called across the street.
I had looked up, perturbed. “Nope.”
“Are you waiting for someone? Can I make a phone call for you?”
I had treated him curtly, giving him a firm look. “Nope. Just waiting for my kids,” I’d said.
“Oh, ok. You just… don’t look like you should be standing there. I thought something was wrong.”
He went on back up to his house.
At the time, I’d chalked it up to New England suburban living. People don’t really get to know their neighbors and I have a very private driveway. Though we’d been living here for 3 years, it was very possible that he’d never seen me before. And, let’s face it: I know where I live. I figured he was wondering who this random Black lady was. There aren’t a lot of us out here. I never saw the guy again. Until yesterday.
Yesterday, I stood at the bottom of the driveway for a protracted period of time, but glanced up from my phone from time to time to see if the bus was coming. That’s when I noticed the young man I’d encountered last year sitting on his back deck. He was sitting, facing my direction for a while, though I wouldn’t say he was staring at me. I thought nothing of it. Next thing I know, he’s off his back deck, down onto part of his lawn, carrying a baseball bat on his shoulder like a Minute Man would carry his musket, and walking on the perimeter of his property. He paced part of it, back and forth, as if on patrol. He must have walked his beat two or three times while I was watching.
It was… odd. And… strange. And… off.
I did my best not to watch him outright so as to not give him the attention that I thought he was seeking. Then again, I wanted to figure out his intentions. What was he doing? Why was he doing that? Where did the bat come from? He wasn’t menacing, he never stopped to stare at me , nor did he speak to me. He just coolly, casually, with a purposeful pace, patrol the parameter of his property, his bat in his hands.
When the bus came, I went to the sidewalk, and the guy slipped into a wooded area of his lawn, as if to hide… though he’d clearly been out in the open all the time before. When the bus pulled away and I had corralled my boys away from the street, he’d emerged from the wooded area, back to his pacing. He was looking over his shoulder, eyes on me. I took my boys up the driveway, certainly concerned. They didn’t notice, thanks be to God.
The unease I felt lingered for a good while afterward. We extend to white men a lot of benefit of the doubt when it comes to aggression and potential violence, and I guess I’ve internalized a lot of that. I kept trying to explain away the foreboding I was feeling. But then I stopped: I know what I saw and I know how it made me feel. Though he didn’t directly threaten me, his behavior made me extremely uncomfortable. If that was his intention, it worked. It it wasn’t, then he’s simply misguided and should know better. When I told The Husband about it, his face went hard, his concern high. We went to bed discussing security and how we can better protect ourselves and the boys if shit around here goes sideways. We’ve decided that it’s probably time to get serious about adopting a dog. We might take other measures, too.
I told my neighbor all of this. He was astonished and disturbed. “That kid,” he explained. “He’s got issues. I’m not sure he’s all there. But I don’t really think he would do anything crazy.”
That gives me little comfort for obvious reasons. If he’s really “not all there” (though that’s just speculation), if he’s “not all there” and has aggression problems, that could create catastrophic results if left unchecked. If we pay attention to these stories of young white males who do profoundly destructive things, we know that they are “not all there” but “wouldn’t do anything crazy,” until they do something crazy. I just want to know what the hell I’m dealing with. The more I know, the better I can prepare.
I don’t need another thing to worry about right now. I need less things. Significantly less things. I’m not letting some asshole keep me from sleeping at night. Then again, I’m remaining vigilant. I have no other choice: this house and the land it’s on has my name on it. It was bought with my money and no one elses. No parents. No grandparents. Not even The Husband’s. I’m not fucking going anywhere. That’s just not how this is gonna go down.
I’m so tired and a bit overwhelmed. But I’m still here, Dear Reader. I hope you are, too.
I’ll see you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.