September 4, 2014

Neighbours

A guy comes to my door. “Have you seen my remote?” “What?” I say. “I’ve lost my remote and I can’t find it anywhere. I thought that somehow it, you know, got over here.”   As he looks into middle distance I recognize him from trying not to ever make eye contact with him, know his name or memorize his face – he’s my neighbour. Some people think a stranger is a friend they haven’t met yet. I think a friend is an enemy that hasn’t betrayed you yet. “No I haven’t seen it…”   “Great” he says, “Sorry to bother you.” And he goes to go but instead he just stands there. “Listen,” I say, “sometimes I lose my remote and I’ve accidentally put it in the fridge. Did you look in your fridge?” “Oh yah,” he says, “Several times and it’s not on the roof or in the furnace neither.” “Great,” I say even though nothing is.

I go back to what I’m doing. Which I think is nothing but it’s really important to me, and I have to get back to it, you know? And about an hour later I see this vague shape on my step so I do the manly thing. I crawl on my hands and knees toward the window …which is further complicated by the fact my dog thinks I’m finally going to play that game that she has been imagining. Okay. So I’m crawling and I get to the window, I open the blinds a crack and there is a big eye there. It’s the same guy, my neighbour, but I’m thinking, “ if he moved he wouldn’t be.” I open the door and he’s been rooting around in this plant I have on the doorstep for some reason. I act like I care about the plant. He says, “Do you know what function I miss the most?” “Gee let me guess, channel recall?” “No, ‘Sleep,’ ‘Sleep On’ See I can’t sleep because I can’t sleep without the TV. So I fall asleep and I have to wake up and turn it off and when I turn it off I can’t sleep and there is nothing.” “Did your wife, um, leave you?” “No,” he says, “but I’m in denial. And if she ever did leave, which she didn’t, then I know she would come back when I found my remote.” His eyes zoom in on my remote sitting on something called an ‘end table’. I think they call it that ’cause when you buy one, it’s the END of your youth. He says, “Is that my remote?” “No, that remote is MINE.”   “I’m sure it is friend, I’m sure it is. Do you use YOUR remote?”   “Yes, yes I do.”   “Of course you do? We’re all the same aren’t we? We all have our needs. I bet you don’t think a remote can wreck your life, but it can. We’re all three bad breaks away from living in a cardboard fort.”

I close the door. I sit down, pick up my remote, feel the warmth, look at my sweet dog. I become, for an instant, exactly what the government wants me to be – “happy with what I have.” And I was. I go to pat my sweet dog’s stomach and the TV turns off. I pat it again and it turns back on. My dog just looks at me and burps. She burps the way only a dog that’s eaten a neighbour’s life can.

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