I grew a lot during my year in Michigan. I spent time finding my feminine side. I went to therapy. I reconnected with my daughter.
I also had neighbors.
Bobby was your typical fifth year senior. His father paid for his housing and his tuition and probably everything else. Bobby had a different car every semester. He had crazy parties every football day, but he was polite enough to take it elsewhere around 11 pm. Bobby was a gent. He parked my car one football Saturday when I showed up with a rain-soaked toddler and a crazed look in my eye, and asked him to “either park my car or watch my kid while I go find a parking spot.” There was no “please” in that sentence. Like I say, Bobby was a good egg (or just scared of me).
During the summer, his girlfriend Melissa, whose name has been changed because I can’t remember the real one, moved in. Melissa was 5’3, blond, blue-eyed and every college guys dream. She was just a cute little thing. I invited her into our side of the basement one afternoon during a tornado warning so she wouldn’t have to sit on hers alone, poor little scared thing from some state where they don’t have tornados. We were pros at this tornado business—my sister, the kiddo and I.
Things were going great! We all smiled at each other and waved and said “hi” like normal people. Until one day. Specifically the day I was going to the lawyers office to sign the divorce papers and was running late to class and was feeling like shit warmed over.
Melissa chose that day to leave a shitty little passive aggressive note on my fucking windshield about all the things we were doing wrong: Parking on the front lawn (which they did too), turning on their basement light to go downstairs (which they did too), and something else which so infuriated me I can’t remember what it is (because they did it too). Melissa had touched on one of my pet peeves—passive aggressive notes. Not only was it passive aggressive, she had signed and dated it. Like for legal purposes.
What happened to the tornado warning? Had Melissa forgotten the generosity and care I had extended? I felt betrayed. Melissa didn’t know it, but that morning I daydreamed of firebombing their side of the duplex then spitting on the charred remains of the house. Because they wouldn’t be there, that would just be cruel.
I festered for weeks. Every time I walked past their front door I glared at it. I glared at her hurrying past me several mornings, trying not to make eye contact. She hadn’t thought about the fallout of that note, had she? I took pleasure in making her feel my fucking wrath. In fact I probably displaced a large load of anger I had towards my ex on poor Melissa.
One day in July I decided it was enough. I was the adult here, wasn’t I? Melissa wasn’t even old enough to drink. I waited until she had just gotten home and shut her door to go over and ring the doorbell. You could have knocked Melissa over with a feather. She looked terrified. But I apologized and she did that fake “lets be friends and have a drink thing.” We went our separate ways with the tension dissipated. I was pretty proud of myself for not letting it fester anymore.
It turns out the “lets have a drink thing” was not fake too. A few weeks later around 11 pm, I was two-deep in gins and tonic when the door bell rang. It was Melissa asking me over for Mimosas. My head said “no” but my buzz said “lets get our drink on!”
So we talked about our lives. Mostly Melissa’s life. I understood why Melissa was acting so screwy. She had a point of view on life that was very young, and her take on men was all wrong. Her last boyfriend had stalked her. She and Bobby fought every night, but she had no intention of leaving him. Oh boy. I listened while imbibing on mimosas. Four of the hugest mimosas that were ever made in the history of the world.
At one am, a friend of Melissa’s came over and we sat on the front stoop and smoked cigarettes. I was proud of myself. I could still run with the 20-somethings! Young at heart, that’s me! At two am, Melissa went to bed and I stumbled into my own bed.
At four I woke with an urgency unheard of since the dawn of drinking. Then I proceeded to Exorcist-style puke my guts out for four hours straight. The whole time wondering what the sam-hell I had been thinking. Why? Why? Why did I drink all those mimosas? Why did I want to run with the 20-somethings? For the love of all that’s good and holy, why did I do this to myself?!
Thank god my sister was living with me, because she watched the kiddo until noon. That’s when I stumbled out of bed and took us to get pancakes. My hangover lasted for two days. I was completely incapacitated for the first day. The second day I just felt like Melissa had sledge-hammered my brains out.
People I was still scrubbing the vomit from all the little crevices of the toilet and the walls until the day I moved. And when I threw away that last vomit-covered toothbrush, I swore for the third time in my life to never do that again.