Out of the Darkness

It started with the subtle movements of blinds.

Cautiously, slowly, they peeked out from behind their drawn curtains in the immediate aftermath of the sonic boom. With no immediate answers available from behind the window and nothing but quiet and darkness on the inside, they did the unthinkable. They opened their doors. Slowly, but driven by pure curiosity, they opened their doors wide enough to stand there and peer out.

Across the way was someone else, mirroring the same actions and emotions. They locked eyes and froze for a moment, both standing in their doorways. Usually they avoid each other, as all the neighbors do. Maybe a nod, sometimes a hello. But for the most part it’s keep your head down and mind your business so you can both go about your day.

But this was no normal day.

They hesitantly stepped outside into the hot summer air to ask each other what happened. Neither one knew. But seconds later the rest of the neighbors were slinking out of their domiciles with the same curious and slightly frightened look on their faces.

“Does anyone know what happened?”

“I heard a bang.”

“I have no power.”

“Me either.”

As the lot of us made our way down to the street, the news was confirmed by all residents who live in the other eight phases of our condo complex: It was a good ole fashioned blackout.

TVs stopped blaring annoying infomercials and radios ceased spouting mind-numbing advertisements for car dealerships. The silence was even more pronounced because all of the air conditioners had stopped their incessant humming. And it made people uneasy. You could tell by the looks on their faces. The sweet, cold, refreshing air is the reason we all keep our houses hermetically sealed, as if one solitary cracked window or open slider will result in the end of days.

“I hope the power comes back on soon. I need the AC,” said one neighbor, whose name no one knew because we don’t take the time to learn any of each other’s names.

But a funny thing happened as we collectively stood and watched the NStar truck roll in to check things out. We all started talking. Outside, in the heat, a group of neighbors began chatting. Some for the first time despite having lived within 50 feet of each other for several years. Such is life in the unfriendly northeast.

John is running a marathon. Ed built a new deck. Lois has to have back surgery. Jim had a stroke a while back and none of us even knew it, despite the fact that an ambulance had come to rescue him.

And little Tommy, who just turned 2, got to play with Will. We had always known there was a little one nearby, but we’d see him and his parents walking around the circle. But instead of heading out there to talk to them with Will, we’d simply guess how old he is and hope the two of them could play together sometime, as there are very few kids here. Sure we could’ve run out there, but…well you know, that smacks of effort.

As we talked and bantered and our kids played, I couldn’t help but think it was nice. I’ve peered out windows at them, listened to some of their arguments (thin walls) and made up my own hypotheses about their lives (I’m convinced one of my neighbors moonlights as a cougar hooker), but I’d never really talked to them before.

“We’re all set guys, power’s back on,” shouted the NStar utility worker.

And sure enough, all the air conditioners simultaneously began their barbaric roars and TVs all around us snapped back to life. We looked at one another, unsure of what to do. But instead of continuing our outdoor neighborly summit, we all nodded at one another, grunted our goodbyes and headed back into our caves craving cool air and TV. And just like that the doors were closed, windows shut tight and the blinds drawn.

It’s probably for the best. Don’t want to let that cold air out.

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14 thoughts on “Out of the Darkness

  1. Kind of sad that you don’t have better relationships with your neighbors. I spend lots of time with mine regularly. All the kids play and the older ones babysit. We have pool parties and fire pit nights and lots of beer drinking in lawn chairs.
    Just last week new people moved in behind us and were greeted with a cooler of cold drinks by one house and extra driveway space for moving day by another house. Last weekend we had a neighborhood cookout just to welcome them. They were thrilled and said that lived in their previous house 7 yrs before they met the neighbors.

  2. WM: Honestly, for the most part I like not knowing the neighbors. I grew up near Boston and that means you look down and NEVER say hello when you’re walking by someone on the sidewalk. You keep to yourself and go about your business. I’m generally unfriendly and that goes double since we live in a condo. We can already hear what everyone else is doing and saying on a daily basis, so even though the neighbors don’t talk to each other we’re already sick of one another because of the close quarters.

    Maybe in a single family house with cool people it’d be different.

  3. We all walked around with heads down and didnt talk to each other because we grew up in a town full of snobs and mean people. everyone was BETTER than their neighbor……..you know im right. hahaha – p.s. Town hasnt changed a bit, still stuck here living next to snobs

  4. Jesi: Yeah, our town is snobby. But I can honestly say I’m just unfriendly, not snobby. Although people probably consider that one and the same.

    And I was really sorry to hear about your brother. I didn’t really know him but I remember my mom talking about him and…well, it just sucks. Don’t know what else to say. But MJ and I (and Will) were thinking about you and your family.

  5. I think I should live in the north! I get so tired of having to speak to every human I see sometimes I want to cry. I lived in one neighborhood where I would only check my mail every couple of days because a trip to the mailbox would promise a neighbor would practically jump a fence to get to me to talk. AND… when I was trapped at the mail box I was looking at at least 20 minutes of pure conversation – total hell for me.

    I LOVE your story, so well written!

  6. It’s funny- we felt the exact opposite way when we lived in our condo! We were friends with all of our building “mates” and often had get togethers, both planned and spontaneous. Then, when we moved to a single family home in East Falmouth we went a year and half without knowing any of our neighbors except for the guy next door- who only said hi when he had been drinking. Must say though- now that we are down South ALL of our neighbors made us feel welcome- and now our son has lots of little friends to play with! BTW- all of my “southern” nieghbors are from up north and said they had trouble adjusting to the neighborly friendliness. Must be the warm air that loosens everyone up?

  7. When I travel down south, it seems to take half an hour to get through the checkout line at the grocery store because the cashier is chatting nicely with everyone in line about everything. Nearly every native wishes me a great day, and politely asks me questions. They are nice, warm, friendly – and I just want to do away with them quickly and efficiently. Does that mean something is wrong with us notherners? Probably – but then I’m not all that fond of us either. And I know it can’t be me.

  8. 1. This blog is hilarious, on point and bloody well delivered.

    2. I refuse to tweet but yes, I was equally disturbed by George Carlin narrating anything my kids watched and also Alec Baldwin. I think it may be like public service announcements for reprobates, lol. Community service, as it were.

  9. Despite Aaron’s best efforts, Will loves Thomas the Tank Engine. He literally bounces up and down when it comes on, and claps his hands and runs to Grandpa to watch. It is hysterical. I now know Percy, Harold, Topham Hat and all the rest of the characters far too well. I will admit it creeps me out a bit, like a lot of things British (except Mrs. Peel on the old Avengers series, she was hot) but I get over it.

  10. I cringe when I’m outside and I see a neighbor walking down the street. Usually, I can scamper into the backyard before they see me. If not, I usually loose 15-30 minutes of my life listening to mindless information. Big K and I are hermits. Don’t come knocking!

  11. I like to be anonymous. The only lady downstairs from my first apartment after college did not let me be. She heard EVERYTHING and commented on EVERYTHING to the point that I was creeped out (and I think she had a unhealthy obession w/ Billy)!
    In other business, Vincent LOVES LOVES LOVES everything Thomas. It is literally all he plays with, and has played with for like 3 years. Billy and V have a tradition of waking up early on Saturdays to watch it while I SLEEP IN! I love that tradition. Now I know what to buy Will!

  12. When I first moved into my house 16 years ago, I lived on the end of the block with the friendly neighbors. They were all older, a generation or two older than my husband and I. They are mostly gone now. The people my age didn’t bother. We used to have block parties, but not in many years. I don’t hang around with my neighbors, but do have friendly ones on one side. The other side I don’t know well because he put up a six foot fence and doesn’t mix with anyone. I grew up in a house that was the neighborhood hot spot. Kids of all ages were always roaming in and out. I miss the friendliness of it. I love the idea of getting to know and hang out with your neighbors. The husband is the direct opposite. Think curmudgeon. They say opposites attract . . .

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