the value of knowing your neighbour’s level of crazy

Four o’clock in the morning and my old dog has to pee. This has been the situation for the past year and a half. I can’t remember the last time I had a good sleep. Having just thrown a big Thanksgiving dinner party I am particularly sluggish at this hour. I roll out of bed with Headpins hair that takes me right back to Darby Mills  in the 1980s. I am wearing my husband’s t-shirt and some frilly panties (this detail is important for later). I catch myself in the mirror, bad posture. Not sexy! Not even if I squint. I can’t leave myself to ponder that disturbing image during this middle of the night walk, so, I do a sexy pose at a better angle. Oh yeah. That’s an improvement. I’d still have married sex with that. The dog looks at me with disdain, “All is vanity! It’s four o’clock in the morning, woman, just let me pee so I can continue to snore on the carpet for the love of God in heaven.”IMG_5232

I’m the only one in our Vancouver condo besides my daughter who is fast asleep. She always has her head flung back over one arm as if doing the art of dramatic gesture for the emotion of “dismay”. The boy is off to his Mom’s and my Fellow has gone to Bowen to tuck in the ladies, his chickens…otherwise he usually does the four o’clock in the morning condo dog walk because he’s seen kids doing crack near Britannia secondary school yard and doesn’t want me out here. Bless him. I’m sure I’m fine. I’ve walked the dog for years before I ever met him.

I pull on my fancy high heeled boots and my dress coat over my t-shirt and panties, nobody’s going to see me. I leash the dog and out we go. The night is beautiful. The moon is full. The rain has stopped and everything is shiny dark and fragrant. I pull Tartuffe past Tony and Lucia’s yard (my lovely Italian neighbours) and make my dog wait until we reach the tree on the corner to relieve himself. Tony has put up two new “please clean up after your dog” signs. Poor Tony. His yard is always full of shit no matter how much he protests. We walk further down McLean and round the bend. Tartuffe does his business. His back legs are getting quite weak so now it’s a walking squat defecation, rather humorous, but rather hard to follow the trail at night. I throw the bag of goods into the usual dumpster. A few houses down the block I put my hands in my pockets and I notice…IMG_5234

“Where are my keys?”


No no no no no.

My first thought is, “You threw them into the dumpster with the dog shit you dork.”

But I can’t –  I can’t even go there mentally without my brain fuzzing out. I decide I must have just dropped them along the way. Probably they slipped out of my pocket when I was picking up the poo trail. Yes, that’s it.

No, that’s not it. I squint in the dark and walk the path I just took twice. No dice. I head back to the dumpster and peer in. It’s so dark, I see nothing. It’s mostly empty but there are probably about twenty smallish bags of garbage in there, most likely dog shit bags like mine. It’s a big dumpster, there’s no way I can reach. I’m not about to climb in there either with my high heels and bare legs and frilly panties. Good Lord. I can’t believe this is happening to me. I lean against a tree to think things through. I have no phone. I can’t reach Nora because her bedroom window is out of reach and the apartment buzzer is attached to my cell and my cell is on silent. My husband is on the island. Maybe a police officer will drive by? Then what? I have to try to solve this.

So, I find an old chair in the alley and grab a recycling box and haul them back to the dumpster with my confused dog. I stand up on the chair and scoop the garbage in the dumpster up with the recycling box. I do this as quietly as possible. I pull up about seven different bags, one of which I’m sure is mine, no keys. I haven’t heard anything like a key down there as a I scoop bags up. The smell and the stick on my hands – I can’t do it anymore. No. I’ll just have to wait by the door and hope that someone in the condo complex leaves the house early.images-1

I walk back home, scouring the sidewalks and grassy shoulders again for anything that gleams. I wait outside the condo for the next hour and a half. The moon has moved across the sky. It’s the Thanksgiving weekend and nobody is stirring, no lights are on in any of the sixteen apartments. My patio fence is too high for me to climb over and it’s locked from the inside. I try buzzing my apartment eight times, just in case Nora is up and concerned about my whereabouts and might notice the phone lighting up. I shiver, I pace. I can see my breath. It’s cold. I’m cold. My teeth start chattering. Imagine getting hypothermia right outside my door. Yet, I cannot bring myself to buzz any of my sleeping neighbours. There’s only one neighbour who strikes me as kind. But she has two dogs who will bark their heads off and wake up the whole floor if I buzz her. The strata council already hates me for all my “room mates” over the years.

But if this was any one of my neighbours locked out, I would want them to know they could buzz me and I’d let them in. No problem!  No. I shake my head. That’s small town thinking. This is the city. These people…I don’t know if there’s any charity.

My family is all sleeping soundly. I can picture the bunnies huddled together in their hutch. I can see the ladies all snuggled up on their perch in the coup. The gecko is under his rock. My boy is tucked under some stylish bedding at his Mom’s, my daughter is rolling around in deep sleep striking a new pose, my husband is splayed slightly sideways, his long feet poking out from under the duvet…I look down at the dog. He is looking almost…frisky! I let go of the leash.”sniff at your leisure, buddy, we have another two hours to wait at least.”images

Yesterday I dropped my cell phone in the centre of my pumpkin pie. My husband, while cleaning out the filling from my adapter connection with a toothpick chuckled tenderly, “Ah, you pulled a Lucia.” I thought to myself then, “Oh, you think THIS is pulling a Lucia? You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

I think tonight is a full pull.

Should I go back to the dumpster? Should I jump in? Should I try to flag a car on Clark and ask to use the phone and call my daughter awake? Not the safest option in this outfit…As I ponder this I hear the familiar rattle of a grocery cart pushed slowly up the street. What are the social politics around asking this urban outdoorsman if they would consider dumpster diving for me if I pay them twenty bucks? I shouldn’t assume this person dives dumpsters. But what if this person does and finds my keys? I chuckle imagining him driving off in my mellow yellow Mini. I decide to leave him in peace.

Just before six in the morning the sky is starting to enter the blue hour and so are my bits. I am so very cold I hurt. The dog is done exploring and sits his old butt down on the cement, looking at me worriedly. The first pedestrian I’ve seen all night walks by, a young man in a dark hoodie. He’s either coming back late from a party or heading out early to work. Or both. I take my chances and I chase after him with my bare legs and Headpin hair.

“Excuse me, excuse me, so sorry, I locked myself out, I’m freezing, I’ve been out here since four in the morning, could I borrow your phone?” He pulls back his hoodie, revealing a kind and surprised face.

“Oh my goodness, how horrible, of course you can!”

He hands me his phone and I dial my husband and hate to wake him.

“Bella? What’s wrong honey?”

His voice is low and groggy.

“Dear, I’m so sorry, I was walking the dog and dropped my keys…”

The young man looks down at his feet.

“You mean these ones?”

Just left of his feet in the grass are my keys. Unbelievable. Why did they fall out here? Why didn’t I see them? I walked up and down this street a number of times.

“Honey, I found them! Sorry, goodnight.”

I hang up and thank the young man profusely.

“Amazing, amazing, thank you! You have saved me!”

He smiles. He’s got the beautiful high cheekbones of the Japanese. An angel to me.


I quietly enter my apartment, my daughter is blissfully sleeping. Her arm is flung out to the left in a delicate curve. The dramatic gesture might be “supplication”. I decide to curl in beside her to warm myself up.

I think about the kindness of that young man. A lot of people would not stop and listen to me. A lot of people would be too afraid of the possible depth of crazy. Reminds me of when my car got hit on Franklin street. I was six months pregnant. Three people saw the accident and they all hurried inside their homes. One stayed out on her lawn. Shaken, I assumed with gratefulness, “Thank you for staying, would you mind being a witness?” She smiled at me unkindly. “White people have never done anything good for me.” “But…I’m pregnant…he was clearly in the wrong….” She smiled even wider, “I didn’t see a damn thing.” This is the downside to living in the city. We don’t know each other and yet we live together. That’s what I love about living in the country. At least I know who I’m dealing with and they know who they’re dealing with.

As my eyes flutter closed I think…I really…should…try…to get to know…my neighbours…get to know their kind of crazy.


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