Posted by: dougery | March 18, 2013

I’ll Gladly Reimburse you Tuesday for a $20 Today

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Last night Leo, C.J., Josh and Toby were arguing on my television, as they have so often of late. I finally (Finally!!) succeeded in snaring my wife on the West Wing, which we are now devouring at a pace of about 2 episodes per evening. The white house gang were arguing over the relevance of green beans to the electoral college, which makes much more sense in the context of the show, I promise. Anyways, they were talking when the doorbell of our apartment rang.

This is always a disconcerting phenomenon at 9:15 PM on a Sunday evening. What good can possibly come of this, I thought to myself. I freed myself from a nest of comforters (it’s still ball-chillingly cold in Boston, even 2 days from the official start of spring. There’s a winter storm warning for tonight, haha!) and realized I would be answering the door in my pajamas. Oh well. My wife peeked out around our curtain and saw… our neighbor.

This was both good and bad news. Good because it wasn’t somebody asking for donations, or selling something, or a murderous stranger who would kill me and wear my skin as a coat. Bad because as our neighbor, something might actually be wrong here. As our neighbor, we have certain neighborly duties. When your neighbor’s car won’t start, you go out and hook up the cables and you give them a jump. If your neighbor is out of milk and needs some, you give them some milk.

Now about our neighbor.

L and I call her Poppa’s Momma, because we were introduced to everyone in her house long ago and failed to get her name but she has a cat named Poppa which she calls after, endlessly, around 6 PM, when its time for his supper. “Poppa! Poppa!” over and over in a thick, Medford accent. It’s not just Southie where the stereotypical Boston twang reigns supreme.

Poppa’s Momma is of generous carriage. I have only ever seen her in a nightgown, for that is what she wears all the time. She was wearing a nightgown in late December when she dropped off her Christmas gift for our cat, a CVS store-bought felt stocking with ‘Pickles’ written across the top in blue ballpoint pen (and not, say, glitter). Never mind that our cat’s name is Pickle (singular. Get with the program, people!), the stocking was full of cat-treats and canned food and a toy with a bell that Peeper adores. Poppa’s Momma has been nothing but kind to us, calling us Honey, sitting sentinel on her front porch in the warm weather months (be-nightgowned, obvy) with a bottle of wine.

Last night Poppa’s Momma looked… anxious. I answered the door and she asked swiftly, as if scripted, “I was wondering if I could borrow $20 until Tuesday.” I paused, and hesitated, and said “One moment,” whereupon I disappeared inside, vaguely recalling a conversation I’d had with my upstairs neighbor. T had also been approached for money. It had also been $20 and it had also been promised to be returned on a Tuesday. T had thought, rather logically, that the money was needed for drugs.

So, yikes.

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L saw me and I relayed the request. We conferred and although conflicted (she’s so nice to us!), decided to claim empty wallets, just debit cards, I’m so sorry, we just got back from VT. Poppa’s Momma was fine, she said no problem. I began to doubt myself. What if she needed it to buy bread or food or something. Would she be dead by Tuesday? Maybe she had run out of cat food for Poppa, but no, she would have just asked for it, if that had been the case, right?

Giving in would have set a dangerous precedent I think. We want to be neighborly but I think that what happened last night was a little weird. The fact that I’m still thinking about it, and writing about it, confirms as much. Still, I can’t help but worry that maybe I’m a bit of an asshole, or at least mildly assholish.

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