Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Neighbor Friend

I have a nosy neighbor who happens to be a chatterbox. If you ask her a simple question, you're going to get an answer that takes her 10 to 15 minutes to roll out. In fact, if I took out a stopwatch, clicked it, and set it on the table, it wouldn't faze her. She'd just keep talking. If she knows something about the subject, she tells you everything she knows. If she doesn't know about the subject, she explains in scattershot detail why she doesn't know it.

I like her. Every neighborhood needs a nosy chatterbox. I just can't spend more than a half hour with her -- roughly two subjects -- before I feel like I'm stuck in the middle of a pew, and the droning speaker announces that his message is so important that he's going to extend the meeting.

The chatterbox is married to a -- surprise! -- soft-spoken guy. He's a huge Buffalo Bills fan, and he plays bass guitar in a struggling band that does covers of Russian rock songs. One day, in early December, he brought his son over to play with our boys. He and I were drinking beer and quietly watching a football game when his wife and Wendy came into the room.

"Wow! Would you look at that! What is that? A Christmas village? How long did it take you to put that together? Hey, [husband's name], why don't we do something like that? We're never organized enough to do something like that . . ."

She went on to talk for another ten or fifteen minutes about their family's shortcomings in terms of Christmas decorations. All the husband did was shrug every few minutes. She turned to me.

"You've probably already bought Wendy her Christmas present, haven't you?"

"Yes. I bought it in April," I deadpanned.

"See? [Husband's name] always waits until the last minute-"

"Whoa," I said. "Hold on. I was joking."

"Why are you men like that? The boyfriend I had before this one did the exact same thing. I looked at the receipt for a birthday gift he'd gotten me, and it was the same day as my birthday! The exact same day!"

The husband closed his eyes and took a long swig from his beer. I didn't know how to respond. I could have continued the sarcasm: "Good thing you dumped that loser." I could have asked what was on my mind: "Why were you looking at the receipt date in the first place? Who does that?" Instead, I just sat there.

She kept talking.