NEIGHBOURS (Short -story)
I moved in here 3 years ago from Adelaide but have been too busy to get to know my neighbours. The houses are designed such that you don’t see anybody even if they live next door. Tough finding a place to live in California. Everyone here , or almost everyone is or has been an actor or connected to one. You can’t escape Hollywood here.
I have been working on my Fine Arts and Architecture degree. I am now in my final year but 32. Working simultaneously on a Doctorate. I am collecting the last pieces of research material and plan to submit my work in a month. I have been writing a book and I went to Bangalore last year. Why you will ask ? For some reason, everyone there is European and I was told my chances of publishing it there were great! I met the publisher and they gave me access to an online site to publish my books. Those who want to, can take a hard copy or soft copy printout. I had been planning to visit my neighbours but that had to be postponed because of my business trip to Bangalore.
Had a glorious time there and my dad (my brother whom we call Dad) has taken a liking to the place. He bought 2 apartments in Hyderabad and is happily living there. He didn’t give his reasons but he probably got bored of the USA. He lives there with his long time cousin who also plays mom to us. She is happy to do so as her actor son has got a plush job in Bangalore. He does locum acting. By that I mean he fills in for other look a likes. Believe me he does have a Engineering degree and a Doctorate in acting. I sometimes wonder whether my dad is married and where I came from. And no, he is not an actor. We used to have a constant stream of visitors to our place when I was a child. I happily grew up without caring about a mom or dad. Dad tells me mom used to travel a lot and the lady in his house is my mom. I am not so sure. I am very fond of them though. Not that I understand them.
I share the house with another aspiring actor. We work as a group and I have hired some head hunters to find jobs for us. My name by the way is Ivy Suri Dekoning. It’s a legalised name. I have several such names. I have a dear American friend whom I love dearly. So the name Suri. Mind you I am not interested in being wedded to him. Suri is just a close friend. He works in the security business and we see each other when he is in the area. I have known him since primary school. He is a handsome fellow but too short for me. Maybe otherwise I would have married him. Nobody knows I am loaded. I prefer it that way. I have few possessions. I travel as light as is possible. All my possessions would fit in my car. I have bought a house , I am proud to say,with my hard earned money and I rent it out. It generates income. I am also a Director in a company thanks to the shares I own. I do have a basic Bachelor’s degree in Business. So I have enough income to tide me over without dipping into my savings.
It’s time I got to know my neighbours. I really don’t know how people in this town relate to each other. After a year of looking, I have permanent tenancy to this place. I can live here as long as I like. My Dad found this place for me and left me here. Dum Dad I think affectionately. I am very fond of him. I love my mom too. Dad and mom have known each other practically their whole lives. Mom’s son is actually her sister’s son. She is very fond of him. I have spent winter in gloriously warm Hyderabad. My dad is having a gala time. I have deliberately chosen actors for my house mates. The head hunter found jobs for them. They have other qualifications. Two girls and a guy. The girls call me mom. They are my kids. The guy is airy and plays my husband. Why ? I have not idea. I do not even know how old he is but they are all nice. And I can do with the company as I work from home. I have to constantly remind myself that he is not my husband. We have worked out our roles and how we can relate to each other.
I am looking for a husband. I met a fellow at the Head Hunter’s office. He is a Doctor and owns the local Hospital. He is everything I want him to be and I managed to get his email address. I have made up my mind to marry him some day. I don’t see him very often. And I miss him dearly. I have big plans for myself. I have already made it big. Directed a epic TV Drama which was a huge success. I call up the Hospital and I get a project to promote the Hospital. I am working on the script.
Spring has finally arrived. It’s the first week of spring. I walk out of my house and stand in the drive way. My house is in a secluded spot. I watch the cars go by. One of my neighbours is tending to his garden. I walk over to talk to him. I am feeling lonesome. He has a very nice Dog. A 10 year old he tells me. I watch him as he removes the grass. I don’t bother with my garden. It has it’s seasons and I don’t have to do anything. The view from my backyard is something to die for.
The next day another neighbour of mine is taking in the bin as I have my cuppa in the drive way. I wave to her and she waves back. I walk over to her and we chat. She is Australian and invites me over at 10 am after her morning walk. Come over around the back she tells me. I ask her name and she tells me it is Arin. I finish off my morning’s work and head over to her place.
“How come I never see you”, she says. I tell her I have been in India visiting my Dad. India I discovered is in the USA. Bangalore and Hyderabad are US towns with a 12 kilometre radius. They just call it that as my Grandma is Indian. All of us can speak a couple of Indian languages though we speak mainly American English.
She tells me the neighbour Jim lives alone and he is 70. I can’t tell age by looking at the people here. I sometimes wonder. The Jim I see is must younger and more agile. Maybe more than one person lives in the place. Can’t imagine anyone living alone.
I have a beach community. I see my social life through sequences.When I reflect I realise it’s the same every year. Nothing much moves. Ok it does but just a little. September is catch up week. Everyone gets to know each other. Now that I remember, a few months ago I waved to my neighbour. That has been going on for a year. Every September, on a Wednesday she invites me in and we chat more or less about the same things. It has been a peaceful year. I have a long term contract as an actor with the hospital. We contribute to videos that the Hospital makes. Even I don’t know altogether what I do sometimes. Some of the videos are for Television (TV). I have been paid in advance. My colleague housemate plays my loving husband for a sequence. We visit the hospital together once a year as a family. I am playing a cancer victim. At least I hope I am. I am too young for cancer. Sometimes even the Doctors don’t know what’s happening. They figure it out on the spot. My neighbour 3 houses away is known for his regular runs. At this time of year, he takes his car out for a drive. His way of getting to know the neighbours. :-0.
Life is ok. I love my Doctor friend. I have known him for 3 years and we really get along great. I need to create, act and produce. It’s a passion. Something I have to do otherwise I feel literally sick. I don’t see him often. He pretends to be the not marrying kind and I am ok with that. After all, I have found love. I don’t see him often but I keep in touch. The girls stay with me and they move with me if I move. They are relatives of mine. My actor husband keeps going away once in a while. I have somebody else use his room at such times. Sometimes we leave it empty. His part in my life is very simple. He acts as my husband at census time and for the annual hospital visit. I have to remind him he is a partner, not husband. I have known him for 5 years. He plays Dad on father’s day. Rest of the year he does as he pleases. He has a regular job that pays quite well. I never forget that he is not husband. Life may be difficult but I prefer being single. I may have been married once. Am I married now ? Can’t remember. I don’t worry too much about it. As long as I don’t have to do the sex, I am ok. I know for sure I never married. When a fellow lives with you for any length of time, you can get confused. Sometimes he acts too well for my liking. I have a group of friends whom I work with. Alas they have moved away now.
Another of my neighbours is a close friend of mine. Only 3 of the people on my street are permanently here. All the others are here only part of the year. It does get a tad lonely at times and how I long for a man other than my housemate. Somebody I can talk to. That’s why I like visiting my Dad. He and I can talk about anything under the sun. He tries to convince me to take my actor husband as husband but neither of us is interested. Dad is just happy that I have finally found a permanent house mate. Even after all these years I don’t know much about him. Except that he has had a very happy childhood and is fashionably rich. He thinks he is richer than me and it may even be true. He is a long term tenant like me. After all you can’t own a place for $100,ooo. Not in your wildest dreams here. California is expensive.
I have kids. Don’t remember much about the child birth but I do know I am single.. They are all more or less settled in life. They are still young but I have no intention of dying of cancer. Plan to live for ever. The producer of the drama series probably wants it to be as real as possible I guess. He or she is not going to tell me. I am worried but not concerned. I will live for ever. After all I am still very young.
Went shopping today. And surprise of surprises I saw Adrian at the market. I call him Adrian. At least I think it’s him. I like him a lot but he looks very different from what I expected him to be. Of course not that you can tell. He has a beard. He always has a beard. And he fancies high boots. But he is the right height and age for me. Besides he lives here and I am bound to meet him again. And he has the right build. I have been looking for him for a while now. What was he doing there ? Shopping I guess. Same thing every year. (Sigh!) It never goes beyond a look with these men. Just as well I guess. Absence makes the heard grow fonder. And familiarity breeds indifference. I have lived here 3 years and it’s the same. No one gets beyond introductions. You have to see life through the sequences. Fortunately I have my kids. I guess life moves very slowly here. I wonder why. Connecting to people brings happiness. Why does nobody do so ? Strange place it is indeed. It’s not like people move all the time. And one of the neighbours I see everyday doesn’t even say Hi! Guess he is a stiff neck and can’t look around. :-0 Seriously. Spring has arrived and people are moving out more.
Wonder whom I will see next. No parties even. Even if there were I wouldn’t go. Just in case my colleague is mistaken for my husband at his parties. Besides those parties are BORING! Same people same talk and I can’t even speak the language they converse in properly. And the food is not even great. I do love great food. How I long for friends. My next door neighbours don’t even come out. But everyone professes to know everyone. After all if you have seen a person innumerable times, they count for Mate. How I long for Male company. Never mind ! After a while I will recognise all these people. The women chat so I know them. The men don’t. I grew up in a Unisex place where you move among men and women alike. How I long for that type of person. Rare are they Indeed ! Sigh! Hope I make some real friends soon and quickly too! I am getting fed up of saying Hi! However friendly that may be. I do recognise some Americans among them and it makes me feel good.
To tell you the truth I don’t know where I am. I call it Khasghar, USA. As I was learning to eat Chinese vegetarian at that time. I know the place is called Stanley. And the landmarks are Blue Lagoon 4. I let my imagination run wild. I dream I am in Chinski, a world that has been lost to mankind for centuries now. I dream of a Ruski guy friend. I am a Marine Engineer and in the armed forces. I can pilot a plane and am a crack shot. All in my dreams mind you. What else can you do in this place. Otherwise I would not even have a life. I have to create my own life sequences. I am also a Doctor that works for the “living for ever”. That bit is true. I did manage to get a good Doctor’s degree. Got bored of it and became a creative artist. I work for the Hospitals as an actress and need the credentials. I need the money. I dream I live on a underwater city in the Blue Lagoon which is on a humungous spacecraft. Could even be true. Or at least a docked ship liner. My job is to visit the marine park almost everyday. I do work flexitime. And on some days I visit the mall on my space craft. Given that there are always road works and the city landscape can change very fast. There are plenty of fly in fly out workers, part time workers and hence a lot of life has to be seen through the sequences. Maps don’t always help. So it’s easy to get lost, even with GPS. You could be wasting time going around in circles, before you discover you haven’t even moved a Kilometre or a Mile.
My goals this year are to be slim, not slender (A pipe dream). I am a plump mesomorph. I also want to visit my dad and mom every year. That is not likely to happen with my busy schedule. I am working on a age change project. The reason?? I know my age tentatively but not accurately. So I thought why not help those who have memory problems. It is a very interesting field in medicine. I play an important role in the hospital system. Sometimes I am just part of the scenery. What I would do if it weren’t for my housemates. I know there is a team that takes care of you and they would help at all times. That is reassuring. Nothing to worry about in life. I have always lived that way. I like being a creative artist. I have made myself famous in some circles so have a job as a Career Diplomat. That takes me to other countries once in a while and pays quite well. But I am still young and all my jobs don’t require everyday hands on or daily commute. I mostly do the hospital rounds.
For such a young person I have all the diseases one can think of. I managed to get onto the Hospital and City’s board. I am talented and I have the money and credentials. In this small place called Stanley, at least I live here and am on call. Only my children know how loaded I am. They still work hard but easily. I am a nice mother. Who wouldn’t love me :-0
Once in a while the whole place changes. People change their hairstyle, move jobs, all within the same suburb. I do know I have been in this large village before. I do feel lonely as I don’t have adult company. It is a constant feeling. After all I am human. But everyday I meet somebody I know. I pray to God to give me friends who would talk to me. I went blonde recently and look 56 because of the grey hair. Try as I might I am not able to get rid of the blonde hair. I like the adventurous life without risking my life. By that I mean I love exercise. I adopted my kids and they live with me. Even after all these years I miss my dad. Unfortunately they don’t live here with me. I am trying to persuade them to do so. Without luck. Mind you my life is good! I know plenty of people and by that I mean plenty. So I am not complaining. I guess I am a romantic. I miss my friends, that’s all. There is no solution for that. I have joined a dating network and I send emails to a call centre. They are redirected to other members and it brightens up my life as well as theirs. I have a lot of love to give.
So that about sums up my life in this Californian village. It's a city but I live the village life. I don't expect my life to change. It will be the same thing every year.