One of my favorite (and by favorite I mean “best alternative when I am feeling homicidal”) things to do at night is to drive up, down and around the streets of my neighborhood. It gives me a feel for what is going on if even just for that fleeting moment when I take my eyes off the road and assess what is happening around me. On these less-frequent-than-over-the-past-few-years-but-not-all-together-absent excursions I, with a nearly 100% success rate, feel better by the time I pull back into my own driveway.
As I weave through the streets, I take a mental inventory (that sounds creepier than it is) of who (based solely upon the cars in the driveway) is home, who is having work done to the house and who should be having work done to the house I find myself thinking less about whatever event drove me to seek refuge in my car and more about what is happening for other folks. We all get so wrapped up in whatever mishegas* we are dealing with that we teeter dangerously close to being totally self-absorbed and, as a result, forgetting about the people we surround ourselves with – even if just by proximity.
Driving along one street, I think of my friend who, during the school year, I see most mornings at the gym but, given both of our altered summer schedules with the kids, haven’t seen since school got out. I wonder how things are going with his three kids, his wife and where they might be this summer. Aside from sporadic Facebook updates by his wife and seeing that his car in the driveway, I only know they are in town…but that is all I know. I remind myself to shoot him a text to check in.
I pass by another house, the lights in the master bedroom still burning, and think of how they are coping and planning for their daughter’s upcoming surgery. While I talk to the house’s owner nearly every day and have a fairly good grasp on where her head is, I do wonder if she and her husband are discussing it as I drive by, her none the wiser to my roaming the streets. (Until now, that is.)
How are things going with the lesbian neighbor whose wife recently left her for a man? And that damn dog that barks incessantly all night – did I just discover where it lives? Wow, that is a hell of an addition going on that house – are they adding a family room or a new kitchen or an in-law suite for their ailing parents? Do they even have ailing parents? I notice that ours is not the only overgrown lawn and ponder whether it is a sign of laziness or of being too overwhelmed to be bothered by something as benign as grass. That looks like a new car in the driveway – must have been a good year judging by the make and model. I think about how the kid in another house is doing since being busted having a huge house party when his folks were out-of-town. (I had forgotten all about that…I suspect his parents have not.)
But the real thrill happens when I drive by (again, as uncreepily as possible) and can actually see into the house and catch a snippet of what goes on behind closed doors. I’ve seen dinner parties in progress. I’ve noticed folks with their feet up watching television. There have been sightings of people getting up and taking themselves to another room in the house. Where are they headed? What are they doing? Where is their head?
I catch a glimpse into windows of homes I know as well as my own and others I have never been in.** I comment to myself (‘cause it would be weird to say it aloud, all alone in my car) about the décor, or the color of the walls or the cool chandelier. And, in the process, I notice that my anxiety has dissipated. My homicidal urges are quelled. While I have bolted from (er, I mean calmly left) my house, assured (falsely) that I am the only one who has a complicated life, I am given a virtual slap upside the head and reminded that everyone has a life (admittedly, some more complicated than others) that they are leading with hopes for little more than happiness and contentedness.
I suspect I am not the only night rider around.*** I am just the one who admits it and, in the process, have likely creeped a few people out. Let me assure you: I am not a voyeur, rather I am curious, compassionate and finding whatever way possible to stay connected…even if just in my heart.
*That’s Yiddish for craziness.
** If I have not been invited in as of yet, I suspect this entry just sealed that deal.
*** My old friend Betsy, who taught me the art of looking into other’s windows, is most certainly one, too.