A Letter to a Neighbour
You don’t know me very well, perhaps you don’t know me really at all, and why would you, being so young, and having nothing more in common with me than a corner store, and an oak tree leaving leaves and acorns scattered all over the neighbourhood? Cursory ties of proximity.
I am nervous.
My name is Jonathan Warfold, you probably think of me as Mr Warfold, that quiet old neighbour, the one with the wonky glasses and that scraggly beard. Maybe you think of me as less even than that. I can hardly blame you, why should you know me or want to know me? What can you know about what happened those seven or eight years ago? Maybe one day, when you’re older, this letter, stacked on top of all the others; when circumstances are better, and when I’ve more courage in me…
I watch you Gloria, sometimes, playing out in the garden. You look so free, so totally unencumbered by the chains of regret and misstep that weigh us grown-ups down. You have all your great mistakes ahead of you. I imagine that I see something in you, sometimes, and I know that it must be only my imagination; there was only that one night… But still: do you have the same colour eyes? Is there a tilt of your chin, or the way you walk, or the way you sit, or the shape of your shoulders when you hunch over a butterfly rested on a wide-open flower? A common note or two in the music of your laugh?
Sometimes your mother sees me. She looks up and catches my eye without meaning to. She quickly looks away again. So beautiful still, hair all ebony-caramel, and the wide almond of her eyes. That same shape in your eyes, and you do have her nose. But your hair colour darkens as you grow up – a colour that begins to remind me after all of Trevor’s.
And your mother keeps silent. Unguessable. We’ve not said a word to each other in nearly eight years.
I won’t put a stamp on this letter, I won’t put in the post box, or walk the few steps to your letterbox. But I will keep it, and one day, when you are older, and I am old, when the years begin to run out, perhaps I will ask her to give this shoebox to you, the letters and cards and trinkets. Perhaps I will, perhaps I won’t. And maybe one day she’ll pass them on to you and tell you the truth as far as she knows it.
Perhaps she will. Perhaps she won’t.
Until then, little Gloria, grow up free and ignorant, enjoy the simplicity of not knowing what grown-ups know.
(and as far as anyone need to know), only your neighbour.
Picture credit/discredit: author's own work