My guy and I will dance the two-step in our driveway. He’s better at it than I am, which isn’t so surprising seeing as how I still haven’t figured out how to count rhythm in country music. My “slow, slow, quick, quick” varies depending on the amount of bourbon I’ve consumed: Occasionally it is moderately accurate, but mostly it’s a hot mess.
We liken ourselves to hillbillies on these driveway nights, all shorts and flip flops, folding chairs and empty bourbon bottles, watching the sun set across a heat-soaked sky. This is my favorite part of summer, these nights, when the only way we mark time is by the beginning and end of a playlist. The dancing begins about twenty songs in. I’ll grab my guy, beg him to partner me, and we’ll step our way around the driveway in a hysterical tangle.
Once the dancing dies down our volume increases as we sing along to our favorite songs and rhapsodize about life, art, and serial killers. Our neighbors despise us, I’m sure.
Which is fine, I’m not much of a fan of them, either. Our neighborhood stands just close enough to the fringe of upper middle that our “white people problems” range from Christmas wreaths left on front doors all year long to marveling at the varying shades of neon the 40-something single woman down the street can turn each time she returns from the spa. Right now, both her hair and skin are the color of Betadine.
She waves when she’s not screaming into her cell phone, and every so often can be caught peering from between the blinds in her living room. We never actually see her looking, just the tips of her manicured fingers bending the blinds at eye level. There’s not much of a view from that vantage, just us, more of the same townhomes, and her own driveway, which hosts a parade of sports cars every weekend or so. Sometimes an oily man will emerge and knock on her front door, but more often they simply remain in the car and honk.
The couple to the right of us is new. They replace a nondescript business man and his large dog with a game system that is connected to the stereo. I’m told cinderblock lines the separation between townhomes, but for as good as it is at containing fire, it does little to combat the sounds of warfare, video game and otherwise.
My guy called the cops on them one Saturday morning, at 7 a.m. no less. I can’t imagine having words at that time, let alone the vigor to hurl a refrigerator across the room as it sounded they had done. Then came the screaming, loud shrieks followed by bellows accompanied by glass smashing against the wall.
I met her not long after. She approached me as I reclined in my lawn chair, Makers and 7 in hand, and asked if I knew of a way to get rid of the bugs.
“Bugs?” I asked.
Yes. Apparently the silverfish in their home were so terrifying she would throw things at them. Frying pans, plates, whatever was handy.
My suggestion to have the complex management call an exterminator didn’t interest her, but then again, I didn’t really think it would.
A nerd lives on our other side. He dashes from garage to car and back again, clad in a polo shirt and khaki pants. His unfortunately red hair is short but spongy, curled on the top of his head and shaved in the back. Barbeque tempts him toward conversation at night. Our grilling seems to have that effect on several people on the block, but he only stands on the walk between our homes, inhaling, and commenting vaguely about being a lapsed vegetarian.
At night we hate him, when the insipid tones of his guitar strumming drift past the cinderblock and wallow in our bedroom. There is no melody to his playing, just lost strums of lovelorn notes that will never form a song no matter how hard he tries.
We scared away the one couple who tried to make friends. It wasn’t deliberate, really, and we appreciated the attempt – showing up with a pitcher of booze is one of the few neighborly gestures I welcome. And it all made me wistful in a way, sitting together and sharing drinks and stories on a brilliant summer eve like couples are wont to do in movies and Crate & Barrel catalogs. Their margarita mix was just no match for our scotch.
Maybe it was all their references to college classes and entry-level jobs; maybe it was our talk of career changes and retirement. Our glasses drained quicker as the conversation gapped. We’re left now exchanging meaningless pleasantries across the way, them calling out our names in greeting and us waving in return. Neither my guy nor I remember their names.
That leaves me and him to our driveway. We’re contained on our concrete oasis in the sunshine and the moonlight, free to forget everyone else. We talk offhand about moving. It won’t happen quickly, only eventually. There is an entire world open to us in the future. In my romantic fantasies, we divide the year by seasons and live accordingly: Four months in New Orleans, four in Chicago or New York, and maybe four in Paris. Wherever we wind up, I have only one requirement: There needs to be space outside to two-step in the dark.