A Sleeve Made of Heartsby Zach VandeZande
Her job in those days kept her downtown pretty late, so I got to wandering around out of doors. It started out as sitting on the porch with a beer or two, looking the way a stray animal might, some possum or unwanted cat. The house, it was too big for me to be in it alone, I kept checking for intruders or ghosts, and anyway she was the one who wanted to move out here to the suburbs.
And eventually, yeah, I started walking around, and I started knocking on a few doors, got to asking questions and pretending like I was taking the census. A neighbor would open her door and I would say Excuse me, but do you think that love is just the selfish need to have your jokes laughed at, your bed shared, to have someone know as much as they can of you and still say Okay, yes, I want you to hold on tightly, and I will do the same? Answer on a scale of one to five. Five being strongly agree. So what if I’d had a drink or two? I’d still be professional, I’d still lean in all serious with my pen and my clipboard and wait patiently for them to consider the question. And I’d listen, really listen, to what they had to say.
In this way we got to know each other, the neighbors and me. But she found out about it and got mad, asked me to knock it off. I quoted Walt Whitman back at her—I’d been reading Walt Whitman on the porch sometimes. We secretly thought each other snobs. Different kinds of snobs, but still, it was a rough time.
Suburbs, they’ve got a breaking point to them, and it comes from within, it comes from the dull edge of shame in each resident. That’s the whole point of a homeowner’s association, to keep the chaos out, to keep that awful feeling of shame away. Also black people, probably, depending on the neighborhood. So what if they got involved? So what if I got citations in my mailbox? Quelling the human heart isn’t a noble thing was my thinking. So when she threw in with them, yeah, I took it kinda personal. So maybe my survey questions became a little hostile, maybe I threw up some whiskey on Miss Applebaum’s rose bush, maybe I lit a lawn or two on fire. The point is, and I’m marking it five on a scale of five, the point is I did it in defense of love.