I hate it that everyone in this town has tall wooden fences and I’d prefer not to have one, but if I didn’t, I’d have nothing to look at but the outside of a bunch of fences. So I have an extra tall fence. Eight feet of wood and a retaining wall that is three feet in some spots. Fucking fortress, it is.
Back in September and October I took on the great fence restoration project. For eight weeks, rain or shine, I was out there in my hobo clothes and hat getting that thing up to HOA standards:
That’s the outside of the fence that runs along the side of my yard, the stretch my neighbors see. The side that is the most important today. The part of that big job I can’t stop thinking about for the last two days.
I don’t like these wooden fences for several reasons. They section off each yard and make the lots seem smaller than they actually are. They’re built for privacy, but since most people around here have two story houses, there’s always neighbor’s windows overlooking a yard. The fence then provides a visual framing for your neighbor’s viewing pleasure.
Like living in a fishbowl.
Even worse than that, it discourages friendship and contact with neighbors.
So while I was out there working on the perimeter of the fence (the outside of the fishbowl), I met a lot of my neighbors I’d never seen before. They’d drive by in the access alley on their way to their rear drive-up garages. Many would roll down the window to tell me I was doing a great job, to ask questions about how I was doing it, or stop and ask if I’d seen their lost dog. Neighbor talk that I’m not used to since there is hardly ever a occasion to see them in our self-exiled worlds.
After a while I had to ignore these people. I wanted to get this big job done before the winter set in, so I had my music and kept my earphones on most of the time.
Dan, the man whose garage lined up perfectly with that view of the fence in the photo above was always in his garage. I never could figure out what he was doing in there. It looked like he might be rearranging things, but nothing ever changed. Every day that garage looked just as messy as the day before.
I didn’t wonder if he was unemployed or if he might not feel comfortable inside his home with his family, or if he was lonely as fuck.
I didn’t jump to conclusions that he might be in there so he could stare at the ass crack hanging out my hobo jeans. No, I never caught him leering at me, but I still felt self-conscious about the way I was dressed, and how craptastic I look in a hat. I was also up a ladder most of the time and most likely grunting to reach tight spots.
I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have him there right over my shoulder in case I fell off that ladder. It never crossed my mind. What I thought back then was why won’t this guy just go away so I can stain my fence in peace?
I didn’t know until a couple of days ago that those were Dan’s last days. A month or two after the fence thing, he committed suicide.
How or why, I don’t know, but just before Christmas I was in the backyard and heard a shotgun go off in the neighborhood. I came inside and told everyone, but they thought maybe it was firecrackers since it was so close to Christmas and New Years. I know what a shotgun blast sounds like, though. So I sat in the backyard and waited for the sirens. All I heard was silence.
I’m convinced I heard Dan kill himself. Probably did it while no one else was home, thus the lack of sirens. In that garage.
It sucks that I didn’t know about my neighbor’s death until a month after the fact. It sucks that I didn’t talk to him more when I had the chance, while I was out there, of all things, working on a man-made border designed to keep people out.
I hate fences.