Fall is upon us. The nights are longer, the days are shorter, all the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray. Whatever metaphor you choose to use, the summer is over, and around these parts (by which I mean here, in my apartment) the fall has gotten off to a strange start, as I spent large portions of the month grappling with a mystery.
One which really only existed in my head.
It's an intriguing little tale that I like to call...
Thirty Days of Might (Be Dead)
I don't know my neighbor's name. He knows my name, because he introduced himself to me in the parking lot back in June when he came over to ask if my wifi network was "Computo the Conqueror". I wondered if I should pretend not to know what he was talking about, because I didn't know him and because, you know, what kind of person would think that was an appropriate name for a wifi network? Where would someone even think of a name like that?
Circumstantial evidence, at best.
Anyway, he was asking because he wanted to know if he could pay me to use my wifi, so that he didn't have to get cable in his apartment. I told him I would think about it, then promptly drove away and never spoke to him for more than waving and saying hi again.
Even though we didn't talk ever again, I know things about my neighbor. I know he has a cat, because I see it in the window sometimes. I know he has a lady friend who sleeps over sometimes, because they're sitting out on the porch in bathrobes having coffee when I leave for work sometimes. I know that he has friends in the apartment complex, because I see them walking over and onto the porch sometimes when I am walking to the mailbox. I know that he's lazy sometimes, because once I saw him and a friend drive from his porch to the pool in our apartment complex, a distance of less than 500 steps. I don't know his name, but I call him Guitar Man, because he sits on the porch singing and playing the guitar while having a beer or two sometimes.
I give all of my neighbors nicknames, because I don't know any of their names. Someday, if I actually become friends with Guitar Man, Sexy Ginger, Golden Retriever, and Smoking Doctor, I might apologize, but I probably won't have to because they'll never know I gave them a little nickname in my head. Neither will Gramma Jogger, Pecs-y Galore, Stroller Dad, Henna Rinse, Rescue Dog, The Really Hot Guy With Three Dogs and One of Them is a Dalmatian, or any of the other people that I pass regularly on the Greenway.
Anyway, for the entire month of September, more or less, I thought Guitar Man might be dead inside his apartment.
It all started with the last time I saw him on the porch. He and Ichabod Crane, the tall, very skinny neighbor that he drove to the pool with that time, were on his porch, breaking rocks into smaller pieces with a hammer. I waved, and they waved back, but I didn't ask what they were doing. When I went out again later they were gone and so was Guitar Man's Jeep, so I assumed he or they had left to go do something else, possibly related to breaking rocks in the hot sun. Perhaps they went to fight the law? And the law won? I didn't really give it much thought, but the next morning when I left for work the blinds in his living room were up, and there were still little fragments of rock all over the porch. Guitar Man usually walks around on the porch barefoot, so I thought it was kind of weird that he would leave little broken pebbles all over.
They were still there when I came home.
And the next day, too.
And the blinds in the living room stayed up. If I came home after dark, I could see as I pulled in that the lamp in the living room was on, and the lights and ceiling fan in the bedroom.
And then the Jeep never came back.
I saw the cat in the window a few times, but not Guitar Man.
"It's been twelve days since I saw my neighbor," I mentioned to my friend Meghan.
"It's weird that you know that."
The absence of the Jeep continued.
The rocks were still strewn across the porch.
The blinds were still up and the lights were still on.
The cat stopped showing up in the windows.
"It's been twenty-two days since I saw my neighbor."
"I can't believe you're keeping track."
"But it's weird!"
"No, you knowing the exact time that you last saw your neighbor is weird."
"But the last four little notes that they stick up on our doors are still stuck to his! And the lights have been on for twenty-two days! What if he's dead in there?"
"You think his cat ate him? If he was dead in there for twenty-two days you would smell it."
I didn't smell anything, but he might be dead. After all, the fan was on. That would help with the smell, right?
Finally, on Day 30, I left my apartment to go to work and noticed that his porch was clean. And the blinds were down. And the flyers were all gone from the door. Still no Jeep, though, and still no Guitar Man.
Until I saw him today.
Getting out of his new car.
Which has been parked in the parking lot for the last thirty or so days.