Earlier this week, a blue Honda Civic wagon parked across the street from my house with a young woman inside. I noticed the car when I took out the trash around 7:30 am.
It was still there a couple of hours later when I went to my daughter’s school. Likely, I wouldn’t have noticed the car, except my driveway is angled, and where the car was parked made me cut the wheel hard to avoid hitting her bumper.
Fast-forward a couple of hours later. I was walking down the street toward the train station to pick up a schedule, and I again saw the now-familiar car parked several houses down from me. It was then that I decided that if I saw the car again on my walk back home that I would take down the description and the plate number.
I’m not normally paranoid…but Noah didn’t start building an ark when the water reached his chin. Perhaps I need to exercise a little wariness, a bit of caution.
I relaxed a little when I saw from the train station that the car was pulling out. Chuckling inside, I chided myself for watching too many Law and Order episodes. I love the show, but I don’t want to be a character who appears in the open scene…because those characters are murder victims. And they have no lines.
Much to my dismay, the car had in fact moved. It was now parked in front of my house!
Delmore Schwartz said it best: Even paranoid people have real enemies. I started running an alphabetical list of names in my head of all of the people that might consider me an enemy worthy of harassing or stalking or perhaps killing. By the time I got to the third Aaron on my list, I was close enough to the car to see the plate number. So I wrote down the number and trotted inside my house.
Yes, I called the police. That’s what you do when a car with a person inside is staked outside of your house for 6 hours. Okay, I don’t know if that’s in a survivor’s handbook anywhere, but it should be. Don’t be a hero. Just call the police. It’s their job to be a hero so the rest of us can be cowards.
While I waited, I called my neighbor and told her that if she saw a police car pull up in front of my house, resist the urge to spread any rumors about me. When I described the car, she said that she had seen it, too, and she thanked me for being such a good, concerned citizen. Actually, she may have said, “You’re such a coward. Why don’t you just knock on her window and ask her what she’s doing?” But I took that as Thanks.
The police pulled up. I waited. And while I waited, I cooked a late lunch. I figured that it was all over. If someone was casing out houses, the police would intervene, and by the time I was done eating, the perp would be in cuffs (got that lingo from Hill Street Blues).
After lunch, though, the car was still there. And my phone rang. It was my neighbor.
“Okay,” she said, “My son walked over there and asked the girl what she was doing.”
Don’t leave me hanging here…
“She said that the police talked to her, and she let them know that she was working.”
Casing houses to come back and kill sleeping owners…?
“She didn’t say. But my son asked her if she was watching someone. And the girl said that she couldn’t talk about it.”
Immediately, I’m thinking private investigator. Someone had done something to lead another party to get a PI involved. But who?
“And she is taking pictures. So I talked to Jim across the street, and he thought that maybe she was watching…”
And just like that, speculation began. Within 5 minutes, my neighbor and I discussed every other neighbor who, given this new development, might seem worthy of closer scrutiny. There was Moe with the gimp leg, Tony who always wears a stocking cap (even in summer), Jane and Lisa who have much more house than they can afford, and the list went on and on.
We laughed to think that anyone on our block could be worthy of such attention, and we said goodbye.
A minute later, though, I started my own self reflection. What if it’s the IRS? Oh, wait. I paid my taxes. Was it the Drury Inn? Had I forgotten to leave a tip for housekeeping during my last stay? No, I’m sure I did. How about auditors checking on my false Workman’s Comp claim? No, I don’t have a claim, false or true, on my record. The mob? Oh Lord, tell me if someone had gone through the trouble of hiring a contract killer to take me out that they would drive something nicer than a Honda Civic wagon. And besides, my only mob connection is that sometimes I eat Italian food.
The phone rang again, and my neighbor snapped me out of my self-obsessed reflection.
“You know, it might be Immigration. Or maybe someone filled for bankruptcy, and they are watching to see if the person has more assets than he reported…”
My initial reaction was “There’s a little blue car across the street from my house.” Then it grew in my mind until I wondered if I was going to be robbed or killed. Then my imagination kicked into overdrive while I conjured up PIs, G-Men, or mob killers coming after me!
Turns out, each one of my neighbors who had been pulled into this suburban drama asked himself the same question. “AM I BEING WATCHED?”
Sometimes the things of which we ponder have no immediate answer. This was to be one of those cases. No one knows why the car staked out our block. We all believed that we were under personal watch. Each of us evaluated the deepest secrets of our hearts to see if we had been found out or found lacking in some way by some unidentified party.
All I know is that the car eventually disappeared. And we began to go back to our lives.
There was no perp in cuffs, but the problem resolved itself by the end of the day.
But this morning, I discovered a new menace to my dream of a suburban utopia. No, the car has not returned, but I noticed that a squirrel has taken an almost-unnatural interest in my car…