Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Freckles and the Spaniard
Thanks to Jenny's suggestion, I've decided it is time for me to share the tale of our former neighbors, partly to amuse her (and I didn't forget about you, Tim! Hi!) and partly to attempt to rid myself of some of the lingering bad feelings that arise any time I drive by the State Theater.
When E and I first moved to Ann Arbor, we settled into a condo complex full of (unbeknown to us) old people and U of M dental students. Actually, our new development is also full of blue hairs, so maybe that's just our thing. Anyway, we were invited to a get-together by a neighbor that first fall, and being the friendless losers that we were, we kindly accepted. I whipped up a tray of fancy grasshopper brownies and we marched over on a Friday night, not quite hopeful. A man answered the door and we introduced ourselves. "Miriam invited us!" I chirped. It was only when he gave me a strange glare that I realized his wife's name was Gwen. Strike One!
It was at this party that we met the middle aged lawyer who said everything was "off the hook," the Baptist who was thrilled to meet Rhode Islanders (random fact: Roger Williams co-founded the first Baptist Church and Providence is a type of Mecca to hardcore Baptists) and also, Freckles and the Spaniard. This married couple was friendly, talkative, and seemed perfectly harmless. She was a bright, Irish lass who worked for the University and had a passion for beer and art. I'll call her Annie, cause I'm creative and I like pseudonyms. He was a translator from Sevilla (which he pronounces Seh-VEE-Ya! with an exclamation point) with a great accent. I'll call him Hernando. You'll see why later. They invited us out to a movie, and again, we kindly agreed. We are so naive.
We picked up Hernando and drove to meet Annie downtown. We actually passed by her on the street, which was followed by lots of screaming out of windows, slamming on of brakes, and a slight feeling of foreboding. After sitting in the sticky and slighty dank smelling State Theater for two hours of Transiberian (which is a great movie by the way, just not really a "couples night" type of movie) we walked to a local bar. They commented loudly about the movie. Well, he tried to make a point and she shouted over him constantly. At this point I was done, but I thought I could suffer through one beer. Freckles and the Spaniard ordered dinner. E and I then sat through another 2 hours of conversation. By conversation I mean she talked and talked, he simpered, and we threw in occasional comments while chugging beer after beer. She used the phrase "a young gal living on a single income" at least 8 times. Strike Two.
We knew we couldn't continue to have a relationship with these weirdos, especially once we got the feeling that they were only married so that Hernando could continue living in America. They so obviously didn't like each other. Unless you consider emasculating your husband in front of practical strangers affectionate, I imagine they had a pretty loveless home.
We tried to be casual about it. We ran into Hernando at the gym and pretended we had lunch plans. I bumped into Annie in the parking lot and faked an appointment when I was just getting something out of my car. I actually drove away. I didn't have my purse, so I did a few loops around the neighborhood before sneaking home. She thought she had me one day when she was off to work, shouting that she was getting a promotion. The office, where she had worked "since she was a young gal living on a single income," had planned a party. Instead of bringing her husband, she was bringing the elderly woman named Esther with the hunched back who lived next door. Sweet as pie this woman, but I can't picture her as a swinging party guest. "Oh, is Hernando working that night?" I asked.
One night, not long after the party, the doorbell rang. We opened the door to see a newly mustachioed Hernando in a jogging suit. That would have been enough for me, but no. It was a little handlebar mustache. And he had waxed the ends. He looked like a baby Cortez out for a night of debauchery in his swishy pants. He was there to tell us about his discovery of the New Yorker Magazine online, where you can read many interesting articles from the archives of many, many years of magazines. He proceeded to describe several of these articles to us. Then he asked us to go Flamenco dancing. I pretended I was too cold to stand there with the door open any longer, and before he could somersault into our living room, E shut the door. Strike Three.
Luckily, we moved a short time later, before they could suck us into their weirdo lair. I can picture it now. Expensive art scattered with antique furniture, Spanish guitar on the stereo, and enticing spicy smells to get you in the mood before they drag you, drunk and confused, into the black walled sybian room dressed in soccer jerseys. (If you don't know what a sybian is, please don't Google it while children are in the room. I don't want to be responsible for anyone's nightmares but my own.) And this is why we won't ever again make nice with our neighbors.