birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

The Bad Neighbor

I was warned. When a good friend heard I had bought a house on Marine Street, she looked dismayed. “You live near that awful woman.” She proceeded to explain in detail someone she worked with on a film who was a nasty bitch. One of my flaws is giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. I was cordial to this woman. We were neighborly and even cooked a dinner together. Like my husband she was in the entertainment business so they had common contacts. She kept talking about a small film that she directed with an obnoxious bravado. Late one Friday afternoon, she called to ask if she could borrow our television!! This was the late eighties when any large TV weighed a ton. She was having an opening night party viewing of her project to which we were not invited. Since her television was much smaller than ours, she thought we might be neighborly and agree to this! After my husband told her, “No!” she proceeded to tell him we were bad people, unkind and did not embrace communal sharing. I don’t remember the exact details of the argument that is the essence. From that point on, we avoided her at all costs. It was hard to do since she lived diagonally across the street. Somehow we managed for several years to escape any interaction until she heard I was pregnant. She accosted me in the car and I rolled up the window after a short, snippy conversation. We moved away. I forgot about this incident. I never thought I’d ever cross her path again. Last weekend I participated in a Writer’s Studio at UCLA. There was an overweight older lady at the table who seemed out of the age range of the majority of the students. Once the class began we introduced ourselves and gave a sentence or two about our backgrounds. When I heard her name, I thought, “SHIT, IT’S HER!” The horrible, nasty neighbor from over 25 years ago was sitting across from me. I would have to pretend I didn’t know her for four days. I sent a text to the friend who gave me the initial warning about her. Could I pretend I didn’t know this person? Without hearing her name, I couldn’t have known who she was. On our first break in the coffee lounge, she accosted me, recognized me and apologized for her behavior. She gave me hug while I cringed. I was genial to her over the next four days. It wasn’t worth holding the grudge. She would never be a part of my life. The substance of the fight was dissipated over the years, a story to tell and laugh about. I hope I never have to see this woman again but with my luck I’ll get on a 9-hour international flight and have her in the next seat. This happened to my friend who initially gave me a warning about this bad neighbor.


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