As I chopped carrots, I heard my neighbours all chatting in the communal courtyard. Other than technically that’s probably not allowed in this current pandemic, I felt the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out, for those who must know). I looked out and saw them in camping chairs in a circle with beers. They were doing what I had always hoped to have, a fun group of neighbours who socialised. Right, how do I get involved? And why wasn’t I already? Did I not nod enough when leaving my apartment?
Need to find a reason to leave my place, I cant just casually go out and bring my stool and a can of coconut water. Think… I could be doing a chore? I hadn’t checked the mail for a few hours? Even though mail isn’t delivered today.
I grab my mask, grab my keys and go outside. They turn and glance at me. I smile, forgetting that no one sees smiles with masks. I walk past their chatter; two dogs are also out playing together in the courtyard. I wave at no one directly, as I kneel down while the golden retriever puppy jumps up on me, knowing they will be looking. I knew that no one would know my name, but that still didn’t mean I thought to introduce myself. Just sort of do a puppy hello, the one where you are a few octaves higher than usual. The other dog was some sort of poodle puppy, no thanks.
Even though I loved this golden retriever puppy, I had to keep looking like I was on a mission, the mailbox! I kept walking, and the puppies followed. I opened the gate, making sure they didn’t get through. Two of my neighbours did a bit of a half assed call out to their dogs, out of habit really. Though imagine if I had just left the gate open and called them to go, be free! Dick move neighbour, probably one that wouldn’t get invited to courtyard neighbour hangs.
Opening up the mailbox, oh surprise, no mail. Though I grabbed the few bits of junk mail I had ignored so I had that sense of purpose again, looked like I had gotten what I had come for. Pizza discount flyers! Important. I then returned back to the courtyard, neighbours and puppies. Quick, engage with them! Opportunity is running out. Don’t be that recluse neighbour.
“Have they been desexed yet?”
One of them heard my question, shrugged and looked at someone else.
“What? Um, Oh, no, not yet”.
“Oh OK, my cat has been neutered.” That was a good opener right? I have a cat. I share interest of an animal too.
“Oh you have a cat!” A woman asked, choosing to accept this topic of desexing animals was normal. She was very forgiving, I liked her. She looked like a “Claire”. Maybe I just call her Claire.
“Yeah, he is in my house. But probably not a good idea if he came out here right, haha right Claire?” I said Claire in my head, don’t worry I am not a psycho.
They laughed politely. Two started their own conversation again. The puppies lost interest in me and swirled in their own fun off towards the other gate. I wasn’t getting an invite vibe from the others. Nor the dogs. I walked back to my front door. My cat Keith, he was doing his faint meows behind the door. He always knew when I was back, the jangling of my keys. Opening my door, I knelt down and picked Keith up. And turned around, held him high and said “this is my cat!!”
The others turn again in their camping chairs. They did a collective polite “aww”. Keith squirmed, I had brought him beyond the territory of his home, he was loving this shit and needed to get down and sniff. Plus there were two dog creatures nearby, must take a look. I quickly stepped back inside, with door open. To maybe calm Keith. One of the guys shouted out, “Whats his name?” YES, engagement! Interest!
“Keith!” I said, through my mask. The others kept talking to each other, the guy shook his head, “Sorry, whats his name?” Trying to cut his voice through the other conversation.
“Keith!” I leant out, trying to be louder, Keith still scrambling.
“Sorry, didn’t hear again, what?”
They all turned around.
“His name is Keith?”, he asked.
“Ha, cool!” as he sipped his beer.
Alright, I am closing the door. Standing in the coolness of the house, Keith got back down and put his forehead to the door. His chance, gone. So was mine.