There came a day when I actually saw the owners of one of the quiet houses down the street. It’s a clean and tidy house, maintained nicely. We exchanged uncomfortable pleasantries, with a few non sequiturs thrown in.
That night, I took the kids aside. I said, “You know the green house on X street?” They both nod. “I want you to stay away from there, okay?”
“Why?”, asked Lee Lee.
“You mean the drug house?”, said Micah.
He’s un-nervingly unfazed. How did he know it was the drug house?
Oh. The Neighborhood Kid Network. Information is disseminated in seconds, now that nearly all the kids are old enough to have a cell phone. I have to put his “unfazed” away in my brain for later. Lee Lee is going to blow.
I nod at Micah.
“It’s a DRUG house?!” said Lee Lee, “like they do drugs?” Her voice gets higher-pitched. “Do you think there are like, drugs IN the house?”
We sort of did an excellent job of teaching the kids how to say no to drugs, and why. We practiced scripts. Who knew there would be a flip side?
“I’m afraid so, sweetie”, I say, “but all you need to do is come home on Y street. They aren’t going to come over here.”
“But what if they do?” she says, “What if like, Y street is closed, and we have to come home on X street? What DO WE DO?”
Lee Lee gets this from me: we both need to figure out every possible angle of any situation, to be prepared. I’ve already done this. This is all new territory for her. Micah says genially, “It’s okay, the doors are locked and we don’t answer.”
“That’s right”, I say, grateful Micah has the ability to talk us both down, if necessary. “And if you see them somewhere outside, it’s okay to nod, or pretend you didn’t hear them, but I want you to keep moving, okay?”
We spend another 20 minutes addressing progressively wilder scenarios, including the crack heads breaking into our house at midnight with a hatchet so they can stuff us with crystal meth. I’ll bean them with the fire extinguisher. Hand off: Lee Lee will spray them with the fire extinguisher. We’re good.
I take Micah aside later, and thank him for his kindness to Lee Lee (and me), and tell him what a good brother/kid he is. “Does this mean you’re not mad I know it’s the drug house?” says Micah.
End back story.
Yesterday, I was out walking Christmas on The Crack House street. A man yelled at me from across the street.
“You got a dog?! Really?” His face is lit up with happiness. “Can I have it? Please?”
I have no idea who he is.
Then I remember he lives in The Crack House.
He crosses the street towards us. Christmas growls at him, the hair on his back standing straight up. The man’s face falls from joy into deep disappointment. “Oh. I thought you were Sherry. You look just like her.”
“Nope. No new dog”, I say pleasantly, and keep going.
I text Daisy. My birthday is this weekend.
Jane: I don’t feel good about bday now? 53 is when our looks go downhill.
Jane: my neighbor just mistook me for a crack head.
Daisy: and…? why do we care?
Jane: he thought I was his wife. ‘you look just like her’
Daisy: you mean the skeletal zombie couple? smelly? dirty clothes?
Jane: yup. he thought I got a new dog.
Jane: what happened to the old dogs?
Daisy: we don’t need to go there. wait. he thought you were his emaciated drugged out wife?
Jane: with no teeth. I’m thinking 53 is the year I lose my looks. what I got left.
Daisy: No! hellooo. he’s high.
Jane: true. but he was maintenance high. I think he was like in the same basic world.
Daisy: you don’t look like shit.
Daisy: Christ. NO. I’m not talking to you anymore. Go turn 53.
Jane: thanks. you’re a good friend, you know that?
Daisy: Not. Talking.
Actually, I did look…not so great. No makeup, severe helmet hair, I’d thrown a pair of Shaun’s baggy sweats over my breeches.
I still think I’m in my 30’s. That short period of time when you can not wear makeup, toss your hair in a messy up-do, wear your beloved’s elderly sweat pants, go out with dirt smeared across your shirt, and look cute and busy.
Apparently doing the same thing in your 50’s makes you look like a drug addict.
Daisy texted me later:
Daisy: btw, what do you want for your birthday?
Jane: take your pick. botox. facelift. dye job. personal trainer.
Daisy: Oh for Christ’s sake, get a grip.
I’m rummaging in my grip drawer. It’s annoyingly full of makeup, clean clothes that don’t stretch, and Post-It’s that say “Shower First”.