Robert Frost ended his poem,"Mending Wall," with the famous line: "Good fences make good neighbors." In today's world, it could mean the difference between minding one's own business or becoming absorbed in the reality TV-antics of one's neighbors. We all have stories to tell to illustrate the point. One urban legend that I am perpetuating relates to Jack and Jill (the story usually becomes more colorful as time passes). Given my urban surroundings and the anonymity of today’s world, I should really have been unaware of Jack and Jill’s business. Unfortunately, the paper-thin, apartment walls and their late-night arguments that frequently woke me up, meant that I had a front-row seat to the inner workings of their dysfunctional relationship. The fights about money and cheating were fodder for a Jerry Springer show. On nights when the volume of epithets reached epic proportions, I visualized the Springer audience shouting in unison:”kick him to the kerb.” That would be the course of action of any rational person, but love or co-dependency (call it what you will), rarely goes together with rational thought. Besides, in real life villains are rarely one-dimensional and situations are complicated. Jack was well-loved because he helped little old ladies and did handiwork without insisting on being paid. He also treated Jill to an occasional dinner on the patio or whisked her away for a weekend at the local casino. They were also sickeningly sweet with their public displays of affection. So Jill stayed with Jack for years. During the day I would nod my head and scurry by, fearful of getting dragged into the morass of their problems.
One day I woke up in the early hours of the morning. I could hear Jack on the phone. Was he drunk-dialing someone? No. Jill had gone out of town and he was confiding his inner thoughts to a long-lost relative. He sounded simultaneously happy and sad. Apart from catching up, he was also trying to figure out what had happened to his other siblings that were placed in different foster homes. His dream had been to become a rap impresario a la Jay Z, but that sputtered when the talent he had scouted opted for the joys of selling weed instead of entertaining hipsters in a night club. Now he spent his days cleaning the house, cooking or drinking between part-time jobs. I drifted off to sleep. It seemed the preferred option compared with listening to this drama.
Jill eventually dumped Jack. Or maybe it was vice versa? After all, there had been many prior occasions where Jill had actually begged Jack not to leave her. In any event, a slammed door and “I’m outta here” followed by the sound of a car engine, heralded the demise of that relationship. Romantics rejoice. Jill is now in a stable relationship. She finally found a quiet guy. They moved out and, in a modern-day twist to the fairy tale ending, they put a deposit down on one of those foreclosed homes that you can get at bargain basement prices these days. Mary J. Blige would approve. Jack has probably found another Jill and will be cooking up a storm for her to prove his love. Thankfully, the new neighbors are discreet and I am finally enjoying a good night’s rest.