On the way home today, I followed my instincts and pulled over somewhere I had not yet walked, a place not aligned with pruned trails nor convenient walking. I left my car parked in a place better suited for vertigo-afflicted mountain goats and started walking. Most of the road was built without regard for humans; vehicles were the intended possessor of the asphalt strips I chose today. I knew that off in the distance as I reached an affluent area, the sidewalks would magically appear. It’s strange that it is more likely that roads will have sidewalks in the very neighborhoods where people seldom use them and yet, among those who are in need, they are absent like one’s written family tree at a reunion. I decided that if a vehicle didn’t wish to move slightly over as I walked, that I would fling myself into the thorny underbrush in deference to their overwhelming mass.
As I reached the immaculately-maintained area of the Cleverly Hillbillies, I heard voices tinged with venom. Two voices went from indistinct to perfect diction after about twenty steps. It was apparent that they were sitting in the unseen backyard of their property, oblivious to the world outside. The neighborhood is one of those with an elaborate stone and brick wall, one reaching 8 or 9 feet high. I think that perhaps those two people arguing beyond the great stone wall near the Italian-villa neighborhood would be embarrassed to know that I could hear the intimate and complex shadings of their traded barbs. It seems as if this million-dollar wall somehow had failed to provide the promised happiness they sought when they were younger. I shouldn’t judge because I can’t know for certain that this type of argument isn’t routine and that the verbal daggers I was hearing were imaginary. My experience tells me, however, that this verbal duel was both routine and viciously new. I wish they would sell their mansion and argue on a beach. At the least, the sand in their feet would overlook a new perspective, even if they still turned toward one another to punch each other verbally.
I briefly considered yelling, “Shut up! You’re rich but you sound like my neighbors, the ones who can’t even afford a trip to Bethel Heights.” I very much wanted to match faces to the disembodied voices wafting from over the tall wall. I took a golf pencil from my pocket and made a small “X” on the gray stone of the nearest vertical column holding the immense structure vertical. I did so because it occurred to me that I could then return and use the address on the other side to discern names, then faces, then details of their lives. Being modern people, I had no doubt that much of the superficial nature of their lives would reveal itself to me. While they might have their privacy settings on social media locked to prevent unwanted eyes, they had forgotten that beyond their high wall, the one purportedly providing security and distance from the world, had also made them drop their guard against people walking the street beyond it. I was able to hear them in their most intimate moment, teeth bared in anger at one another. As soon as this idea of discovery struck me, I abandoned it, knowing that the mystery of the unhappy lives on the other side was more compelling to me than knowing their stories. I left them behind, their voices still crescendoing and ebbing in turn.
It seems absurd to know that a couple of people of decent wealth took time out in the middle of their day on Tuesday to rant at one another, doesn’t it? Not that Wednesday is the ideal day for such a thing, either. It occurs to me that I should send them a postcard to let them know that I hope their marriage survives. Would such a card help or hinder this effort?
So, I walked on, alone, in the middle of the day, the sun watching me as I made my progress along the new territory. The sidewalk was lined on both sides with beautifully-coiffed trees, their overhead limbs creating an austere canopy above me as I moved. It was strange to enjoy the tranquility of these trees, knowing that the residents behind the security wall paid a monthly reminder to keep it so elegant. I wondered, “Who owns it? He who pays for it or he who enjoys it?”
Before I turned to make my way back, a red wasp emerged from the recesses of a green trash container on the edge of the road. It flew directly toward me; had I not been looking directly at it, I’m sure I would now have a bright red stinger emerging from the tip of my nose. As it was, I reacted with grace. I’m kidding. I shrieked involuntarily and flailed around as if someone had just thrown a cupful of spiders into my knickers. I’m certain my idiocy was apparent as I writhed around to fight off the ongoing approach of the wasp as it buzzed around my head. I ran away from the red demon and kept walking.
Like most delicious stories of vengeance, however, this ended badly for the miscreant wasp. While it had forgotten me, I had not forgotten him. As I approached the scene of the initial (and unreported attack), I watched the confines of the green container closely. I crept up from the rear with my hat upraised. As I peered on the far side, I could see that the wasp was about to launch after me again. I swatted and scored a direct hit on the bastard, knocking him to the ground. Since I couldn’t Mike Tyson his ear, and not only because wasps don’t have ears), I jumped and reduced the wasp to particles. Victory was mine. It didn’t occur to me until much later that it could have ended badly had there been more than one wasp at the container. The aura of vengeance was therefore reduced by the uncertainty that the wasp I killed in revenge might have been an innocent bystander at the same container. I hope the owners of the trash receptacle were watching me from their windows. Perhaps if so, they are at this very moment writing a story regarding the ridiculous of a grown man waging war via his hat with flying insects.
PS: I wanted to use the marker in my pocket to draw a tiny outline of the wasp’s body on the pavement, as a warning to other wasps. While amusing, I had my doubts the owners of the driveway would see the humor in such a thing.