What gives? Every month or so around sundown, my neighbors have these impromptu get-togethers in front of my house. Little children are doing cartwheels on my front lawn. Giddy back-slapping laughter ensues. Wine is sloshing from bottle to glass. A spirit rich in community pervades the atmosphere. A pleasant cacophony of voices is suffused with the assurance of belonging. You can really feel the love and togetherness.
Problem is I’m always in my house watching a half dozen neighbors or so from my kitchen window. Usually I’m doing the dishes or searching with my scraped hand for an apricot pit that’s been lodged in the blades of the garbage disposal.
How is it that these gatherings in the front of my house always exclude me? As I’m doing the dishes and my wife’s still eating dinner (because I eat faster than she does and like to get the dishes over with), I’ll turn to her and say, “There they go again, having their little party without us.”
“If you feel so left out,” she’ll say, “why don’t you go out and join them?”
“Because I wasn’t invited.”
“No one gets invited. It’s just kind of spontaneous.”
“Yeah, and spontaneously I’m left out every time. What’s funny is that they pretend to like me. They say hi to me and wave at me from their cars. But when it comes to these get-togethers—which I consider the real test of friendship—I’m always left out.”
“Jesus, you’re like an old lady feeling sorry for yourself. If you want to hang out with them so much, why don’t you go out there and join them?”
“I can’t. It’s getting dark.”
“Feeding time for mosquitoes. Haven’t you heard of the West Nile virus?”
“Cover yourself up then. Put on some repellant.”
“Nah. That’s way too big a deal for just going out in front of the house.”
“Then you don’t really want to spend time with them, do you.”
She’s right. I don’t really want to spend time with them. I just want the opportunity to politely decline their invitation. Is that too much to ask?