I recently moved into a new neighborhood. Kind of one of those idyllic southern places with manicured lawns, Spanish moss hanging from ancient oak trees lining the streets...you know the type of place. The type of place most people only dream of living. And I got the opportunity through a lot of work, and some loss, to call it home.
Anyway, I moved into this gorgeous old plantation style home on about a half an acre of land -basically a life size doll house- with a few of those moss covered trees in the yard. The neighborhood is small and the houses are all immaculate as are the lawns.
I'd been working for days with little sleep and even less to eat unpacking and decorating my new little piece of southern heaven. The decorating is always my favorite part, and I was completely engrossed in the picture window display when I saw a middle aged man walking up the cobblestone path from the street to my front door. Eager to be a good neighbor, I put my work aside and wiped my sweat-covered brow then headed for the front door. Just as the man made it onto the covered porch, I opened the door and met him with a smile.
"Good afternoon, ma'am," he said with an accent so thick he sounded almost foreign.
I told him the same and invited him into my home, but he turned down my offer, mentioning something about pressing matters elsewhere.
"Perhaps another time, though. I really mustn't stay long. I simply wanted to come by and officially welcome you to the neighborhood."
I thanked him and told him I am always home, as I work from a home office. He then pointed to an old gray and white river rock home across the street. "That's my house."
Before I could say anything else, he turned abruptly and returned the same way he came. Before I could even process the statement, he's gone; seemingly vanished into thin air. Come to think about it, he seemed to come out of thin air, too. After a few minutes of astonished silence, I shook myself and went back inside without giving it a second thought.
The days passed into weeks and I settled easily into a routine of my own, working in the morning and sitting on the porch, watching fireflies in the yard when the sun was setting and evening approached. One evening, I was thinking about the man and the house he had pointed out. I hadn't seen or heard from him since that afternoon he had come to welcome me to the neighborhood and I was a little curious if maybe he had fallen ill.
The house he had pointed out still had a few lights on and it wasn't very late in the evening yet. I decided to go over and check on my neighbor. It turned out to be a decision I would never forget. Somewhere in a nearby tree, an owl made its presence known as I made my way down the cobblestone path to the street. The sound of the owl breaking the stillness of the evening gave me pause for a moment and I stood on the sidewalk in front of my house before mentally chiding myself for being childish.
Movement across one of the upstairs windows caught my attention. It looked like someone had walked in front of the big window of what I could only assume was the master bedroom. So, without further stereotypical girlie fear of boogeymen, I crossed the street and headed up the river rock path toward the double front doors of the house. The doors themselves were ornately carved with wreaths, snakes and cherubs; a mildly contradictory combination to me, but beautiful all the same. After admiring the doors, I took one of the polished iron knockers in my left hand and gave a couple solid thumps on the door then dropped it and stepped back a few feet to wait for the man to answer.
The door finally opens after what seemed like an eternity but could only have been a few minutes and standing in the doorway, illuminated by a chandelier that looked as old as the house appeared a man who could not possibly have been the man who had come to my house and spoken to me on my porch.
My heart froze in my chest, the quizzical smile on the lips of the man standing before me demanded -nicely- an explanation for my presence on his porch.
I apologized for bothering him and retreated, wondering if I had gone to the wrong house. The man who had stood on my porch was rather vague after all so it wouldn't be hard to mistakenly knock on the wrong door. I made the mistake of looking over my shoulder as I made my retreat only to see the man still standing there, smiling. He actually didn't go back inside until I made it back across the street, which I found somewhat odd but touching at the same time.
I spent the rest of the evening replaying the conversation with the middle aged man in my head wishing I had asked his name or for clarification about which house was his. That night, my sleep was fitful at best and I woke in a cold sweat around one in the morning, my breath caught hard in my chest, but try as I might the memory of the dream would not come.
The next day, from my desk in the office, I saw him again. Walking up the cobblestones. My heart nearly stopped. I went out and sat on the porch, talking and listening to stories about the history of the area. It turns out I had the right house, but his nephew was house sitting while he was out of town, which made me feel a little better but worse in the same moment for probably confusing the poor man. These midday visits continued for months, throughout the winter and into the spring before the man -whose name I still managed to not catch- just started not showing up again.
This time, though...something felt wrong. Something felt off. I knew I had to go check on him. So, again I went across the street and up to those double doors. Again, I admired the carvings and again, I knocked on the door with one of the big iron knockers...
And waited. And again, a young man answered the door. I assumed, by the conversations on my porch, he was the other man's nephew come to house sit again.
"Sorry, can I help you?" he scratched the back of his head and had a rather strange look on his face...which only grew stranger as I explained myself. When I finished, he shook his head and said the words I'll never forget. "Ma'am, I don't know what's happening, but from your description...you have been having daily visits from my uncle yes... but I do not understand how that can be because my uncle died ten years ago and left the house to me. He's buried in the family cemetery out back."
My mouth dropped open, astonishment beyond evident on my face. After standing there, staring at him for probably five whole minutes in utter silence, he led me to the family cemetery and showed me the uncle's headstone which had a photo of the man I had been sitting on my porch with for months.
So, long story short...
I literally got ghosted by one of my neighbors for months. But I also got a great friend out of the entire experience. And no...I haven't spoken to the uncle since that day, but I have seen him from time to time.
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