As I realized this wasn't necessarily always the case this past year in Atlanta, I began to yearn for the days when a friend was as close as the street was wide. When I could end up in a game of touch football just by taking the garbage out. Hell, I didn't even know who lived on either side of my first house in Atlanta for the nine months I there. I was removed as could be from those who lived closest. I was saddened by both my inability to put myself out there to my neighbors and the gradual societal shift I see towards solitude in the household. But all that changed last week, when I met Dalton.
I was rushing out the door on my way to work, the air already thick with heat well before 9 AM. Dalton was standing in his yard just on the other side of my scooter. He wore a baseball cap, T-shirt, and jeans, all well worn by days in the garden. His skin was transparent leather stretched over muscles still capable of honest work. He beckoned me over, saying he wanted to show me something.
"See these," he said as he pointed to some ivy like vine on the fence we shared. "These are marigolds. If they make their way over the fence into my garden, they could strangle my tomaytas. Would it be too much trouble to ask if I could come over sometimes and pick them?"
"Sure, no problem," I replied. I was happy to oblige to save a few tomatoes.
"Great, thanks," said Dalton. He started to absentmindedly pick some dead marigold strands from the chain links. "Because, one year ago.... no two years ago, the marigolds killed all my tomaytas. That was the same year my wife died. Anyway, I'm taking care of a dog for the folks down the road, and they've got tomatoes ready to be picked. I'll grab some for you and leave them on the front step."
"Thanks, that would be great!" I said. From there we chatted for for awhile about a myriad of topics. I learned about the property line battles of previous tenants, the over zealousness of Dalton's lawn crew in taking out a pipe cap in the lawn, and tire collecting habit of the original owners of my house. I learned more about the place I now called home in 15 minutes of talking to Dalton then I had in a whole month of living there. We eventually parted ways, me to work, Dalton to his garden. I rode off with a smile and returned that evening to find a tied up grocery bag of tomatoes waiting to greet me. I finally had a neighbor.