The Kind Neighbor




In the dream I am underground in a dark mucky muddy tunnel thinking that I have found a path through but as I keep going it becomes apparent that I will not be able to go on. I reverse directions to no avail; the way is closing in around me and there is no way out.

 It would be one thing if this dream was simply an isolated nightmare, but the theme of ‘no way out’ has taken up permanent residence in my psyche. I have reached the point of fearing to have yet another bad dream with no hope of escape.

I have relied on my dreams as friends for most of my life; they impart truths I could not have imagined. And yes, some have alerted me to physical danger or death for me and for those of my beloved animals, both wild and tame.

Something has gone very wrong because over these past two years my dreams have become demonic, almost as if there has been some kind (of internal – external – both?) takeover by an “enemy” whose identity remains veiled. I have reached the point where I dread having dreams. And I am bereft because I feel as if I have lost a precious compass that helps directs my life.

In my day life I have been struggling with physical illness for two out of the three years I have been here in New Mexico. This illness began about eight months after becoming friends with a neighbor.

I met ‘kind neighbor’ the first year I spent here. Although there was never any possibility of a sexual relationship – I made that much clear – he seemed nice enough, and was very kind to me. I believed then a genuine friendship was possible. I returned to Maine that first summer with the idea that I might move here permanently. But when I returned the following November the craziness began. The moment I moved into his house – I was waiting for a casita to be finished – owls started hooting at night. I was forced to move out in seven weeks because I couldn’t keep up with the bizarre shifts in moods or vindictive behavior I was witnessing, or my escalating rage towards this man. I experienced what I call his “dark side” as a sickening betrayal.

I was stuck. It was mid –winter. The house was shut up. I couldn’t return to Maine. Then I became ill. This physical illness left me weakened in body and soul. Somewhere inside me during those terrible months I hung onto the belief that some kind of genuine friendship was still possible, a friendship that would allow me to stay because I loved New Mexico. To this day I do not know if this was pure delusion. I do know I spent the whole winter trying to figure out what had gone wrong between us while he thwarted me at every turn.

By spring I was ready to return North permanently when suddenly he shifted gears and once again became “kind neighbor.” Black or white. I bought the ruse if it was one, because I wanted to stay and I hoped that we had reached a plateau of mutual acceptance. I moved into the casita and stayed for another year barely surviving a monstrously hot summer that left me housebound from the intolerable heat for five months.

During that period I had two dreams both of which told me that I must return to Maine.

By the end of that deadly desert summer I was convinced that my dreams had been right.

The following spring I returned to that home, falling in love with luminous green, rain, my blossoming fruit trees, wetlands, a brook, a forest full of the animals I loved, realizing finally that I would never move to the desert permanently even if heat and illness hadn’t been an issue.

For about a year prior to my return North I had also been wondering if the altitude in NM also had something to do with my inability to sleep, rapid heartbeat, unrelenting headaches, wooziness. Apparently I had been right to some extent.

Physically I felt so much better, I was able to walk, swim, kayak, write prolifically and attend to a small garden. It was then that I was diagnosed with emphysema, although it didn’t seem to affect my ability to wander through the woodlands.

I became ambivalent about returning south, wondering if my health would suffer. I also worried with respect to ‘kind neighbor’ whose mean streak continued to frighten me. I never knew when these (apparently?) unwarranted attacks would occur because he was never honest with me regarding his feelings. Naturally, the resulting confusion left me with a permanent sense of “dis –ease” that made it necessary for me to keep a solid distance between us.

My neighbor and I are opposites. I am a daughter of earth and fire. I am in love with the natural world, a writer who must use a pen to save her life and to educate others, most recently to the precarious state of the planet that is struggling to save her own life at least in terms of the non – human species that are still extant. I am also a woman with integrity; I am honest to a fault and willing to be accountable for my mistakes. I also have a volatile personality; my worst flaw is that I do get angry easily and openly express my negative feelings, sometimes without tempering my anger with rational thinking. Instead of using restraint I explode, not a quality I admire. As a woman with deep feeling I am also a woman with a deep need to communicate with others on a meaningful level with some consistency.

By contrast, my neighbor is the original stone man who lives his life in his head as a detached and self – centered intellectual turned artist who is basically indifferent to others or their needs. He doesn’t care much for nature. He’s quite deaf and pretends to hear what people say. He has a superficial persona of helpfulness even “sweetness” that I personally find cloying, especially since he is in truth also an arrogant man who believes that he is better than others. He keeps this quality well hidden. At the same time he can also be decent and very kind. This is the crazymaker.

With all these differences on the table I made plans to return to Abiquiu for one more winter on a tentative basis. Then a heart abnormality showed up on a final test my doctor had ordered just before I left Maine this fall.

In addition I discovered a week before leaving that I had a crumbling foundation that would have to be repaired. A monstrously expensive undertaking, one that I could ill afford. I was fortunate to be able to get the necessary financing but the work won’t begin until spring. To say I was and am stressed out with worry would be an understatement.

With all these new problems mushrooming, my neighbor insisted upon flying up to Maine to accompany us to New Mexico.

He then began to behave very strangely – suddenly refusing to bring back the car – a car I needed for winter transportation.

Uh – oh I thought.

On the way to the airport I asked him to pass me my backpack that held my computer. He was sitting in the front seat and literally threw the entire 50 lb pack over his head where it hit the floor of the back seat with a sickening thud.

In the airport he went berserk hurling an open can of dog food across the entire room when I told him that he could not check this item. A man who witnessed this behavior came up to me and said “that man should have been arrested; he’s crazy.”

Since our arrival he has been so mean that I am angry and exhausted with him and myself in equal measure. I am the kind of feminist who quite naturally responds to injustice with fury so I want to repeat that I am not an innocent victim here. Initially, I fought back meeting his hostility with my own. As I see it, I need to be accountable for my anger that hooks in to his selfishness and dishonesty, his astounding lack of accountability. The mean streak is another matter. I find it deadly.

At present I am struggling to make a sane decision regarding my future. I am currently awaiting further heart testing to determine what happens next. In the meantime I have been ill every day since I arrived. Altitude sickness?  Certainly depression.

Because of the construction work that must be done on my house I will be forced to leave here by April to deal with my neighbor’s car, a vehicle that will obstruct construction before it begins. Another huge expense is winter plowing that I must do so that the road remains open to my house. I am dealing with the present situation as best as I can, weighing my options carefully

And this returns me to last night’s dream. It is impossible for me not to make the correlation between two plus years of bad dreams, my worsening physical condition, and this peculiar relationship between my neighbor and myself. I ignored the first two dreams that told me to leave New Mexico after the first year I spent here, and now I dream that no matter what I do the walls are closing in.

I wrote this soliloquy to help me understand how I reached this point and how to proceed from here. Blaming is useless. It is chilling that this last dream leaves me without alternatives. Is it really possible that there is no hope?