• Madeline Topf

my neighborhood

in my neighborhood an older gay man walks his two identical shih tzu dogs. they are not very friendly to my dog but the man is. "she is soooo cute,” he said, “and I thought my dogs were cute!”

then he was only walking one dog.

I called the man who smoked in the car next to my apartment my neighbor. He sat in a black honda fit which I always thought I saw around town but it was never him. He sat in the same parking spot right outside the building and always asked how many miles I had run and how he used to run many miles, but then he started smoking. Sometimes I would see him walk from the flat brick apartment complex to his car; he was so so skinny each step was an effort. His legs were bony and pale and he wore leggings and an oversized sweatshirt and those black and white adidas slides.

My neighbor called me “Gabby,” but he always got Aaron’s name right. I haven’t seen him for months. Maybe because he finally quit smoking, because the honda fit is in the driveway but now it’s in a different spot. Aaron is worried.

A balding, white-haired man with large eyes lives two houses down I think, but I am not sure. He’s always walking out of somewhere with his mask on. My dog adores him! She does backflips and tries to nip at his fingers and coat. “Hi! Hi! Hi!” he says, dodging her teeth with his fingers, “Just going out to get groceries before the weather comes in,” he says.

My favorite neighbor is a woman who smokes while standing on a small balcony attached to her apartment window. The balcony is made of metal or something and is only small enough to stand one person on. Sometimes her boyfriend or husband stands with her. It looks comical because they are so squished and the thin metal balcony makes it look like they are levitating. Usually, she is talking on the phone. She will give a wave and a smile to my dog.

I haven’t seen her since it’s been so cold, but I’m looking forward to the spring when she will be out there smoking and sipping white wine or something out of a solo cup, talking shit on her cellphone about her coworkers.

I wonder if my neighbors see me, or if they just see all the uHaul trucks on August 15th and the trash on the side of the road to be converted into a kitchen table or a stand for an umbrella plant or a finally functional toaster. The steady increase in dogs and the sizes of the dogs, though the average apartment square footage remains the same. Everyone is still studying something and wearing cheap red sweatshirts.

Or if they just see the lake views that probably brought them there in the first place; they are just passing through, as I am, enjoying the day.