To your left, hipsters. Musicians to your right. Behind you, bankers and lawyers. At night, the dust of stars. A harvest moon brave as Jupiter sits on your roof as a reminder the whole world is not worth giving up. Which isn't to say a moon can fill you, but maybe it's a start. Go outside. A spider you don't know by name does her work in the door frame and you plow right into it, ruining her viscous string meant to keep you in or out. A car roars. Tricked out speakers, engine gunning, the works. Who isn't crying out for something? Around the corner, a car alarm's been at it for hours. In the morning there will be a sack of shit on the windshield, a gift from neighbors. It is impossible to know. The street is long and shady. The waft of weed more common than dogs at 6 am, 6 pm. We all need company. Neighbors move in and out. This one has a ball hoop. That one, a trampoline. Once upon a time, children played in the road. Kick the can. Street hockey afterschool until the dads pulled in. One dad killed his wife in the bathtub while their toddler slept. News cameras parked on lawns reported the story: call-girl debt + life insurance = freedom. The algorithm on a piece of scrap paper. Google it. Not what you'd expect from suburbia but nothing is. Another died in his armchair as the world series played on TV. The doctor two-doors-down made a house call but what can you do. Hearts stop. That doctor left his marriage for another woman or a man. The mad scientist housed lab rats in his basement. From the cellar window you could hear the collective suck of water bottle teats, smell the dryer. Why are clouds of comfort so bad for the planet? It's hard not to think about dying. How would you do it? Brainstorm but you've lost your creativity. That's part of the problem. Your husband says it's not depression it's being home all day every day. You need to get out, to see people. Your husband says he would want to kill himself too if he had your life. He means well and you know what he means. Take a walk. Go to the store, the pharmacy, fill your prescription, stock up on children's vitamins. You buy the crappiest off-brand aluminum foil because you don't want to outlive it. The glint of Freddie Kruger's hands sent you running from sleepovers. Children tossed your lovey in the oven. This is your horror story. Violence is everywhere. The neighborhood has changed, no judgment, only of course there is. Why would you want anything to stay the same? Check out the hair and shoes on the actor across the street who gets drunk on his porch and watches you. Some people are home. You've been home for years. Thank God for squirrels. One house was the color of an inside ear. Used to be a hotel, went the rumor. On Halloween blood pumped through a dummy scaring the hell out of you but you've always been scared. The neighbors had mice as pets, cats, too, and a Christmas tree twenty feet tall that stood in the hall turning brown shedding needles through winter. Lance Jezebel ran for public office and lost, Janice Proctor ran for school council and won. Both were haunted by scandal. Shari Johnson with juvenile diabetes invited you over to watch her pee on a stick. You played Weebles until they all fell down. Children on the trampoline jump higher, their voices lifting. A pair of ancient oaks frames a house of swingers. Renters keep their lights on, bone thin curtains giving way to laughter, shadows, bodies coming together and apart. Can they hear you jerk it three stories up? Cry out, please? Do they know you're alone? In the house on the corner where the sidewalk dropped off you broke their picket fence. Everyone was young then. These days, Halloween decorations go missing. Skeletons on hinges, garlands of plastic pumpkins. People are suspicious. You no longer know who goes as Tina Turner, who as Frankenstein. Elvira runs marathons in your sleep. Rabbi Berkowitz and his wife shared your driveway. She wore turquoise glasses with rhinestones on the fins. The garage smelled of wet cinder carved with the initials of children who came before you, smashed pinky balls against the rotting brick to spell A-S-S. That was the game. With the windows open, there's no hiding it: Cigarettes, General Hospital, Go fuck yourself. Marvin Price's daughter got bigger but never grew up. She still plays dolls and Barry Manilow albums. In her mind, it is forever 1983. Is she lonely? A new neighbor dies, cancer. No one comes to mourn. The family is estranged. The Russians keep their children on a leash, a bachelor named Kelvin keeps to himself until his T-Top breaks down on the Parkway, and he pulls over and climbs out for a look and is instantly crushed. Supposedly, your house once belonged to hoarders but you moved in empty. There's little a paint job and savvy real estate agent can't handle. The walk is littered with gingko nuts, chestnut pods reminiscent of morning stars. Neighbors shack up on the top floor while scaffolding overtakes their living room. They're not the only ones under construction. Gutters are overflowing again. Can they see you on the bed? On trash days you roll out the trash but the raccoons have been getting to it so you sit on the step and wait with your strobe, with your frozen pizza suggestive of cheese, sit and wink that big yellow light, beam and shine in the dark and wait for eyes to flash back at you.
Sara Lippmann's collection, "Doll Palace" (Dock Street Press) was long-listed for the 2015 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. She was the recipient of an artist's fellowship in fiction from New York Foundation for the Arts and her work has appeared in Slice Magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Fourth Genre, Diagram, Midnight Breakfast, Wigleaf
and elsewhere. She teaches at St. Joseph's College in Brooklyn and co-hosts the Sunday Salon. Find her @saralippmann