Everyone is a suspect
My mother continues to slowly wither away from dementia. She can no longer swallow solid food. She can no longer walk. I live 3 hours away, so I see her every other weekend. It’s never enough time with her.
One weekend I arrive back to DC with my husband. He went to work. I decided to take a me day. I take me days more often now that my mom is dying.
That me day was a gorgeous spring day in DC. The cherry tree in front of our condo building was blooming. I decided what a perfect day to combine my strengths: compassion and bossiness.
When I was just out of grad school my best friend at the time and myself would spend hours going through his years of clutter. I would make him throw away what I could convince him to throw away, the bossy part. But I also sat and listened to his connection with these things. Newspaper articles that meant something. Photos of exes from very long ago, the compassionate part.
So on that spring day after spending a long weekend with my mom, I decided why not try my compassionately bossy skills on the lobby in our condo building. Maybe just a few tweaks to bring it out of the 1980’s. A time that did not feel like our country’s best in fashion history.
I removed a hideous curtain from the front door. It made the lobby look like a funeral home. So much light came in. The lobby already looked better. I dragged an outdoor rug outside where it belonged. You could really see the interesting tile work. Maybe my proudest moment was pushing and pulling two very heavy terra cotta pots outside. The plants instantly perked up in all that sunshine.
I wrote our condo’s list serve that I made a few small changes to the lobby that I thought made it look better. I put my phone down and thought I’ll treat myself to a latte and chocolate chip cookie.
What happened next fascinated and agitated me all at the same time. The hate emails started coming through the list serve at a rapid fire rate.
“What gives you the right to change anything in our building?”
“The plants will get stolen in a day. Stupid move.”
“The rug will get soaked the second it rains. Kindly drag it back inside.”
I thought maybe I wrote the wrong list serve. There was no way that moving a rug, two plants, and ripping down a fucking hideous curtain could warrant this kind of snark.
Of course I did not did not do one thing asked of me. I did however respond like a champion ping pong player to all of the comments.
“Terra cotta pots are SUPPOSED to be outside”
“An outdoor rug is MEANT for outdoors”
and probably the least popular
“The fucking curtain made our fucking lobby look like a fucking funeral home”
One person defended me. God bless her really. Her 4 year old sweet pea has leukemia and she wrote a beautiful email about what’s important in life and how she kinda of liked the plants outside. None of my behind the scenes supporters of my lobby redo said a word. Not even a word to me personally. Since most of do not know each other in this 41 unit condo building, I only had names of the mean spirited responses. Everyone was a suspect.
Now I hold the door for no one. What if you are Vanessa who told me I was stupid to touch things that did not belong to me. I bring no packages inside anymore. What if it was Mark who took the informal vote that indeed our condo residents did prefer the funeral home curtain for safety reasons. I say hello to no one.
I should have known better than to try to make this community, my community. Where terra cotta pots and curtains would never have brought some of us together and others so far apart.
In a place, where nothing will ever be normal again. Where each and every person I see is a suspect.