Everybody’s Business

I travel a lot. At least that’s what my very nice, very elderly next-door neighbor told me in July when he saw me running out the door with my carry-on on my way to Berlin.

“You must have a very important job,” the retired doctor said and I laughed because a) I don’t really travel for work, and b) I’m not important to anyone but myself, and c) the dude is deaf and can’t understand a word I say with my accented Deutsch so there was no point in explaining any of that to him.

A few months later, right after we got back from Portugal, I ran into him again and he started going on and on about how great it was that my husband was back home. Husband? Back home? Please, sir, explain.

Because I had just been out of town for nearly two weeks and my ex-husband, who does indeed have keys to my apartment (against everyone else’s better judgment), was likewise on vacation in Spain. Who the devil had been in my apartment while we were away?, I was thinking.

Dr. Deaf next door didn’t seem to get it right away when I tried asking him what the hell he was talking about, instead going on about how difficult it must be for my daughter to never see her dad (um, she does? every week?) because he’s traveling all the time (his ass rarely leaves the couch at his new place?). He must have thought we were terrible parents, abandoning our kid while we both jetted around the world. Finally, I let my neighbor in on the not-so-little secret of our divorce.

After he got over his initial shock, a minute during which his face first went all basset hound before his eyes narrowed with disdain, he fumbled through the confession that he had just thought that my husband was back because he’d seen a man’s shoes outside my apartment door a couple of nights that week. Ruh-roh, Relroy. This poor old-fashioned retiree went from thinking I was a terrible mum because I left my daughter at home while I globe-hopped to thinking I was a terrible mum because I had men not-her-dad spending the night.

Which I could maybe be fine with, maybe deal with, if those were, as they say, the actual facts. I can be okay with people judging me for shit I do. But I didn’t, in fact, have a dude spend the night at my house, nor have I ever in the two years I’ve lived here. It’s against my parenting ethics. Besides, who could ever get busy with Super Grover sitting there, watching the whole action take place? Not me.

So I laughed, and explained myself to him. “Those shoes?” I said. “Those shoes are for running. I’ve started running again.”

“Oh, I didn’t know those were yours,” he said, clearly relieved. “I didn’t know women did such a thing.”

Because right, women don’t go running. Noted.

And duly noted: if a dude ever comes by, German or not, his shoes are staying inside. People are watching.

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