They say good fences make good neighbors. But I’ve fallen out of love, I unlove, our fence.
The fortress on South Van Ness.
Once an old rickety white picket fence, she shuddered when slammed. The winter rains would come, swelling the wood and making us force her double gate shut, with a loud scrape, flecks of white paint scattering like confetti down onto the stoop. I’d twist the knob for good measure just to make sure she was locked. She was thick, no spaces between the picket posts. No one could see in, and I could not see out.
It made for the perfect palette for young graffiti artists trying their hand. Graffiti goes on, the same day we get a warning from the city to clean the art, some might call it. Painted layer after painted layer, in a losing battle with the night and the street.
One day, mother’s day, in my brunch dress, scaling the fence, my wedges sliding down her backside to land in our frontyard. Loud music playing, Mike didn’t heard the raggedy old doorbell on her that sounded like an antiquated, low church organ. We often confused it for a moan coming from the neighbor’s open window.
Days and years goes by, frustrations mount, a saturation point hit. More addicts and encampments outside, I peer over the fence looking down on them. Hopping our fence becomes a sport for those who explore the crevices of the dark night, a break-in here and a man sleeping on our stoop there. The four walls of my house seeming permeable, the fence just a flimsy attempt at a detraction.
We upped the ante. We said goodbye to that picket fence, a quaint attempt to hold back what has started to feel like a war zone. Maybe that’s a disservice to a war zone, or maybe it’s the other way around. The low picket slats an invitation for exploration. It was like trying to stop an avalanche with w toothpick.
We built a defense instead. 10 foot high, steel, horizontal and sturdy. Not rickety.
No swelling in the winter rains, just a sturdy, strident slam when you close it, or maybe it’s a him now, that shutters the whole length of the fence. He makes clanging sounds like a futuristic spaceship in Star-Wars.
His black paint holding on, no graffiti artists trying their hand in the wide parallel bars.
But the addicts and encampments persist.
And now, with air in between, I can see out, and they can see in.
I unlove this fence, I want to dissociate from him, the ties that bind me to him.
I want no fence, I want no wall.
I just want a neighborhood. I want a just neighborhood.