Sunday afternoon was quite nice. It was warm and sunny, though I felt a cool breeze when I tried to sit on my patio. I’m rather sensitive to temperature and I started to get goosebumps, so I had to move. There was a sunny corner between the fence and my back patio door, protected from the wind, so I perched myself there atop the edge of a flower box to bask like a lizard. I had my sunglasses, a magazine and an adult beverage, so I settled down to relax for a while before starting dinner preparations.
My tiny backyard actually faces a street. I like sitting there. There’s always something going on: vehicles driving by, people coming and going to the small businesses in the building across the street, kids walking to and from the park and swimming pool just a block away. I think I like it so much because of all the years I spent in suburbia when I first got married and had DD, where everybody lived at back of their houses, striving for as much privacy as possible. You rarely saw anybody walking down the street (not that you would look to the front anyway: no one seemed to use their living rooms), but we all knew each other’s cars. That was about all you’d see then: a car driving along the street and into its own garage. The garage door would shut behind them and that was it.
Anyway, I was thumbing through my magazine, sitting there in the sun in my own backyard. I noticed some movement in front of my gate, on the sidewalk there. I looked up and saw a young man in shorts and t-shirt, with a backpack. He was just standing there, looking behind him, obviously waiting for someone. He didn’t notice me. Then he turned and kept walking. I kept looking.
Then along came a young woman, about the same age, late teens or early twenties. Her long brown hair was tied up in a ponytail, and she was wearing a white t-shirt and a summer skirt. She was walking swiftly past my gate.
I looked back down at my magazine. Then I heard a neighbour two doors down calling, “Excuse me!” several times. I looked up as he ran out of his yard, down the street, apparently after that young woman. I wondered what was going on, and went over to my gate to look down the street.
As I did, my neighbour’s wife came striding down the sidewalk. When she saw me, she stopped and said, “Did you see where that girl went?”
I said that indeed I had, and described what I had seen.
She told me that her husband was chasing that young woman because, from their kitchen window, they had just seen her brazenly going into their backyard and stealing a pack of cigarettes that had been left on the table outside! Not only that, but this neighbour also told me that she thought she had “lost” a pack of cigarettes outside the day before, as well, and that she was now pretty sure that this same young woman had stolen them then, too.
Her husband now came back up the street and handed his wife the pack of cigarettes in question. He had caught up with the girl and had confronted her. She had returned the cigarettes to him. He had also questioned the guy, who had apparently denied that he was even with the girl. My two neighbours and I had a brief chat about how you just can’t leave anything outside any more, and what was this world coming to, and just how audacious it was to boldly walk right into somebody’s yard to pinch something in the middle of the day.
I returned to my warm, sunny spot in the corner between the fence and the patio door, pondering what I had just witnessed. I guess there’s something to be said for hiding yourself in your very private, totally enclosed suburban backyard: you can go back into the house and leave your cigarettes on the table without worrying that someone will steal them.