Vecinos

A tan chihuahua mix dog with  black leash and harness stands on one side of a metal fence with two dogs:  a brown and black terrier mix and a shaved white poodle stand on the other side of the fence.
My doggo visiting with neighbor dogs in the hood

Over the past few weeks many possible changes have come into my atmosphere. One of them is the possibility of living alone with one child (and my dog) in this house that I have lived in for 7 plus years as part of a couple. Living in this hood, this city somewhat alone has me thinking a lot about what it means to be part of a neighborhood.

My neighborhood has been kind to me. Without going down the rabbit hole of if I qualify as a gentrifier in a hood where that is being literally fought over, this neighborhood has been kind to me and I hope I have been kind back. I know my neighbors and they know me. I have seen neighbors forced out of their homes and have witnessed people who grew up here return. I have brought things, food and drink, to my vecinos and I have been gifted plants, food and drink and return, not to mention the daily saludos to people who live not next to but around me. Doña Maria, Jesse, Victor, Neto, Benny and so many people whose names I don’t know but we know each other and our routines: going to the 99, the liquor store, the park, the bus stop.

That isn’t different than New York, where I was born and bred. I knew the shopkeepers there, the bakery across the street knew how I liked my coffee and we asked about kids and parents. I know that no matter what time of day or night it is I will say buenos dias or buenas noches and catch up on the latest hood happenings : what house got tagged, did they see the coyote the other morning, do we know who was the kid that got killed today and does the family need anything. I even greet the shopkeeper whose store I don’t go to anymore because he always makes suggestive comments towards me. Sometimes he’ll just call out to me, “Que Viva Puerto Rico” and I reply “Libre y soberana” with a wave.

The other day when walking my dog ( I will write something separate about being a dog owner or a white dog mom as my partner calls me and how that changes your relationship with a neighborhood), I ran into someone I know from another organization and her dog. She’s coming over to brunch on Sunday and I thought about how few times I have hosted my friends in this house. There was a discomfort since the space wasn’t fully mine (and for other reasons that I may disclose in the future). People who know me from NY know that this is unusual for me. In New York, in my tiny ass walk up apartment over a nail salon, I had an open door policy for my friends. I loved hosting people. People would crash for a night or for months. While I value my space I have always felt like what’s the point of having a space if people can’t eat, drink, laugh, watch shitty videos, sleep there- even when all I had to offer them was a shitty old ass day bed in the corner of my living room.

So I am imagining what it means to have a space that I solely control. It feels overwhelming. The house feels so big, so much needs to be done/undone here but it could be my house that I share at will with people whom are beloved to me. I am thinking about why is it that I never felt that possibility before and the impact of a breach of trust and intimacy that actually caused me to retreat further into myself and into a space where I felt (feel) like I need permission to be myself.

Its not clear nor is it certain that I will be here alone, in a city, hood, house that isn’t mine- where I am a visitor, a guest (maybe even an invader?). But I am trying to wrap my head around it and what is the kind of life I want to build for myself especially since I don’t have family here to lean on or to ask for help for little/big things like child care and landscaping. I know I will be ok. I have been left/made alone before and I’ve been and will be okay but how I get to okay is a tangle I need to unravel.

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