A neighbour died recently. Memorial today. Pretty much everybody will go – most likely. He was a good guy. Very gentle, very community oriented, very much a back-to-the-lander. I liked him.
When you live in a community of only a few dozen people, losing one seems somehow more of a loss. It shouldn’t be, of course. A person is a person regardless of how many people live in proximity. But it seems different. All part of living in a small community, I suppose.
I remember him for a number of reasons but one of them is a bit odd. He used to watch me go to the bathroom.
When we were building our house eight years ago, we did so while living in the little boatshed at the waters edge. We had no plumbing. We had no outhouse. But we had a bucket. I placed the bucket near the water a couple of hundred feet down the beach. It was nestled amongst the rocky outcroppings and afforded sufficient privacy…..I thought.
Sal disagreed. She insisted on a barrier of sorts. Something to block the view of any passersby. Of which there were virtually none. And any that there might be were usually passing by in a fast boat many hundreds of yards away in the middle of the channel. Exposure: maybe ten seconds a day. Eyesight required by the passerby: better than 20/20 and at least as telescopic as a set of good binoculars.
I felt safe enough without the wood pallet I was forced to erect as a screen. But, you know……...anything to keep the little darlin’ happy……
Anyway………my body is pretty regular. So I would visit the bucket at much the same time every day. That time was, coincidentally, much the same time as my neighbour slowly cruised by in his boat on his way to work at the school. He passed quite close by the shore. And his boat wasn’t fast. There I would sit, my head just visible above the top edge of the pallet. In the middle of nowhere. On a beach. Hiding. Kinda.
And he would cruise by. And he would see me. My head, anyway.
We hadn’t been formally introduced and so, because of that, I guess, he didn’t acknowledge the disembodied head and I didn’t wave. But, as it takes many months to build a house, we both started to recognize a pattern emerging. Something had to be done.
So, one day I waved.
He waved back.
And so it went for what seemed like, at the time, forever.
Of course, we eventually met in more polite circumstances and smiled and shook (washed) hands. But our regular morning encounters were never mentioned. It was our little secret. No one ever knew.
Now you do.