Love advice to my younger self

Dear Chris,

Before we address the matter of your heartbreak, I will beg you have some patience while I tell you the story of where I grew up, and more exactly the street I grew up in. I realize you are very sad at this moment but perhaps that if you manage to fight back those tears for a while more I will be able to make you happy again.

My street was located in one of those suburbs that people seemingly live in for the only purpose of resting before they can go back to work. It was a small quiet street shaped in a half moon and comprised of roughly 30 houses. Boring suburbia as goes the definition. The most interesting event that ever happened in our street might have been when the kids dressed up as the 3 Kings and go from door to door in their costumes.

The very first house as you enter our cul-de-sac belonged to a family of four whose mother gave the most spectacular rows you have ever seen. She used to howl at the top of her voice, in tears, for everyone to see. Looking back, the poor lady may have had some sort of hysteria that prevented her from regulating her emotions. But there she was in the front garden howling and howling like a siren while her husband ran behind her, trying to calm her down. As you can imagine, the kids were absolutely delighted with this spectacle and gathered round every chance they got. I forget how it ended but I believe she developed an illness and they moved out.

As luck would have it, years later a couple bought the house and provided entertainment of their own, though much more grim. One evening, the husband crossed the road and quietly told his neighbour to call the police because he “believed he had killed his wife”. It turns out he had stabbed her a number of times with a kitchen knife following an argument. He too moved out.

To the right of that house, there was a family with 3 kids – two of whom were twins. A quiet family, kept to themselves. The twins were older than us and their younger brother was a bit overweight and preferred the indoors. One day when I was about 11 or 12, one of the twins invited me to hang out at his house. If I remember correctly, they had an immaculate collection of Matchbox cars that we all knew of. He allowed me to admire them, which is probably how he lured me in. Naturally, I was flattered by this opportunity. The conversation took a turn towards my physical abilities that the 18 year old twin had “always admired”. He then flat out asked me if I’d be interested in wrestling him in my underwear. It was all too weird and I got out fast. Weeks later, I heard that he’d made the same proposal to another boy my age.

When I was back in that street a few months ago I met the new residents of the third house along. It was an old lady and her son. I introduced myself and quickly noticed the odd demeanor of them both. The term “cretin” could not have been better applied. She told me all about her son’s medical troubles but also how he foolishly fell in love with an “exotic” woman 15 years earlier, only to get dumped the second she was legally in Belgium. He kept saying “Mum, no one needs to know” to which she snapped back “Yes they do! Everyone should know” She also told me what had happened to the mother of a friend I used to have in the house just opposite…

In this house opposite there used to live a family whose son I hung out with. They arrived from South Africa when I was 11 years old. The husband quickly left them after they moved in and I mostly knew the two sons and their mum. It turns out she fell very ill in her later years and developed a form of cancer. Unable to do much physically and abandoned by her sons, the house turned into the most abominable dump. Overgrown garden, mess inside the house. It took the new owners weeks to make it liveable once more. I was quite surprised the house was still standing at all, as no work had ever been done to it those past 30 years.

Moving along towards my parents’ house, there was a family whose cars was the main focus of their existence. Always washing those cars and buying new models it seemed. The mum decided it would be a good idea to have an open affair with another married man a few houses down. They used to go on bike rides together in the Summer while we kids used to laugh and called them the “lovey doves”. They also had a little private tanning club, practicing full-nudity tanning in each other’s gardens. When eventually the father caught on, he had a few words with his rival and the thing stopped. But for years after, the man who had done the offending always revved up his engine when he drove by their house, as a sort of challenge.

The man who revved his engine had a swimming pool and two kids of his own. As we said, he had a penchant for nudity to the point it was almost a way of life. His 2 kids walked around naked and so did his wife. The rare times we were invited to swim, we were expected to take off our shorts. I was standing near the man’s pool in my trunks when he walked up to me naked, less than an arm’s reach from me. He slowly moved his hand towards my trunks as if to pull them off. It was his idea of a joke, and he only wanted to scare me. I also remember him running after a young girl in her 20s in a flirty sort of way, pretending to want to pour cold water on her. Bot naked, she with her bosoms flying about laughing and screaming. His family looked on and smiled and it was all perfectly normal. My father saw him 20 years later, and the fellow had clearly lost his marbles kicking up a stink at the local cobbler’s about how incredibly expensive his shoes were.

Two houses from us, there was an elderly couple that lived with their daughter who had never married. When I was 12, they were already well into their 80s. The old lady was something out of a Stephen King book, all twisted and bent like a sort of comic book witch and always angry at her husband. I later learned that he’d had multiple affairs during their marriage. He outlived her by a good 10 years, chain smoking that cigar and always joyful. We all liked good old Mister B. The daughter still has the house and my mum still feeds her cat. She never met a husband because of her overly strict mum who never allowed her to go out dating.

In the house right beside ours there was a family of three. The rumours started slowly but were later confirmed: the father had a thing for nudity also. He wore the oddest piece of orange rope underwear, almost as if made with a fishing net. My mum spotted him several times early in the morning in all weather casually smoking a cigarette in the nude. He usually ran off when she said hello. We were hysterical the day we spied into his house through our window and saw that he ate his family meal completely naked. His dog walked behind him, stopped and smelled his arse as he sat eating with his back towards us. We were rolling on the floor. He gradually turned the garden into jungle, growing the trees higher and higher to seclude himself. They moved out also.

Opposite our house lived my father’s best friends. They were the perfect family, all structured and happy. A bit like a TV ad. The daughter did well in school and the son was always smiling and helpful. An example to follow. Years later, the mother crossed the road in tears and there was a big upheaval. It was quite out of character because she’d always been very controlled and distant towards us. The reason for her tears is that she had noticed sums of money going out of her husband’s account. He’d fallen for a younger girl but that wasn’t all. He was also donating to a sort of sect. They eventually moved out also.

Moving along, I remember a very round man, walking like a sort of circular dinky toy. Always a dark brown suit and reeked of cigar. He lived alone and people said he was a bit odd. My mum saw him a few times drunk, lying in the ditch by the side of the road.

The very last house as we exit the street was home to a family who had spectacular rows of their own. When the teenage boy developed enough physical strength he no longer accepted abuse from his father and they engaged in full-on fist fights, sometimes spilling out into the front garden. The mother and the daughter were cut from the same cloth, as disagreeable as they come. The daughter always telling on her brother and the wife just plain sour and snobbish.

Chris, I just told you about most of the houses in our street as I remember them. You look a little less sad and my story evidently took your mind off your heartbreak which was partly my plan.

When we have a heartbreak, we look for the reasons why we have been dumped or why the person we desired didn’t like us back. It can hurt and we spend time looking for the reason behind this. The more we look, the less it makes sense. It can go on for a while until we move on and forget about it. Which we all do eventually.

In matters of human relationships and love there is little to understand. People are as unpredictable and surprising as the people in my street. This one will date you because they like your motorcycle, that one won’t because their friend told them your haircut sucked. Most times, people don’t know what they want and are confused and afraid.

The worst mistake you can make is to find logic and try to make sense of it all. The tip of the iceberg of human behaviour was shown to us by my neighbours. And that’s only the part that was visible. What went on behind closed doors?

A piece if advice, if I may. Focus on yourself and be the best person you can. The right person will notice you in the right circumstances and you will find love. I know I did.

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