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Laura Huntley, 26 Sep '12

63 Hannigan Road.

The curtain twitches at number sixty three.
I can see you but you can’t see me.

There are several people I see walking by my house; I don’t know where they live. Take the ginger lady with the wavy hair so long I suppose she must sit on it? Four times a day I used to see her, pretty freckled face and belly full of baby, waddling duck-like the way heavily pregnant women do. I watched her get bigger and bigger until I thought she may just pop. I kept looking, eager to see her pushing the pram, wondering if the blanket would be pink or blue. I had guessed blue; I’m quite good at that. Anyway, it was weeks and weeks and I just didn’t see her at all. Until one cold day at the end of the year, there she was: flattish tummy but no pram. Never a pram, never a baby. She looks older and has a blotchy complexion like she spends much of the day in tears. There is sorrow in her eyes, lines of pain and torment etched around her mouth now. Her colourful paisley prints have been replaced with blacks and greys. I can only guess what happened there and I am sorry for her and hope to see her waddling by again some day.

I like the bearded gentleman in his crisp white suit, belonging to another decade and probably another place, more decadent than this suburban road. I appreciate his hats, ties and polished shoes. I enjoy his cigarette bouncing off the pavement with the quick spark of orange breaking up into bits. I wish I knew him because I have a strong sense that he has a story to tell and I yearn to hear it. I like his friendly weathered face, secretive smile and the fact I see the same green apple juice carton poking out the top of his shopping bag every day.

The teenage sisters amuse me with their flurry of squeals, giggles and whispers. Reading aloud their text messages from their busy small mobile phones, thumbs dashing over the surface to reply to some boy I suppose? They’re like two peas in a pod with their straight dark brown bobs, high cheekbones and lashings of mascara. Their school skirts get shorter by the month, the lipstick more prominent, their chests more woman like. They seem to revel in all of this and I hope they continue. One day I’ll watch them rush by, adult and serious. Long may their shrieks of laughter rule.

Directly across the road lives the bespectacled brunette, alone and without visitors. I suspect she lives to work and arrives home promptly at 6.15pm and closes the curtains. I feel sorry for her lonely existence so I like to imagine that behind those cream linen curtains, she gets hopelessly drunk, dances around naked and makes nuisance phone calls. Someone does. Andrea at 81 gets heavy breathing; though I’ve always put that down to the bulky ex-Army guy directly across the way from her. I’ve seen the way he looks at women. Once a year, always in August, he explodes in a mighty rage, offending everyone. Last time, the police were called out.

I’ve come to celebrate these autumn leaves; it means next door’s summer-long barbeque finally comes to an end; which is a blessed relief. The wife, Kim, is like a snarling terrier, especially after a few too many glasses of wine. The rows they have! You’ve never heard language like it. He storms out; she throws plates and then along comes her friend with massive hair, egging Kim on with top up after top up until their long painted talons render them useless.

On the opposite side is the old couple, quiet really except when the grandchildren visit. Then all Hell breaks loose. Six daughters they have, all reproducing snotty nosed miniature clones of themselves at a rapid rate. Not one of them seems to be at all fond their collective brood; they’re usually dumped on Grandma and Grandpa and left hungry and wailing in the front garden.

Next to them is the giddy deaf lady who always makes me think of a bounding little puppy, sweet until it pisses on your knee. I sound mean and I don’t mean to be, she’s very nice and very friendly, constantly trying to communicate with the neighbours, none of who can understand and I watch their stressed faces attempting to piece together fragments of what she means. The embarrassment factor is high, everyone walks away slower than before, shoulders slumped, feeling bad that they have failed her, struggling to shake it off and enjoy the rest of the day.

After that it’s Barbie and Ken. I don’t know their real names but that’s what I call them. Barbie is a lot younger than Ken and I frequently wonder what she sees in him, his younger brother is much more attractive. I’m sure that one day she will make the switch; I saw them share a kiss at Christmas. Barbie’s aesthetically quite perfect and always pristine. I’ve never seen her without full make-up or wearing sensible shoes. Not even when number 49 caught fire and killed the old lady with the tight white perm. I’m not keen on Ken, he looks allergic to fun and don’t even get me started on his moaning, grey voice protesting about something or other; heights of garden fences, allocated parking spaces and other such tedious drivel. I smile at the local children walking behind him, exaggerating his stoic, superior strides until they fall about laughing.

The curtain twitches at number sixty three.
I can see you but you can’t see me.

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