TOLEDO, OH–Traci Alfalfa has lived in her current home for over three years. She’s a fixture in the neighborhood, and Traci is well acquainted with many of her neighbors. One notable exception is her next-door neighbor, Ralph. Ralph is always home, but nobody on the block has ever spoken to him. He keeps to himself, lounging, blasting music, and grilling in his front yard pretty much every day. He also throws many parties, but the guests aren’t locals. Ralph is something of a homebody. Traci wouldn’t even know Ralph’s name if she hadn’t received his mail by mistake last year.
That all changed this morning when Traci accidentally made eye contact with Ralph while walking to her car. Previously, an unspoken agreement was in place to pretend each other didn’t even exist, but now both Ralph and Traci had broken that illusion. What ensued was standard small talk. They discussed work, the weather, politics, and even debated whether LeBron James was the greatest NBA player of all time. A classicist, Ralph thought the greatest was Jerry West. He was wrong. With the exception of their divergent views on the Los Angeles race riots of 1992, it was a fine conversation.
However, there was one major problem. A new precedent was set. From now on, Traci and Ralph are acquaintances and will be obligated to say hello every time they see each other. “I fucked up. He’s always there. I will never be able to leave the house without having a ten-minute conversation with this guy. We even exchanged phone numbers. Shit,” Traci reflected afterward during her drive to work. “Occasionally, I’ll be able to say that I’m in a hurry and can’t chat, but that’ll look suspicious if I use it all the time.”
Traci is now looking into moving.