I hadn't seen my neighbour all year. I normally see her a lot. She lives directly across the road from me, and she has this weird habit of squatting in my driveway or the one next-door.
She's almost 80. I've seen her do some pretty out there things, but I'm not sure if it's because she's slightly off, or because she's old and Japanese and therefore has given up on caring what society thinks. Either way, she's been MIA lately. Then, for the last couple weeks, her always-open gate was closed and there were curtains drawn in all the windows and doors. (Curtains are really unusual in old houses since they have shoji- the paper sliding doors.)
I began to worry that she'd died and I just hadn't seen the black and white bunting around the house.
I left for work today and her door was open. I thought about going over to ask whoever I found if the old lady was all right. But then I saw my around-the-corner neighbour with some trees in a wheelbarrow, and I didn't want to look strange and stalkery, so I continued on my way. It didn't matter though, because she was in the driveway next-door. She was just standing there talking to my winter neighbour (who lives in a house somewhere in the mountains all summer) like nothing was up.
"Wow, it's been a while. I was a little worried," I told her.
"Yes," she said back to me.
(Yay for the Japanese language and the art of being vague.)
I spent the next 5 minutes practically skipping, humming to myself, "My neighbour's not dead, my neighbour's not dead," over and over. Until I got the house next to the barber shop. With the black and white bunting. The sign in Japan that a house is in mourning. My neighbour was not dead, but someone was.
It gave me a weird slice of perspective. I am happy. But someone, somewhere in the world is in a pit of despair. And the reverse is also true. When I am sad, someone somewhere is celebrating. The day that my loved-one died is the day that someone else's beloved child was born. The day I graduate is the same day someone else gets a rejection letter.
Two sides of the same coin. Could we even have happy without sad? Would it be worth it?
Happy and sad.
Ying and yang.