I sat before the shaded window, the horizontal slats marking me in stripes of bright and dark. I looked out at the world.
There, on the other side, across the lawn, was a neighbor. I watched as she ambled to the bottom of her drive and picked up the post. She ambled back indoors. She was always ambling. Didn't she have better things to do than amble??
The family had moved into the house next door just yesterday and they seemed to be settling in just fine. The husband had already left for the day to go to work, I assumed. He had left early, leaving his wife to get the house in order, but from what I had seen today, she was having more fun just walking around the property and waving energetically to any passer-by. She was quite appealing though, despite her apparent lack of work ethic, responsibility, and shame.
The couple had not yet had a chance to put up blinds or curtains, so their lives were so far open for viewing. The wife had already gone through five beers and it was only noon. She had started at ten. I could only imagine just how much alcohol they would get through in a week. I shuddered at the thought of such a huge mountain of cans and bottles come trash day and the sound it would make when the dustmen inevitably dropped it.
I shifted my attention over to the family room window. Judging from the furniture, my new neighbors were collectors of odd artsy-fartsy crap. There was a strange snake-like thing that I could only assume was a sofa; there were dozens of strange sculptures and paintings. Most were of semi-nudes and geometric shapes in compromising positions.
There was also a painting with a dot. I had seen this before, as it was being moved into the house, and it had bothered me. Who would think that such a thing as a Red dot on a white background could be art? It was just a dot. What more could it be?
The wife had now come inside and was making her way through the many boxes and furniture. She paused at the dot picture. I watched, now curious. What would she do?
She seemed to stare at it for a few minutes before something grabbed her attention out of my sight. Her head snapped to the right and she walked away from the window. Was there someone at the door?
I zipped my view over to the front and, yes, indeed there was one of my stupid neighbors standing there with their customary welcome packet. Hooray! Just what a new family wanted. Fruit in a basket. I'm sure the old bat thought really hard to come up with that one. It was the same welcoming gift she gave everyone.
I glanced over to a small fuzzy mound in the corner of my room. It glanced back. I hadn't used the basket she had given me.
Turning my attention back to the neighbors, I watched as the old woman left and the new wife took the basket in. She moved through the family room and into the kitchen where she placed the basket down and looked at it. And looked. And finally laughed.
I smiled. This woman knew just as I did that the old bat was out of her mind. Again my new neighbor walked into the family room and made a half-hearted attempt at clearing the boxes but her attention, like mine as well, was drawn back to the painting. I could not quite put my finger on it, but something seemed wrong about the dot. I had the nagging sense that I was missing something.
I closed my eyes and thought. I needed to see the painting closer to figure out just what it was that bothered me. I had to get inside the house.
The door opened and the woman stood there opposite me. I dropped my hand from the doorbell and offered it to her.
"Hello. I'm your next door neighbor. Welcome to the neighborhood," I said as warmly as I could manage.
She smiled a blinding smile. I winced at the brightness of her teeth. They seemed unnaturally white. "Hello there. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Dana."
We shook hands and I offered her my gift- fruit in a basket of course- and I was in. I stood in her foyer and looked around at the empty walls and the cluttered floor. As I stood there, it felt almost surreal to see; the clear walls and the cluttered floor. Usually it was the other way around. I felt like my feet had a little maze to run while the rest of my body looked down at them, free from their constraints.
I followed Dana through this maze and into the living room where the painting lay resting against a wall- right where I knew it would be.
I stopped in front of it as Dana took the fruit basket into the kitchen. I stared at the dot. If it could have, it would have stared back at me, like the pupil of an eye. It was alluring, this dot. And it scared me. What was so wrong with it that I felt uneasy around it?
"Do you like it?" Came a voice from my side, startling me.
"Y-yes," I said dumbly. "It's very… attracting."
She nodded and joined me in staring at the dot. "It is, isn't it?"
Together we stared at the painting for many minutes, taking it in from different perches around the room. At each different view, the dot seemed to adjust itself to continue glaring at me. No matter where I was in the room, it always looked directly at me.
I was so enthralled by the painting that I did not realize that I was being spoken to. It was not until Dana waved her hand in front of my face that I snapped out of my daze.
"Are you OK?" she asked.
"Yes, I'm fine," I lied, trying to hide my fear and uncertainty of the painting. "Did you say something?"
She nodded. "I asked what you did for a living."
I paused. How best to put it?
"I'm… between jobs right now."
"So what did you do before going between jobs?"
I again looked back at the painting before answering. "I was an artist."
I jumped at the resulting squeal of delight Dana had voiced. I looked to her to see that she was beaming.
"Really? You painted?" she asked, barely holding back her excitement.
I nodded. "But I never did anything as interesting as this."
She looked at me curiously. "You think that this is good?"
I nodded. "I've never seen anything like it."
"Do you still paint?" she asked.
"A little. I used to do it constantly, but not lately…" Again my attention was drawn to the painting.
Again a hand was waved before my face. "I'll offer you a deal, neighbor. If you will let me have one of your paintings, I'll give you this painting."
I stared at her in disbelief. "You would give me this just for one of mine?"
"Yup," she said, nodding and extending her hand. "Deal?"
As I reached out to clasp her hand, a thought briefly passed my mind. Why would she just give away such a good painting without even seeing any of my paintings? She would be terribly disappointed.
Our hands met and the deal was closed. I took the painting home with me with the promise that Dana could come round whenever she wanted to pick out one of my personal paintings.
As soon as my front door slammed shut, I ran with the painting up to my bedroom and locked the door.
Placing the painting against the wall, I pulled up my Staring Chair and perched myself before my new art. Now I could have all the time in the world to ponder whatever it was that was disturbing me about the dot.
I sat and sat and sat for hours until the sun sank and night fell. I did nothing but stare at the red pupil leaning against my wall. So enthralled I was by the thing, I failed to notice Dana's husband return home and join her standing at the window staring up into mine with smiles of happiness upon their faces.