Two weeks ago my son and I witnessed something fairly disturbing and the fact that I have found no resolution since the incident generally means I need to write about it. Here goes.
I was playing outside with my son one morning when I heard intense screams across the street. I glanced upward to see my neighbor, who I’ll call Jill, and her fifteen or so year-old daughter, who I’ll call Anna. Anna was standing in the garage naked, wearing simply a towel, listening to her mother scream hysterically about some lost object or document. Jill became so hysterical that she moved inside and a few minutes later I heard her beat something or someone. It was so loud that I stopped and wondered if I should call the police. Since Anna did not scream in pain I assumed that Jill had hit the wall and not her daughter. Then Jill got into her car and drove away.
About five hours later I was feeding my son dinner when I heard a woman weeping hysterically in the street behind our house. I looked outside to see Jill stumbling up the street, screaming hysterically again, weeping, cursing, etc. For the next hour Jill had a breakdown on our cul-de-sac while Anna watched on in silence. She literally paced up and down the street, cursed the air and an estranged husband, cried and called out to him. I have interacted with mentally unstable people before and it never caught me so off guard as watching this.
She was so hysterical that I wondered how seeing this would affect Anna. I walked over to her and asked her if she was okay. This definitely surprised her. I sensed she may not feel safe and I asked her if she would like to come into my home. She said yes but Jill walked up right then, asking to use my phone, so Anna drew back. I told her to knock on my door at any time if she needed to.
My son and I continued to play on the street and I was relieved when a neighbor snuck by. I stopped him and asked if he had talked to them and he told me that this was typical behavior of Jill and that the best thing I could do would be to stay away, especially since I have a child.
I was floored. The response of everyone on my street was to ignore this woman (another neighbor told me a few weeks ago that she and her husband didn’t talk to her because she was a bit unstable) and I watched to see if anyone even bothered to come out of their houses. No.
I can still hear her screams in my head. I realize that in part this incident affected me so much because I was absolutely appalled by the neighbor’s response. Here was a woman literally losing her mind in plain view of everyone and they chose to stay in their houses or drive away and not look at her. Don’t get me wrong; I would not risk putting my child in danger if I thought she were violent but it got me thinking: do I want my child to grow up thinking that when the neighbors have a problem we just lock our front door and pull the curtains? My neighbor said it was a shame that Jill ‘felt the need to bring the conflict outside’. Sadly, that woman in that instance was more authentic than I’ve seen anyone else be.
I don’t want to respond simply by judging my neighbors but I want to learn from this so that my husband and I teach our child that we can offer support to people in turmoil or people who just want to borrow a cup of sugar. I found myself asking Anna if she was all right because a. no teenager should have to cope alone with that and b. I’d want someone to do the same.
Why the incident continues to bother me…I’m not sure. Any thoughts are welcome.