BROWN'S CLOSE: Northern Exposure
Since the onset of the coronavirus, families have lost jobs, childcare, and all semblance of schedule. Barriers are broken, boundaries eviscerated. Days bleed into one another. Friends earnestly text each other, “Happy Friday,” and then ask whether Friday is something we still celebrate.
Most of my fellow Americans have given up decorum. Kids burst into the room and enthusiastically participate in client Zoom meetings. Women pick their feet and noses in the virtual presence of friends. Men pee on conference calls.
All of this, I suppose, was to be expected. Societal structure evaporated overnight. I am certainly not immune. I’ve worn pants with snaps exactly four times in the past three months. Instead, I now do laundry loads consisting only of gym shorts, sports bras, and sweatshirts.
I was mentally prepared for my new casual life. I’ve worked from home for several years as it is, and I live on a quiet cul-de-sac in West Anchorage. The location is perfect. I’m seven minutes from either the airport or Kincaid Park. New houses spring up regularly. There’s talk of another school someday and a fire station. Aside from jet airplanes seemingly landing on my roof every Thursday at 2:30 in the morning, it’s really idyllic.
As quarantine and hunker down recommendations have persisted, however, I’ve noticed distinct changes in my neighborhood; my fellow residents have not taken well to quarantine. Unaccustomed to working from home, they have not built up the discipline to maintain societal codes of conduct during a pandemic.
My first hint that something was off was on my daily stroll to the mailbox at eleven in the morning. I approached the duplex seven doors down from mine.
A large man with a lot of wild hair was standing naked on his balcony holding a chihuahua under his arm.
If the stark contrast of the size difference between the dog and his master didn’t complete the astounding sight, the man was attempting to flirt with the hot mom next door. She was at street level, fully clothed, walking her large yellow lab, and gazing up at him with wide, concerned eyes.
“Aren’t we a funny pair?” he grinned hopefully. “I’m a big man with a tiny dog, and you’re a tiny woman with a big dog.”
I hated to break it to him, but in no universe would he and the hot mom ever be a pair.
I assumed this particular gentleman just had no sense whatsoever of propriety. I shrugged off the encounter as a unique story of life in my cul-de-sac.
That was until the second incident: – the lady in the house across from mine began regularly parading around topless. She’s flagrant about it, leaving all of the interior lights ablaze. She lives with a baby and a husband, and neither seem to mind.
I wish I could be that free.
As March faded into April, April into May, and now May into June, I noticed this behavior more and more. There’s one guy who now rubs his nipples vigorously every time he mows his lawn. Another runs around outside his property in his bathrobe and underpants every week on trash day; everything from his clothes on down to his body parts flaps enthusiastically.
I reached my breaking point the day the couple a few doors down threw a wild, and very noisy, party at midnight on a Tuesday.
Having reached peak curmudgeon status, I pulled on my jacket and my mask, and tramped angrily down the street in my pink pajama bottoms, giant eyeglasses, and my hair teased on top of my head.
The door was wide open, and I burst in.
“Hey! Who owns this place?” I shouted over the music.
I received glowering looks from several young women dressed in heavy eye makeup and nothing but their underwear. More guests flitted through the entryway, similarly undressed.
We all regarded each other for a few moments, me in my oversized clothes, and the party goers in their undersized ones.
“Sup?” One young man greeted me insolently.
“Look, I have to work in the morning. I have –”
I paused and spoke the word reverently.
“Sorry, we’ll keep it down,” he muttered, and turned the stereo down three-tenths of a decibel.
I clumped home, and prepared to relocate to my parents' house. Their neighbors were all over 65 years old, and had long since stopped seeing the fun in parties where all you wear is your underwear.
I went up to their house the following evening for dinner, and sat outside on their deck, bathing in the luxury of peace and quiet. The only other humans around were my parents’ neighbor and her friend, both sitting in a hot tub on the neighbor’s deck.
It was a hot evening, and the neighbor reached her hot tub limit in short order. She stood up, hopped out of the tub, and wiggled around the deck looking for her towel.
She was completely naked, and in full view of all of the residents of my parents' street.
She grabbed her towel, and began pulling it vigorously back and forth, drying her nether regions.
I stared, dumbstruck, for perhaps longer than was polite. What was most perplexing however, was not the prancing naked neighbor, but her friend. The friend was dressed modestly in a bathing suit, and hot tubbing with her nude friend.
I tore myself away, walked inside, and rinsed my eyes out with chlorine.
God willing, COVID subsides this summer. Else, the Municipality may have to declare itself an official nudist colony. Granted, this would give me a legitimate reason to finally live out my fantasy of bunker life in Oklahoma.
Sarah Brown is a Never Nude. She can be reached at [email protected], and on Twitter @brownsclose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac. For more of Sarah’s musings, visit Browns-Close.com.