There was an RV parked across the street from my house for a little over four weeks.
The RV just showed up one day, parked. There are no houses across the street, just some open land, a sidewalk, and a lot of really decent trees. I was headed for the bus at my usual ridiculous early-morning hour and noticed this RV because it was one of only two vehicles on that side of the street. The shades were drawn. There was a woman’s yellow bicycle attached to the back.
Now, you might see some things in Nordeast Minneapolis on your way to the bus, but an RV across the street for weeks on end is not one of them.
And there it stayed. Sometimes the bike was gone. Where did it go? Who was riding it? How many were living in there? Was it just one woman? Or a man with a woman’s bike?
It became the topic of over-the-fence conversation.
“Maybe it’s a rolling whorehouse,” Faye said from the house to the south.
“Or she’s selling drugs,” said Barb from the house to the north.
“Maybe she’s just down for the summer, staying in The Cities,” my husband chided.
Eventually, the binoculars had to come out. I sat on my screened-in porch for two hours one night, Gladys Kravitz-style (whoop!), glasses trained on the RV, but with one of the doors facing the darkness, not the street, I didn't see anyone.
"You goofy sonuvabitch," I thought to myself. "If it bothers you so much, call the cops. Or drop it."
So I dropped it. Or so my subconscious would have you believe.
This past week has been very warm. Through a combination of environmental awareness and plain ol’ fashioned cheapicity, this is our second year of no air conditioning. Minnesota is known for its extremes in temperature (forty below zero Fahrenheit in the winter, over a 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer), and I wondered what it was like in that RV.
A full month of this vehicle, directly in my vision, never moving, never a sign of life, and now with this heat, what if there was a body in there, rotting, just across from the house? I couldn’t take it anymore. Sunday night, just after sundown (9:45 or so), I crossed the street. A part of my mind I should listen to more often started playing a trailer for the evening’s 10:00 news, describing my disappearance while neighbors pointed to where the Mystery Vehicle had sat for four weeks. “Nosy neighborhood woman disappears. But first, can what’s in your refrigerator kill your family? Tonight, at 10:00!”
I walked up to the RV. The drapes were drawn between the driver’s area and the back. There was a large ceramic lamp on the makeshift table between the driver and the passenger seat. The windshield was filthy with bird droppings and the dried spotty evidence of the dramatic summer thunderstorms we’d been having.
I walked to the back door and knocked. “Is anyone in there?” No answer. Through a small gap in the loosely drawn drapes over the back door came the only light in the darkness, the blue flicker of a TV. Someone was watching "Alien". Next to the TV, on a table covered with a table cloth was an enormous birdcage with an enormous parrot in it. The parrot turned to me and squawked.
I backed up pretty quick. I had not expected a parrot.
The next day, the RV was gone.
I hadn’t meant to drive out whoever it was; but I have to admit a certain relief that whoever it was was gone – and a certain uncertainty over where whoever it was went.
Have there always been people living in motorized vehicles in the center of a city? We’re not far from the U of M – was she waiting for her dorm? Was she waiting for an apartment somewhere to open up? Were the neighbors right, that perhaps something had been being sold out of there? Or was this of economic portents, a sign of things to come, a woman – and one really big bird – living on a street for over a month out of her vehicle, a bike locked to the back?
Being a Nighthawk
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