The Cross Over
I used to peer along the hedges of the perfectly manicured lawns, hoping to catch a glimpse of the good life, but I knew I would never be tall enough. I was never destined to fully see what life was really like on the other side of the hedges—life on Cozy-Sweet Lane.
I walked along great divide, skirting the barbed wires that jutted out haphazardly. I had always liked to walk along the white picket fences on the other side of the border. The border between Cozy-Sweet and the slums of The Grotto. That’s where I lived, The Grotto. Which was fitting I suppose, since that’s where all the folks with broken dreams resided.
Carefully, I continued picking my way along the fences; a few moments later I arrived at my favorite observation point—a brawny custard-apple tree that hung over Hubert and Bethesda’s Sweeney’s house. The Sweeneys were an odd pair. Hubert an attractive elderly gentleman of about sixty-five or so, and Bethesda a younger woman; quite the looker– no older than nineteen. I’d often wondered at what their courtship must have been like—strange I suppose. Their actions made it difficult to understand their match up. On many a perch I’d watch them fight. Hubert loud and apt to end each confrontation with dramatic flair, while Bethesda always stealthily ignored him—even as his rants could be heard above the fences of Cozy-Sweet Lane. She seemed—off, not right in the head even.
From my perch on the sturdiest branch of the old custard tree, I was able to get a whiff of the good life. Except for one little problem, life on Cozy-Sweet was neither cozy nor sweet.
I specifically remember one time where I’d observed Mr. Sweeney and Mrs. Sweeney’s young house keeper in the throes of passion; I believe her name was Marta. Heart beating wildly, I hunched there, transfixed as he’d peeled her clothes off, and in one swift instance took her right there on the back porch. It was nothing I’d ever seen before—there was no morality in it all. None in my watching, and less in the acts that followed. What bothered me most was Mrs. Sweeney’s reaction. She just sat on her hammock barely batting an eye at the scene of her husband and the maid. My heart almost stopped when without warning, she slowly undid the buttons of her duster and joined them. I should have left, but I watched. I watched the peculiar actions unfolding below me.
I guess that’s the best way to describe the Sweeneys-Peculiar.
Another time I’d travelled farther along the divide, I happened upon a few loose boards while dragging my hands along the fencing. An oddity for the usually pristine Cozy district. I’d come along this way for as long I could remember, but there had never been a loose board before. Perplexed, I fumbled with the loose boards. They didn’t appear to be damaged in anyway.
As I continued my investigation, peering through the loose slots, I heard foots steps approaching. Quickly I retreated to a thick cluster of Arborvitae that stood a ways off from the fence. I held my breath, hoping that whoever it was wouldn’t notice the displaced fencing. I was terrified. I had never been this close to inhabitants of the Cozy district before. The last person who dared to cross the border had been subjected to a hefty fine, and a most unpleasant thirty year prison sentence for trespassing. I certainly did not want to be that person today.
The footsteps stopped. Whoever was there, I could hardly hear their fervent whispers. I crouched behind the Arborvitae, barely breathing for fear of being caught. In an instance I heard a harsh scrape against the fence. I was sure of one thing; whoever they were, they breached the divide and I was surely to be dragged off to jail. To no avail, I tried desperately to fit myself closer against what stood between me and them.
“We know you’re there”, snarled a shrill voice matter-of-factly. “We could smell your filth from a mile off. Show yourself”. Her voice cut away at my feeble attempt of concealment. She repeated herself, seemingly agitated and much more aggressively. “I said—we know you’re there. Now show yourself or I shall call for the authorities”.
With no choice left; I crawled out from my hiding place. I didn’t look up. Grotties, as we were called, had no right to lay eyes upon a Cozy without permission. I kept my head bowed, but the young shapely legs of this girl-woman taunted me. Her legs were lovely.
“Raise your head now”. I did and was met with her intense pewter gaze. She was stunning. I’d say she was around sixteen, my age. Her kinky hair was wound in a messy bun with soft tendrils that had escaped, framing her perfect heart shaped face.
“You, what is your name?” I returned my gaze to the ground before answering. “I have no name ma’am”. Her disbelief was evident by her obtuse reply. “What do you mean you have no name? Do your people not have any wit about them? How can they not name a child?” Her voice trailed off. “Well Grottie, I suppose it is only fitting that I give you a name. I shall call you Phil. You seem filthy enough to be a Phil”. I flinched inwardly.
I remained crouched over, waiting for her orders. “Why are you still on the ground Phil? Come, stand up”. I stood slowly, guarded, dreading the untold of punishments that might lie ahead, yet I found myself strangely excited to lay my eyes upon this dark goddess once again.
Without further pageantry, she assuaged my dread. “I am Isabel. And you now belong to me. Come”.
I am Phil
I have been given a name. I am now owned. I am Phil.
I am—was an observer. I watch—rather watched. This may sound a bit strange, but this is the Cozies we’re talking about. Everything’s strange there. Their lifestyle, their interactions, just about everything. Had I been content, and resigned to the sedentary lifestyle of the Grotties, perhaps I would not have found myself in my current predicament.
I have always believed myself to be innately good. Save for my watchful tendencies, I am a self prescribed exemplary human, subhuman or whatever it is I am to be classified as.
Wandering along this path is not new to me. I have traveled along this path for most of my sixteen years of existence, wondering what life on the other side might be like. It’s funny, yes sad but funny, that I have thrown myself into a situation which might jeopardize my whole “life”. Ha my glamorous life. Perhaps I should have never dared to dream bigger than my status as a Grottie.
In all truthfulness, my life held zero prospects anyway.
Heck, what was another broken dream to a Cozy anyway? Nothing. I don’t have a family to go back to; maybe that’s why I’ve always wandered this way—just maybe. None one has ever been there to guide me away from the allure of Cozy Sweet Lane. I have had no one for as long as I can remember.
I used to dream that I’d wake up on the other side toasting to the good life. Another dream, much too big. But I am Phil now, Phil is somebody.
I will do whatever it takes to continue being a Phil. Maybe this is my ticket– my ticket to the good life on the grander side of the fence.