Our neighbours have just pulled down our back fence. I liked the one that was there – scarred by the tracks of the Philodendron’s tentacles, strung with the ‘Bubble Man’, a housewarming gift from my sister, and the various pieces of ceramic art of children. I miss my favourite moss-covered brick that caught my eye and distracted me from my father’s face, now gone.
While they build a new fence, ‘any fence you like’ they said in their good neighbour fashion, passers-by peer through the temporary meshed wire and gauge our lives by the state of our backyard. Now I’m conscious of the falling trellis, the untidily stacked bags of compost and, worst of all, the brilliance, or lack of, my washing on the line.
The wooden fence on our left is beginning to decay. Between the space left by a fallen paling my neighbour and I converse. “How’s your week?” “What are you planting there?” Further along the fence, the top is chipped by his heavy feet when he had to climb over; I’d left my keys inside. A passionfruit vine holds that fence together. Every year I watch, with lust, as the fruits swell in decaying blossom. Every year the possums beat me to their ripening.
On my right, Japanese lanterns and pom-pom flowers hang amongst my washing in summer and, in autumn, silver birch leaves drift in clouds into our yard. The neighbour’s dog sticks his nose through the gap at the base of the fence and sniffs his welcome. Children climb the horizontal beams on that fence and call, “You want to play?” They wish the fence wasn’t there at all and, sometimes, so do I.
They’ll put up a brand new fence, these new, good neighbours. It will be “high, impenetrable”, they assure us, “You’ll never see us!” they laugh and maybe mean “we’ll never have to see you.” It will be a good fence, and, over time we will make it our own. Perhaps the Bubble Man will return; there might be new art from new children. But the moss-covered brick that had distracted me from by father’s face will not be there, as he isn’t.