We live in a row of five townhouses.
- Unit 2: P is a retiree in his late-50s, dating N – a 25-year-old Thai woman who recently immigrated to Canada.
- Unit 4: That’s us.
- Unit 6: Not relevant to the story.
- Unit 8: J is a 50-something smoker who works from home doing market research.
- Unit 10: E (a male) is a public servant who is probably slightly older than me, and in a long-term relationship with A (a female), who is a francophone working on a Masters in Translation, and probably closer in age to Junkii.
On Friday evening, we were all invited over to Unit 10 for an evening of alcohol and appetizers. It was a nice social setting and it presented a good opportunity for everyone to get to know each other a little better. Yes, we all live next door to one another, but aside from condo meetings and the odd chance encounter, we really haven’t spent any time together in a relaxed social situation.
And speaking of odd encounters…
A and E suggested an easy way to get to know one another: each person would take a turn in the hot-seat and every other person at the table could ask them a question. Nothing indiscreet – just some basic info to help us get to know one another. The game started innocently enough, with questions about where we had travelled, favourite movies, how we had come to Ottawa, what we do for a living; that sort of thing. Simple stuff, but interesting.
Of course the wine was flowing, and one of our hosts, A, clearly didn’t know her limits. She was getting progressively drunker, slurring her words and not really paying attention to the answers being given. Clearly something was troubling her – and after N answered a question about her age (25) – A decided to blurt it out.
She looked at P, and challenged him on the moral rightness of someone his age dating a 25-year-old. He tried to shrug it off as a bad joke, as did the rest of the table, but A was having none of it. She got very serious and said (or slurred, anyway) that this is not a laughing matter.
All that was left was for us to watch the train-wreck. P, rightly upset, excused himself and took N home. Junkii and I, as well as E (A’s partner) and J all apologized and made it clear we didn’t agree with A, but the damage was done. P and N went home, leaving the rest of us sitting uncomfortably with one another to discuss what had just happened. Which we did.
And when we all made it clear to A that we didn’t agree with her – that there is no evidence N is being exploited and/or abused, that she’s a consenting adult, and that people of substantial age-differences fall in love all the time – she got feisty and basically suggested that we should leave. E asked us to stay and A, feeling attacked, decided to stumble upstairs to bed, obviously upset.
End of the Evening
With just the four of us remaining, we talked a bit more about the issue but, with us all in agreement, we eventually moved on to the business of getting to know one another again before eventually dispersing to our homes to let E go and address his issues with A.
Before we headed home, Junkii and I stopped in at P’s unit to tell him how sorry we were for the way the evening had played out. He really appreciated hearing from us and knowing that no one else shared A’s POV.
The Plot Thickens
We retired. We headed home and weren’t long heading to bed, where we both slept fine. Until 5am.
It’s awkward waking from slumber to the sound of a doorbell. You’re not certain you’ve even heard it. But, since we both woke at the same time, we knew it as no coincidence. So we trotted downstairs only to find A looking in. She wanted to know if she could sleep on our couch. She never admitted to E having kicked her out, so we’re really not sure what drove her to come for this early-morning visit. But in she came, with an open bottle of white in one hand and cigarettes & lighter in the other.
She told us to head to bed, but there was no way we were leaving a distraught neighbour alone in our house with a lighter. So there we sat, trying to drag a story out of her. Junkii’s counselling skills really came in handy. But she was all over the place. She talked/asked about:
- The issue of P and N’s age difference, and about whether she had insulted them (Duh!)
- Her relationship with E, and about how she finds him to be a bit of a stuffed shirt
- The clients that Junkii works who are dealing with their impulses to commit sexual abuse
- How much she loves Junkii and, to a lesser extent, me (she actually said that!)
For 40 minutes she sat there and talked and listened, without ever really saying anything substantial about what was bothering/troubling her. And in the end, after Junkii finished a particularly eloquent explanation of his views of the situation, she said thank you and got up, hugged us both, and went home.
And that’s where it ended. Junkii and I went back to bed, laughing about how absurd an evening it had been.
She has since written us a couple of emails apologizing and thanking us for being there for her, but she really doesn’t seem to get the fact that she really insulted P and N. We do hope she can find it in herself to apologize to them – she really does owe it to them; you don’t invite someone to your house if you don’t approve of them – but we don’t know what personal demons she may have standing in her way. Clearly, sexual abuse and exploitation are hot-button issues for her, and that might be stopping her from looking at P and N’s situation in an unbiased way.
But we’ve learned our lesson. We swear not to open the door again if she comes knocking for a morning counselling session.