Living in suburban Redwood City, as I do, I’m under constant fire from my neighbors for parking in front of their houses, or picking their oranges, unforgivable offenses my neighbors refuse to tolerate. They typically attack with angry notes left on my windshield or gate, and the occasional nail gun to my tires, anything to avoid a direct confrontation. All but one of my neighbors have proven to be total dicks. All but Camel-puffing, hoodie-wearing Wes, the one and only neighborly neighbor I’ve yet to encounter on my block.
One of the most frustrating conundrums of my neighborhood has always been the oranges. I don’t even like oranges. I’ve always disliked them, since my childhood when I once unknowingly swallowed and choked on a couple seeds. I’ve avoided oranges ever since. Plus, I just don’t like oranges. But my neighborhood is full of orange trees. And one summer day, I was getting dehydrated on the long trek home from downtown and resorted to an orange out of sheer desperation. It was delicious, and more importantly, it was seedless.
I stalked my neighborhood, in hot pursuit of oranges, scoping out which trees were within reach of the sidewalk and taste-testing samples from each one for quality. Some were a bust, but other were just as yummy and seedless as the first, and none more so than the ones at Wes’s house, two doors down from mine. The conundrum of the oranges is that all of them reside, uneaten and untouched, teasing me from the private property of the neighbors who protect those wasted oranges with their lives.
Except for Wes. Among the many oranges I’ve stolen, I’ve also come up on a shopping basket from my local Safeway, which has come in very handy hauling other stolen goods. One morning, just over a year ago, I knocked on the neighbor’s door, basket in hand, oranges on branch, and Wes answered. I asked if I could pick some oranges. He said, “Sure, help yourself.”
This was probably the first time these three words were uttered on my street. And help myself, I did. I filled that basket.
Anyway, the other day, I received an anonymous bag of the best oranges on the Wes Coast, and I know who they’re from, and this is just to espress my thanks to Wes for being a good person in a sea of fucking assholes. He even apologized that one time his step-dad left a mean note on my car.
It’s that easy. If you’re a fucking asshole with an orange tree, ask yourself, would you really rather see that good fruit fall and rot on your front lawn than see the smile you could put on someone’s face if you would share? Wes may not be rich or famous, but he’s a good neighbor, and that’s more than a lot of Americans can say for themselves. Thank you, Wes. Hope you don’t mind I shared your story.