The woman walking in front of me is on the phone with her life coach. I know because I’m eavesdropping and feeling pretty smug about it. We are walking on a sidewalk in this shore town that is right next to the water — Long Island Sound, to be precise. I am enjoying the view. The woman is trying to work out something sticky in her personal life. It sounds like a love triangle. I can’t hear all of it because the waves drown out every other sentence. I should stop listening but I can’t help myself. It is a lifelong habit.
We both are out before the sprinklers have turned off, when mothers in grinning SUVs race out of the driveway as a fleet of battered vehicles rush in. Here drives the army of helpers necessary to maintain expansive homes — the nannies, the gardeners, the people handy with tools. There’s a crew already on the roof of a house whose roof I thought was just fine.
I am a renter here. It was not my choice to come to this chi-chi town, though it is a beautiful place with more services for seniors (like my husband, who points them out but refuses to avail himself of them) than you can ever imagine.
I walk by these houses frequently, and wonder, as I always do, what the people who live in them do for a living. In my neighborhood, you lived in a house you could afford, which meant for most of us, you didn’t live in much of a house. Four walls. A flushing toilet. An eat-in kitchen (I never knew there was any other kind. Dining rooms were for TV sitcom families, not mine). I walk by the tennis courts filled with women my age in tennis whites, past cars I don’t know the names of, and feel like a spy. I am lumping all these folks into the “comfortable rich” category. That is unfair of me but that, too, is a lifelong habit.
This is the kind of town people vacation in. The revolving cast of joggers and strollers and such keep me entertained as I sit on our front porch and watch the (well-heeled) world go by. I don’t think I could live in a place like this, but here I am, living in a place like this. Weird.