The Girl Next Door

by Teddy Wayne

Hi! I noticed you in this Starbucks and thought I’d introduce myself. That may seem a little forward, but you’ll soon find I have a lot of “girl-next-door” qualities: I’m laid-back, quick with a joke, into baseball, and at every home you’ve lived in for the past 11 years, I’ve moved next door so that I can better surveille you and deduce if we’re a good match, which I just know we are!

Leaving already? I’ll walk out with you. Where to, our block? Oh, I see; now the exact opposite direction. Whatever, I’m up for meandering — like I said, I’m as easygoing a gal as you’ll meet anywhere, whether it’s outside your law firm on 194 Braddock Avenue, at the gym where your intramural dodgeball team meets Tuesday nights, or in the waiting room of your allergist at 10:45 tomorrow morning.

Still reading The Sun Also Rises, which you were up to page 137 in last night? I’ve been reading along with you, through my infrared telescope and a concatenation of angled mirrors I’ve positioned to enable maximum visibility of your bed. Your marginalia have been very illuminating — makes me miss reading your essays in college from my remote keyboard-monitoring software!

Looking forward to catching up on the rest of Mad Men with you, too. I’m so glad you finally made the jump to Hulu Plus. It’d be great if you tilted the TV a few degrees to the right. It’s really tough to adjust mirror 12A.

Whoa, slow down, Usain Bolt! I’m cool with sprinting, but go easy on me — I started jogging only a few months ago, when you did, to trail you on your runs. Couldn’t do it without the motivation from my iPod playing, on repeat, a remixed recording of you saying, at different times, the sounds “I,” love,” “you,” “Jen-,” “ni-,” and “fer.”

My name’s Jennifer, by the way. And I’ve already legally changed my last name to yours, so no worries there. I’m just a regular, simple girl who’s happy to take on her future husband’s surname, as well as his middle name, Stanley.

Hey, look, an Indian restaurant — I wonder if their chicken tikka masala is as good as the one you whipped up last week, when I could practically taste the savory tomato sauce from the smell wafting through the microscopic plastic tubing linked from my home, via an underground passage, to a series of tiny holes I’ve drilled into your flooring. Incidentally, the new deodorant’s even better in person!

I know you must have some reservations about long-term relationships after Lauren. I think the main issue with you two was communication, based on the live-feed from the bugged devices strategically located around the house and, when the conversation was inaudible, my hired lip-reader’s transcript. Know that I’ll always put your needs first and listen to you, be it during a busy workday as I stand watch in my rented warehouse on 196 Braddock Avenue or in the middle of the night as I gaze from close range at your sleeping, drugged body, reaching out my hand to nearly, but never quite, caress your rugged cheekbone.

Oh, God, there’s Jared. Look, I know you’ve been friends with him since that party on August 5, 2005, but you wouldn’t be so eager to defend him if you’d heard some of the things he’s said about you from his home on 1229 Washington Street, apartment 4C.

Is that an inside joke with Jared — “Call the cops quick, I’m serious”? I don’t remember it from any of your public or private correspondences. But I’ll consult my logbooks.

That reminds me, your mom asked if you’ll be coming home to Milwaukee this Christmas — I accidentally deleted her voice mail. I hadn’t seen any flight purchases on your credit-card statements, so I assumed the answer was no, and emailed her from both your work and personal accounts. Next time you talk, please send my regards to Harriet. I just adore spending time with your family, like when we all went to see Avatar that time in Milwaukee and I sat behind you guys in the theater and then grabbed a seat adjacent to your booth at Applebee’s and then watched you all play Trivial Pursuit, while suspended upside-down from an oak tree, in camouflage, through a pair of high-powered binoculars. What a fun night, even if your sister was such a dolt at trivia and doesn’t deserve to be the female who shares the most genetic material with you!

I trust you’re not thinking of going back to Lauren, like you wrote in your diary last week. My miniaturized military-issue reconnaissance drone began having difficulties with its fine-motor activities, so I wasn’t able to read what you’ve written recently. But, hey, what do you expect out of a $43,000 piece of robotics that’s designed for mine detection and investigating enemy-combatant strongholds and not for unlocking bedside tables and doctoring drinks?

Also, Lauren’s car brakes look like they’re faulty and I wouldn’t be surprised if she got in a serious accident sometime soon.

Good idea, flagging down a taxi in the middle of the street. I’ll share it with you —

Ha-ha, what a hilarious prank that was, opening the door at 40 miles an hour and rolling out at an intersection!

Ah, home sweet home. I’m referring to yours; I think of mine more as a “command center,” what with the bank of video screens, wax-figure simulacra in various outfits identical to yours, and the two-foot-diameter ball of your hair.

Sure, see you later — feel free to double-lock the door like that, I’ve got keys. And in case you put the chain on, my trusty hacksaw’s in my bag. See you, and those rugged cheekbones, tonight!

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novels The Love Song of Jonny Valentine and Kapitoil, for which he won a 2011 Whiting Writers’ Award.