Less than a year after I ratted out my next-door neighbor for letting his back yard become a weedy rat habitat, I discovered a bumper crop of poison hemlock along my side of our shared fence. It took several hours to eradicate most of the towering plants. Now, a year later, I’ve found a highly toxic member of the nightshade family growing a few yards to the east of the original poison patch.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that two killer plants suddenly appeared in my yard. The neighbor, who’s gruff on a good day, has been pretty unfriendly ever since I turned him in to the county health department. Yes, I could have tried to talk to him about his unkempt yard, but I really didn’t think that would have any effect, given both his gruffness and the unkempt condition of everything on his property.
He really should be grateful that I intervened. Not only did he clear away most of the offending overgrowth, but he turned the area into an attractive garden with a brand-new shed. So maybe he isn’t trying to poison me.
And maybe it wasn’t he who slashed my 2-year-old Magnolia and eventually tore it in half, or who left a used litter box (litter not included) sitting in my front yard. Maybe these are just the kind of random acts of vandalism that one can expect when living on a corner lot in an urban neighborhood.
Actually the list of people in the neighborhood who have it in for me has been steadily growing. One woman was angered by some information I innocently posted in our online community forum. Other neighbors may have had unwelcome visits from our cats; the litter box could have been either a well-intentioned suggestion or a subtle “dig” at the cats’ instinctual use of any patch of dirt.
Then there’s the resentment that many locals and activists feel toward the white majority now living in this historically black neighborhood. The “Black Lives Matter” sign in our yard may come across as infuriatingly hypocritical. (“Take that, you white person’s tree!”) Maybe even having a black cat is seen as thumbing our noses at longtime residents.
I admit to being a lifelong paranoiac who thinks everyone has good reason to be out to get me. If you’re thinking, “That’s no way to live,” you’re absolutely right. In fact I have seriously considered suicide for the last couple of years. Or at least I thought I was serous—until I was given more than enough poisonous plants to do the trick, and instead of harvesting them I destroyed them. My excuse is that I might have made myself unpleasantly ill instead of dead.
The most sure-fire way to get oneself killed may be suicide by cop, but it’s only guaranteed to work if you’re a young person of color. Someone with old-white-lady privilege would need to be either extremely threatening or well disguised, preferably both.