Who should be your best friend? A friend who lives across town? Your brother who lives across the ocean? Your 275th friend on Facebook? Your mom?

I’d say, your neighbour.

Imagine the scenario: glass of wine, Friday night, kids are at a sleepover, husband is abroad for the weekend, TV is all to yourself and the cat. Max says Relax! Suddenly the big black-hooded guy starts pounding on your door. Heart attack? A robber? What would you do? Call police, ambulance, God? Certainly not your mother – I did that once. What can she possibly do – I mean, I almost didn’t give the poor woman a heart attack. You can’t call someone 5 thousand miles away and ask for help because you’re feeling needles in your arms and your heart is racing like a rat in a paper bag. Ambulance, especially in Malta, is faster only if you are giving birth, but just found out that you are pregnant. Police? I don’t know if they work after 5pm here. The neighbour would be the best bet for help, if you are dying of heart attack or for some salt for your fries because you have just ran out.

But then I remembered “uncle” Bobby. If he were in prison, I bet they would have called him “Kenny G” or “Cuddly Bear” and would have been everyone’s bitch. His white skin was so oily that you couldn’t tell if his whiteness was a reflection of the sun from the oiliness. He always wore suits and coats which made him even chubbier. He’d spring walk holding his silly little briefcase, bobbing his head like a metronome in the rhythm of something like “I’m so perfect and my life is so perfect like my mommy’s cookies!”. The kids from our neighbourhood laughed at him. We imagined that he was nursed on steak and cookies when he was a baby. He looked so satisfied with everything, yet he never spoke to anyone friendlily. He’d pass by the playground on his way home from work and would always say something that had the word “wrong” in it. He even had a little chair with a pink cushion under the table to keep his feet on it while he dined (he was only in his 30s, just to clarify!). We here, on planet Earth, find that absolutely disturbing.

He was a professor in Mathematics at a prestigious university. Big deal, really. That’s about the one big plus “uncle” Bobby ever had. He helped me in maths when I was a kid (free of charge!)- I’m telling you, neighbours are just the best friend ever – but I wasn’t focusing as much on the problems as I was staring on his oily, chubby, satisfied face. During one of my first lessons in his home I actually saw the little chair with the cushion (yes, ok, I spread the word about that one).¬†Overall, “uncle” Bobby always shined oilily, smirked professorily, and his mouth always chewed on some oily steak or cookies. Perhaps for that, we kids believed he is a nasty work and disliked him.

One evening though, while having casual supper with my grandparents at our home, just a few feet away from “uncle” Bobby’s apartment, I had a sudden spell of unbelievable pain in my kidneys (apparently caused by a 3mm stone, but not really any precious). The pain was so unbearable and my grandparents – panicked so much – that no one did anything until my grandpa went out in the hallway and called “uncle” Bobby. Within a few minutes “uncle” Bobby flew into our apartment like a Superman sans the cloak holding what my eyes registered as a syringe with a big needle. The big needle flew straight into my buttocks and that was about the only pain that remained after that. I don’t know what “uncle” Bobby put but he was certainly prepared and knew what he was doing (his mother was a nurse). He took me to the hospital. He took care of me, of my family during that night.

“Uncle” Bobby was ever since promoted among the neighbourhood kids (I spread the word again).
We never thought badly of him, except for his oily skin.
I’d say respect thy neighbour. Wait, someone Else might have said that already.

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