I was in the zone. It was a perfect day for mowing. I was happily pushing our brand new used gas-powered mower over the last stretch of grass, the part that borders the street behind. Eric had done most of it the day before, but we'd had to leave to take his mother on an excursion. It's a lot of yard.
Last summer we paid the neighbor kid to cut. I'd had a nasty run-in with poison ivy, and we just couldn't engage with the idea of buying a lawn mower. There are only so many accoutrements of American life one can deal with at once. Now all that's left is a washer and dryer, and a fridge big enough to hold more than a six-pack.
But the reality is we have a lot of grass out back and until it's all replaced with gravel, paving stones, plants and water features (which in our case would probably be oil drums collecting rain water) there is cutting to be done. With what we've been contributing to our neighbor's college fund, we could buy a cheap used mower ten times over. In the end you have to engage with these things, especially if you're not away on tour where it's out of sight out of mind.
So I was feeling at one with the mower, mistress of the lawn. This is what it's all about, I thought. Control.
Why'd the neighbor have to go and spoil it?
I heard it first - a dull motor noise off in the distance. Nothing concerning me. I figured it was the macho guy one street over who runs power tools for fun.
Then the neighbor was practically on top of me and I had to look up. Coral-colored polo shirt, brawny arms maneuvering the wheel of a massive riding mower. Ear protectors over sandy blonde thatch of hair, mirrored sunglasses, mouth a determined line. Plaid shorts, sneakers with white socks on powerful legs, gripping the sides of a monster machine.
She swooped out of her lawn several feet away from me, neatly turning the machine around on the asphalt, and roared back in for more cutting action.
"You want to get yourself one of these," it all seemed to say.
Women don't have pissing contests, do they? I mean, it's just not physically possible.
But I couldn't help it - it was suddenly a case of "hers is bigger than mine".
The pleasure of mere seconds before was diminished as she swung around and expertly piloted her machine down a slight gully and back up again. Even her outfit seemed to scream at me: "Amateur!"
Stupid riding mower! Stupid shorts! I wanted to shout. But as she rode away I got a twinge of envy, even admiration at the way she handled that riding mower. Not that I'd ever want to carry on like that.
She was done in no time. I pushed, and pushed some more.
In a little while I was finished too.