I saw Jadene, my neighbor across the street, take a sledgehammer to her small brick house. She was working on the east side, smacking the red bricks cemented in a row right above the cement pad, cracking bricks and then removing chunks with a small crow bar.
I don’t know how long Jadene had been at the task. When I noticed, it was around nine on a Monday in June and I was late for work. She had a bottle of water stuck into a fanny pack at her hip.
Jadene managed a convenience store down on the nearest highway. We rarely spoke as neighbors, but I went to the store regularly. When the place was empty, we’d chat a bit. Jadene said she had once lived the high life—grand food, unlimited drinks, drugs, and partying all the time—as an undercover DEA agent who’d infiltrated a major Austin drug ring. How she did this she did not explain, but now she has a new name and new identity. She found her present life dull and unsatisfying.
“You get hooked on the high life,” she told me.
On a later chat at the counter, as I was about to buy a six pack, she told me she walked into the bedroom of former house one evening and found her husband “doing the nasty” with her cousin.
She had her DEA pistol in the car, and rushed outside to get it so she could kill them both.
“My daughter stopped me,” Jadene said. “She got to both doors and locked me out the house. She saved me from death row. My daughter cried she loved us both, but I was so mad I came close to blowing her away through the door.”
I’d seen her daughter, who now has a one-year-old and has the harried look of a single mom, drop by Jadene’s place for brief conversation and free baby-sitting, but I’d not seen Jadene’s husband. I was curious where he was, but did not want to make her feel as if I was prying by asking.
“Colin’s in Huntsville. I haven’t seen him in two years,” she volunteered. “All my going on about the high life got to him, but he’s not working for the DEA. He got into the drug world by way of an old high school friend.
Jadene didn’t explain more. I’m generally the kind who, for the love of a good story, will believe anything, but I was on the skeptical side about her tales.
Now, today—the morning I caught a glimpse of her pounding on the base of her own house with a sledgehammer—I put my head down, bee-lined for my Mazda, and drove away.
I began thinking how wonderful my dull life has turned out to be. A nice house, a nice cat, no wife and children. Every morning, after getting up for my job with the state proofreading senate bills, I meditate for a half hour before my altar.
Believe whatever you wish, but it seems, when I meditate, I get up and out into the Golden Sunshine.
And that, for me, is plenty.