Figure Eight Girl

The mysteries we never solve about our neighbors

Robert Isenberg
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readFeb 22


A brick wall
Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels


We don’t know her name, but we call her Figure Eight Girl. When we first move into our house, she’s there, in the middle of the street, riding in figure eights on her bicycle. She’s young, but we can’t tell how young. She wears faded denim shorts and a tank top; her straight hair wafts behind her. Her face is neutral, a little hangdog.

She circles and circles and circles, sometimes for hours. Endless figure eights, directly in front of her house — or what we assume is her house. There’s nothing else there, except a freestanding basketball hoop. The cars are parked close together, like gear-teeth, but we never see other neighbors.

At first we like it. How sweet — a middle school girl on her one-speed bike.

But there she is, summer day after summer day.

Alone, in endless helices.


Once, riding my own bike, I pass Figure Eight Girl on the sidewalk. She’s walking around in flip-flops. She smiles.

I’ve never seen her smile before. For an instant, I think that smile looks bashful. Relieved. The smile of someone who doesn’t smile often.

But then she’s gone, and I pedal away, toward busier streets — and really, what do I know about how much any stranger smiles?


Now and again, emergency lights flash through our windows. We pull back the curtains, and we see a row of rescue vehicles idling in the street. They’re about two blocks away, and they look like they’re parked exactly where Figure Eight Girl makes her figure eights.

We wonder what’s happening over there. Is Figure Eight Girl all right? Did something happen in her house? A fall? A heart attack? A violent argument? But we can’t even see what the vehicles are; the colored lights are blinding. Ambulance? Squad car? Fire truck? Who can tell? Maybe they’re fixing a telephone line. For all we know, they have nothing to do with Figure Eight Girl.

We go back to our bed. Or to our beers on the deck. Or wherever we were before.




Robert Isenberg
Human Parts

Robert Isenberg is a freelance writer and multimedia producer based in Rhode Island. Feel free to visit him at