Where I live, there’s an apartment building across the street whose windows face mine. At one of those windows sits a woman, big as life, staring out.
She’s there a lot. I can’t miss her because she’s exactly at my level, eight floors up. I’m nearsighted so I can’t see her face clearly, big though it is. But it looks as if she’s looking right into my kitchen or bedroom — watching me, making me nervous in my own home.
Finally one day I decided to look at her through binoculars at a time when she seemed to be peering into my bedroom. I wanted to catch her in the act and then decide what to do about it. But I was surprised to see that she wasn’t looking at me at all. She wasn’t even facing me. She was looking down at the life on the street below her.
Her building is part of a large complex of several buildings. There are benches in front where people always congregate, and a bus stop where folks are always standing or sitting as they wait the long, long wait for the #15 bus. Everyone coming and going has a dog or a kid or a wheelchair or something…so there’s a lot for her to watch.
But knowing where she’s really looking doesn’t help — because whenever I glance at her with my nearsighted eyes, I’d swear she’s looking straight at me, all day, every day.
So, now, here’s how the city works for me. Pay attention, fellow city-dwellers!
Below me the street is full of traffic, with lots of police cars, ambulances, buses and fire engines. It’s a major Manhattan thoroughfare, so it’s also a nightly egress for hundreds of interstate trucks. I sleep through it all, so I’m OK with that…
But my windows are filthy!
Somehow, one of the two panes remains pretty clean in both bedroom and kitchen. So what I do now is slide the other pane, the dirty one, over so that it covers her view. I can still see the river through the other pane, but her view of me in a bizarre kitchen outfit licking a plate, or me making my bed still in my nightie (or less), is blocked.
And that’s how my left NYC pane washes the right NYC pain!
[P.S. Speaking of washing, you should know that despite the round of nor’Easters we’ve had here in NYC, with hurricane-like winds and lots of pounding rain, my east-facing windows remain filthy. This has enormously down-graded my respect for storms.]