People Who Live in Glass Houses . . .
. . . should not wander about naked looking for their underwear. Yes, we all do it but here in New York it can be a little more public and, as often as it does happen, it never ceases to surprise.
Living in an apartment with a Rear Window view of the neighbours who populate the 50 story glass tower block of luxury rentals across the way has not opened my eyes to anything extraordinary, for which I am always most grateful. The ordinary, however, is there in full display.
Decorating magazines often feature envy-inducing, highly stylised Manhattan apartments of the glitzy, glassy kind. The minimalist touch is everywhere, the inhabitant an absent, invisible spirit of jet-setting departure. Beyond my kitchen window, however, are apartments with unmade beds in the middle of a bright, sunny, Sunday afternoon. Books are piled across the ledges of windows as are displays of empty tequila bottles, teddy bears and souvenirs. Pot plants, wilted flowers and stray Christmas decorations, exercise balloons and bikes over which drape clothes and towels litter many of the tableaux. Through one of them strides a naked person from the shower forgetting her walls are made of glass. Like her next door neighbour who often strides manfully to the window to pick up what he has thrown on the floor.
Other occupants, like the man further up, sit at desks and work on laptops. Like me! Or lounge around watching television. Who needs a giant screen TV when I can watch the one over the way. Sunday nights at the kitchen sink have been no reason for me to miss out on any exciting developments in the NFL.
Because I see them, they see me. I think. I am not at my window with my nose pressed against the glass, watching and waiting for the next exciting episode of life in the neighbourhood. And if they do see me, they see me at the kitchen sink, peeling potatoes, washing the dishes, preparing my toast and coffee. Whatever. Or they see me sitting at my table reading the newspaper, writing this. Whatever.
Some draw their shades, others do not. The older woman living on her own still has hers drawn on this bright sunny Sunday afternoon . . . Her apartment, with its baby grand piano and potted palms, is gracious. Elegant. She has a dressing table in her bedroom window at which she sits and applies her make-up. She sits there for a long time. A band of white cloth holds her hair back from her forehead and pretty lamps sit at each end of the table but it is the small, well-lit mirror which guides her hand artfully across her face. A blonde Norma Desmond, or perhaps an aged Marilyn Monroe. Where once upon a time she might have had a backstage dressing room, now she is confined to her dressing table. With me, her audience.
We all of us live on top of each other, side by side, in this complex city so many of us call home. Whether the walls are brick or glass we are all doing our best to get in and out of each day. It is when we put our coats on and walk out the door that we merge and meet unknowingly in the crowd. Truly anonymous and grateful for the fresh air and freedoms of the city which we then take back inside with us.
A nod and a wink passing between one and all.