Most evenings I take a twilight stroll with my dog. I try to time it just right, when the sun has slipped below the horizon, but people haven’t yet registered the darkness. Their lights snap on but their blinds stay open, and I get to peek into their worlds.
What I love most are peopleless rooms flanked by hallways that extend to the unseen parts of the home, like intimate body parts underneath well-tailored clothes.
Walk half a block and we have the living room with the plastic folding chairs and huge-screen TV. People gather and eat cereal and I’m quite certain it’s not a specific person’s home but some sort of meeting place. A support group for women with selfish husbands.
Walk another half a block and we have a small kitchen made smaller by an assortment of hanging pots and pans. Follow the kitchen to the dining room decorated with a fern potted in a wicker basket and a painting you’d find at Goodwill. Every wall of the living room is painted red as though its inhabitants are living in a giant beating heart. I’ve seen them. They are too young to pot plants in wicker baskets and hang Goodwill art. Or perhaps they are hipsters making a statement. They, too, have a big-screen TV.
One more block and two stories up is a dinner party. Six twenty-somethings around a circular wood table. I don’t like the wall trimmings in this home either, but I do like the laughter. So much of it peeling through the open window that I can feel it fill me up and carry me down another block, and another…every window boasting a large screen TV, which seems to have replaced any hint of tasteful art, at least in West Los Angeles.
I love to see how other people live, both as a means of connection and as a reflection from which to view my own life. I love to watch as a man cooks in the kitchen and a woman chats at the dining room table while the TV blares in the background. I wonder why they’ve just purchased a million dollar condo but have hung curtains that are way too short for their floor-to-ceiling windows. I imagine they are newlyweds too busy with their brand new life together to worry about appropriately sized curtains. I envy them, not because they are newlyweds, but because I will always worry about appropriately sized curtains.
Peering into other people’s windows is a wonderful way to get your judgment on. And I wonder what people think when they walk by my windows at twilight and see a black cat peering at them through the window as a petite woman works at her computer (or cries at sentimental YouTube videos), with a white dog on her lap and a pea-sized 16-inch TV that’s never on. Maybe they notice I’m alone a lot…maybe they think I’m writing a book since my hands are almost always jamming on the keyboard…maybe they think I am lonely. But I’m not…because I have you to keep me company, I whisper to the couple peering into my windows from the sidewalk below. They smile, lock hands and walk on.