The Woman in the Window
It was a nice apartment. Right then it was still a mess, littered with moving boxes and furniture that were approximately in the right place, but could not look like it until everything else was too. But I had a vivid image of what it would look like ready. It would be the kind you’d see on a Veet trimmer or Dove lotion tv-ad. A sleek woman dancing around a twilit livingroom, in a towel, embracing the nightly city seen through her floor-to-ceiling windows. Spaceous. Mystical. Unrealistic.
I had been afraid that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep with all the noise coming from the street, but you couldn’t hear it much up there, even in daytime. It must've been the height, and the thickness of the windows. Guess they knew how to make skyscrapers in New York.
I'd never been even near an apartment like this. Well, never thought of living in one, at least, as I’d been travelling to the city for work a few times, and once or twice visited places like these. How could someone live like this? I’d thought. How could someone be so far up there in the air, surrounded by others and still alone, and have a normal life? How could someone be at ease, when there were thousands of little lights looking back at you behind the windowglass, especially at night?
It wasn’t like I’d lived in the middle of the woods before. It just hadn’t all been so big and overwhelming.
But now I lived there. And I had to get used to it. Judging by the ads, it was what a single woman’s dream was supposed to look like, so maybe that was the way I had to look at it. Not that any real person would ever be the woman from a body lotion ad.
I started by opening a box, and spreading its contents around the apartment - in the right places of course, but ’spreading things around’ describes what it felt like, going from kitchen to bathroom to living room to bookcase to sofa, for the reason that I wasn’t a very organized packer. A surprising fact, considering that I felt like I had to unpack everything right then, on the first evening, and put everything exactly where they belonged to. It had to be ready right then.
But not because I was a tidy person, I wasn’t. It was all just about making me feel at home there. I knew it, I knew it through every rug spread on the floor and every mug placed in the cupboard, and I still knew it, when night had fallen, when everything was at their rightful place, and I didn’t feel any better than when I had started.
Would I ever feel at ease here? It felt impossible. It wasn’t my first move, and I didn’t expect to feel right at home, on the first night, but no matter how far in the future I looked, I could not see myself being comfortable there. Not with the whole world outside, making the apartment feel tiny and dark, and the streets, lights, buildings; the world, like a great big moon looming over.
I doubted I could shut the world out, but I went to close the curtains, and then I saw her.
A woman, in an apartment maybe two stories higher than me, in the building opposite on the street. Her living room light was on, but not the cold light of a ceiling lamp, something smaller, something that cast only a vague shimmer of light on her as she undressed.
For a moment I got forgotten in watching her. There was nothing special about it, and as far as I could see, nothing special about her either, except for her total indifference of the possibility of someone seeing her. This building was 40 stories high, and most of the apartments on this side must have been able to, not as well as I did, but still. She did not seem to care. It was routine to her. She lived there. She was used to it. So what.
Something about it was very momentuous to me. Love is a strong word, but I loved it. Not her, but the air she gave off. As if she was in a world where taking off her clothes and revealing naked skin was as normal to everyone else as it was to her. Or as if everyone was just too focused on themselves to look at her that much. Maybe both. Maybe the city pulsed such energy that this everyday act would be just a tiny, dimly lit window in an endless sea of acts and windows. As it was.
It was her home, after all.
In a second I remembered that although she didn’t shy away from the window, she hadn’t consented to me staring at her. I closed the curtains.
Some time later, some twenty minutes or so, I decided to head to bed, went to take my evening medicine in the kitchen. Her window stuck to the corner of my eye. The visibility wasn’t any better, but I guessed she was in her underwear, probably had been the whole time I hadn’t looked. Now she finally slid the curtain to cover the view.
But every night she continued to do the same. She may have shut the curtains earlier, or later, before she undressed or after, but making no hurry of it either way. And every night the thought of her, a woman, doing just that, taking her time, comforted me.