Dear Neighbors Whose Apartments I Can See Directly Into,
Hi, we have a weird relationship. You are there, and I am here, and there is a strange, multi-faceted distance between us. It isn’t just the windows and the airspace that separates us – it’s the shadows that sometimes hide you, the silence with which you do your talking, the unheard music to which you dance, the unknown meals you eat. It’s like I’m watching a caricature of you. A cinematic representation of your life.
Your life, from my perspective, really is quite symbolic – literally symbolic. From my perspective, when you talk to your friend on your iPhone, you’re only Talking On The Phone. When you eat a tofu scramble, you’re Eating A Meal. When you’re having a heated discussion with a female, you’re Having A Fight With Your Girlfriend. There are no specifics to these actions – instead your behavior appears as is: “Human is cleaning now,” “Human is writing now,” “Human is expressing anger now,” etc. There is so much context to which I’m not privy, and so it makes me feel, curiously, as if your life is endearing, honest and pristine.
Neighbors, I don’t mean to scare you here, but: I know about your private life. I’m sorry. I’m sorry if you’re starting to feel creeped out, but I honestly don’t mean to sometimes glance at you while you eat chips on your couch, alone, your living room illuminated only by the manic flash of your TV screen. The problem is that I am human, and so drawn to flashing colors and bright lights.
I am also sorry that I am able to surmise – correctly, I think – private details of your life, like when you’ve gotten laid, because I see that man with his shirt off walking around your apartment some mornings, and other mornings he is not there. I am sorry that I know when you are using the internet, because your laptop screen appears, bouncing a little (you must be using it on your lap), in the right hand corner of your apartment periodically. I’m sorry that I’m even vaguely aware of your sleeping schedule, which is made known to me via your light usage. And I’m sorry that you most likely know these things about me.
But occasional awareness of people in your visual field isn’t so creepy, is it? People watch other people in coffee shops, restaurants, the library, parks, etc. People “people watch.” But I guess our situation is different. In our situation, it’s like we’re in two different coffee shops, but we do things that we wouldn’t do in coffee shops, like get drunk alone, or fold laundry, or zone out on the internet for six hours. In our situation, we’re not upholding the social persona that we employ in public. We blow our noses, scratch ourselves and make other unseemly displays. And so our situation is somewhat troubling. Being part of someone else’s private life from this distance is troubling.
Neighbors, please let’s never make eye contact, because that would make our situation even more troubling. Once we make eye contact, the barrier that keeps us okay with living in such visual proximity will be fractured, and then we’ll be confused as to whether or not it’s appropriate to acknowledge each other every time we’re in each others’ visual company. Please let’s never meet in the hallway or at a bar. And please let’s never be friends. Our brains wouldn’t be able to handle that level of simultaneous detachment/ involvement.
Neighbors, I want to pet your dogs and your cats. I love animals, but I don’t necessarily approve of you keeping them locked up in that small apartment you have. But that’s besides the point – this letter is running too long, and I am afraid that I have already lost some of your guys’ attention. I will close this letter with one request. We are in this together; we are young human beings, and I will give you the benefit of the doubt and not assume you are batshit crazy. When I see you unguarded by your social self, vulnerable for lack of your public persona, I will make no judgment of you. I will not ridicule you silently. Because I understand your apartment is your home. And so my request is that you please understand the same about me. That my apartment is my home. If our non-judgment is mutually understood, perhaps we can be a little more comfortable, which will make our respective homes that much better.
Brandon (Apt. 504)