Because New York City is New York City, my bedroom window faces directly into the southern half of my apartment building. If I lived a couple apartments down and maybe was an heiress or something, my bedroom window would look over the water and directly into Brooklyn instead. If I smash my face against my window and squint my eyes, I can see Brooklyn too.
What’s great about the view in my apartment is that I can see directly into the windows of several different rooms. There’s a living room about three floors above me and one apartment over that has this huge painting of a dog dressed as an astronaut. There’s a kitchen two floors below me and two apartments over that is much, much bigger than mine and has a little island table and I always see these two girls sitting around it and talking. My whole building is in a horseshoe shape and the apartments that line the middle section of it, which looks into Brooklyn, have balconies, and there is always this one guy who smokes weed on his as he looks at the water.
Especially at night, there is something really comforting to me about this setup. My bed directly faces my window and sometimes I’ll look up from whatever I’m doing on my laptop to check out the lives happening across from me. I feel eerily calm observing the lives of strangers. It’s weird to watch these people conduct their lives in tiny little screens from my bedroom. They’ll have parties or bring friends over for dinner or they’ll fold their laundry late on a Sunday. They’ll prop their legs up on their coffee table and watch TV or unpack groceries. Sometimes they’ll look out their window too.
I never really think about anyone watching me like how I watch them. I will occasionally humor myself and wonder what people think of me, based on the scenes in my bedroom. I wonder if they can pick up on patterns—if they know that the pile of clothes on an unkept bed means I’m stressed or if they are at all unimpressed with the fact that I keep adding books to my bookshelves before I can finish whatever I’m currently reading. I wonder if they can see the dead ficus I keep on my windowsill and wonder why I’ve bothered to keep it for so many months. I wonder if they watch me talk on the phone or follow me walking around the apartment.
I mostly wonder if anyone watches me at all.
New York City is enormous and highly populated and probably one of the loneliest places I’ve ever lived in so far. I don’t know any of the people living in the apartments across from me and I probably will never, ever cross paths with them. I don’t even think I’d be able to point them out on the street.
But I have intimate relationships with these strangers. There’s a weird sense of reassurance that comes from walking by my bedroom window after a shower and seeing a family a couple floors away sitting down to eat dinner. It’s sort of an out-of-body experience to watch a party happening from a literal outsider’s perspective. It’s nice to see someone else’s living room light on when you’re up at an odd hour, panicking—because you wonder if maybe they’re doing the same thing too.