December 3, 2003
I used to go for long walks in the evenings, back when I was in college and had that kind of freedom, before a bigger city and late-shift work hours kind of broke me of the habit. But tonight I glanced out my window and noticed that my neighborís blinds were open, showcasing a large glowing lamp, and it reminded me of how much I loved my late night walksÖ And my favorite part of themÖ
I can never resist glancing into a lighted window as I go by at night. Actually, I donít know anybody who can. You might say that the beacon in the darkness draws our eyes, and it does, but I think itís more than that.
When you pass somebody in the street, they know you are watching them. They are prepared for it, and show you only what they want you to see. Maybe itís real. And maybe it isnít. You donít know. You canít know.
But if you see them at home, when they do not expect the world to be watching, you see them as they really are. And maybe you notice the commonality of them. Perhaps somebody is working in the kitchen. You see head and shoulders moving from area to area. You may not know exactly what they are doing, but you know you have repeated a similar path through your own kitchen countless times. Or perhaps a room is dark, but the blue light from a TV screen catches your eye, and you see a glimpse of a familiar program.
Or maybe you notice the differences. You know their lives are not like your own. Maybe their living room is messier than yours, or tidier. Or arranged differently. Or their kitchen is a completely different style than yours is.
Perhaps, as a writer, I have just a touch more than the normal human curiosity. I want to know who is watching that TV program, and why they like that particular show. I want to know if they bought that recliner new or if it was a hand-me-down. I want to know if the house is neat because only adults live there, or because they have well-trained children. I want to know if they are fixing supper or cleaning up after supper as they move around the kitchen, and what they had for supper. If I see plants in a window, I want to know what kind and if there are more in other windows that I canít see.
Itís not a burning curiosity, just an ongoing intellectual wondering. Who are they? What is their life like? Are they somebody I would like, or would we have nothing in common? Do they have kids or pets or nieces or nephews or grandparents? Where do they come from? What do they do for work? What are their hobbies? Do they go to church? Where?
And I wonder what they wonder about me, when I leave my blinds open just a bit too long after dark, loathe to give in to the night and admit that the day is drawing to a close. Do they wonder how I can have a profusion of greenery in my kitchen windows when the flower garden right beneath always looks pathetic? Do they see the cat perched in the window and wonder what its name is? Do they wonder what Iím doing at the computer? Sometimes I think I should try to remember to close the blinds as soon as it gets dark, but then I think, my neighbors have given me so many tiny glimpses into their lives through their lighted windows. It seems only fair to return the favor!