We live on the fifth floor of an apartment building that overlooks several houses and backyards. We chose the fifth floor because of the view. And over the years we’ve gotten to know the people who make up that view even though they have no idea who we are. I take a great deal of comfort in this view and the people who live here. It’s like a rerun, an old movie, a longtime friend.
There was the naked couple who ran through the first snowfall of 2009. They moved out two weeks after we moved in and I still kind of miss them.
There was this:
There’s the gay couple, the couple who fosters dogs, the NYU student with the pet rabbit. There’s the little hispanic girl who rides her tricycle in the afternoon, the one my son loves to watch from our bedroom window.
There’s the polish couple who smoke together in the kitchen, then disappear for weeks on end. There’s the old Brooklyn lady who hangs out her window on hot days wearing a muumu. She watches people who are unaware, as we watch her.
There’s the doctor with the Flickr doormat, the couple next door to him who has a fat cat. They all share a backyard. Sometimes they combine parties. The yard is often illuminated with white lights.
There’s the guy on the third floor above them who BBQs on his fire escape almost every night and during every season. He sips Coke, hangs out his window and flips different cuts of meat.
I love these people. I love watching them come and go and work and play. I love their pets, their kids, their oddities. It’s the living equivalent to a blog—I feel like I know them, they haven’t the slightest clue as to who I am or that I’m even out here at all.
But there is one person within this view I cherish more than everyone else. She brings me the most comfort. And I want to explain why, put it in writing, I don’t want to forget her.
For the first several weeks of Elliot’s life I slept on the sofa. I wanted Toby Joe to get as much sleep as possible since he had to return to work right away. Elliot has always been a pretty good sleeper, but he does get up at night to eat. One of the feedings that remains relatively constant, and has since the day he was born, is the 4:30 AM feeding.
In the beginning, I had a case of the baby blues. And while they weren’t nearly as bad as what I experienced with Em, they were there. And that 4:30 AM hour was a particularly lonely one. It was February. The sun wouldn’t be up for hours, and I was alone with a baby who didn’t yet know I exist. The apartment was dead quiet, even the cats were in other rooms snoozing alongside other warm bodies. So I would nurse Elliot and look out over our view in search of some life, something, anything. There was a streetlight on Bedford Avenue, the occasional taxi cab, a hall light or two gleaming up through a domed skylight, otherwise, everything was dark.
This city really does sleep, contrary to what they say.
I would lie awake, staring outside, watching and waiting. And all my little TV screens, all my friends were sound asleep. All but one.
She wakes up every morning at 4:30 AM. I haven’t any idea what she does for a living and I can’t really see her. I can’t really make out her features, or how old she is. I know it’s a woman and I know she wakes up every weekday morning at 4:30 AM to go somewhere. I know it takes her a long time to get ready.
Besides work, she doesn’t get out much. She’s often home on Friday and Saturday nights all by herself. Her TV flickers and glows in the evening and usually goes dark around 11 PM. Sometimes she falls asleep with it on and it remains on all night. I guess her TV is her company. I get that. I’d have done the same if we had a bigger place.
For the first few months of Elliot’s life, when I was alone at 4:30 AM and feeling a little blue, I would sit with her. I wouldn’t bug her. I couldn’t. And she didn’t know I was there. But I would sit with her. I’d send her messages like: What is your name? Why are you always alone? Are you lonely? Where do you work? Why does it take you so long to get ready? Do you take vacations? Who are you?
What is your name?
Are you lonely?
Elliot is nearing 6 months of age. I’m floored by this. Six months! Time really does fly especially when the punctuation involved is generally the same. And my friend? She’s still out there.
I don’t get to visit her much anymore. But I do still sit down with her from time to time and I do still send her messages. She still takes forever to get ready. And I still feel comforted by her light, her ritual. And, yeah, her.
This woman has no clue who I am, that I know anything about her existence at all. But I really needed her company. My only hope is that she finds some of her own.