Our windows were only a couple of feet away from each other, separated by an old wooden fence that was tall enough to allow either one of us to catch a glimpse of a ceiling or the shadow of our heads.
My window was usually open during the day, blinds pulled aside to reveal a net that kept flies and moths from entering my room. Sounds drifted their way in and out as they pleased—sneezes, quarrels, and laughter.
The only thing I really knew her by was her sharp directions at her dog to stay quiet or the conversations from her poolside when her friends came over. And then, one afternoon, I saw from behind my netted window through hers, a figure reach up towards a ceiling fan to open it. So there was a face to the sounds, but still no name, no other way of identifying her. Who else lived in that house besides her and the dogs, I wondered.
She had loud guests over the day my brother and I were pointlessly arguing.
“I don’t care if they hear,” I had shouted angrily. But now I always find myself wondering–what does she hear? See? Think?
From what I heard across our fence, her summer was mostly silent, except for the 4th of July party. Her summer was covered by the same morning and night, except for the evenings when fairy lights glistened through her flower trellis and floodlights spread on my backyard lawn.
My summer was loud, when my siblings and I quarreled or joked, and then broken by silence when we absorbed ourselves in books. My summer was the corner table in the room, then the living room, and then the corner table again because my mom taped bed sheets onto the glass backyard door to block out the intense heat, cooling the space inside. My summer was 2 days in Arizona and then back to the corner table, where I did summer homework. With each hurriedly written answer, wrong question, and wasted second, the sun set and the night fell. The same sky that she saw through her own window.
Would I want to see my life through her window? Was her perspective of my life over-exaggerated, underwhelming, or just right?
Right now, I’m not sure what I want her to see through that window. She only sees what she hears–my silence when I’m not in the room, or my exasperated sighs when I’m studying in the room. All my struggles and ambitions go unnoticed by her. If I was crying, she would hear the sobs, but she would never know the reason why. For some reason, I want her to know everything, to understand me and why I was crying–I got so many questions wrong–or why I was laughing–funny Youtube videos. But she can’t know that, and it’s frustrating.
In some ways, a window is good. If there was no window, she would have stopped me from procrastinating with a condescending look, humiliation pushing me back into my tasks. She would have stopped me and my brother from fighting, embarrassing us and causing us to lock in our frustration. But because of the window, she’s powerless, yet powerful because she could see and hear everything, and perceive it the way she wants, and never see it the way I want her to: the truth.
Most of us are in a constant need to be understood. Yet society has, over time, made it seem wrong to speak up and openly communicate our thoughts and emotions. In fact, it almost encourages us to always be happy-go-lucky, always strong and resilient, because, according to society, what other people think of you matters a lot. But sometimes it’s okay to let your guard down and change your perspective. You don’t always have to view yourself or others through one lens, your lens. I don’t always have to keep that window there. Maybe she and I shouldn’t have to look through the same window every day.