You Would Be Staring in Her Window
Two acts in the same story:
My apartment. First floor of the building, on street level. (It appears the architect of this building had never designed one for use in New York City before.)
The hour or so before sunset.
Three children that live on my block, ages 5-9 or thereabout.
It’s finally reached summertime temperature in New York City. The windows and curtains are open, which causes the unusual situation of our apartment actually being visible to passersby.
The doorbell rings. It goes ignored, since it’s well-established that the kids on the block like to ring and run. I can see why it’s funny to them; as annoyed as I used to get when they first started it, I would have been amused too.
They ready to do it again, but I’m prepared. I stand by the window and eavesdrop on their conversation.
Child 1: (quietly) Go and press that button right there.
Child 2 says nothing and stands still.
Child 1: Go on, press it!
Me: You know I can hear you, guys?
They look in the window and see me watching them. Children 1 and 2 run away, but the third stays for a moment too long. I’ve got him.
Me: Why do you guys always look in our house and ring our bell?
Child 3: It’s not me, it’s my friend!
Me: It doesn’t matter to me who it is. Would you appreciate it if I came and stared in your windows all the time?
Child 3 is silent. He does not appear to have considered this before.
Me: I know we’re on the first floor and it’s easy to look in our house, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to open our windows without someone putting their face up to the bars and checking our place out.
Child 3: But it’s my friends!
I, of course, know he’s stretching the truth. I’ve seen him looking in before. But that’s not really important.
Me: That doesn’t matter. I’d just appreciate if you guys would stop. I appreciate you standing and listening to me. I just wanted you to know we’d like it if you stared into our house less. Thanks again.
I step back and the child runs away. They don’t bother us the rest of the night.
Same as Act I.
Some crazy old guy.
2 police officers. (Character list = foreshadowing. DUN DUN DUN!)
I sit on the sofa reading The Cheese Monkeys. A few more passersby have looked in the windows, but the usual cheery “Hi!” from me or Johanna has sent them scurrying along, as is typical with adults looking in. For whatever reason, one guy doesn’t seem to get it. He puts his face to the bars and looks into the apartment.
Some crazy old guy (SCOG): You have a nice apartment.
Johanna: Thank you!
SCOG: Nice TV.
Johanna: Thank you. Will you please stop looking in our window?
Me: Is there a problem, sir?
Me: Then go away. Stop looking in our window.
SCOG leaves. I decide at that point that I’ve had enough of the inlookers and move a chair over to the window. As I’m getting it into position, SCOG returns.
Me: (confused) Hi.
SCOG stares in the window some more.
Me: Seriously, why do you think it’s okay to stare into someone’s house?
SCOG: Because you have the windows open.
I am speechless.
SCOG: Why do you have the windows open if you don’t want people to look inside?
Me: Um, because it’s hot and we want some air flow.
SCOG: Well, if you don’t want people looking in, you should close your windows.
Me: Actually, sir, I disagree with your thesis. I don’t think it’s okay to stare into people’s houses no matter what.
SCOG: But if you don’t have your windows open, people won’t look in.
Me: That’s not even remotely relevant. I’m not trying to be rude or offend you, but you shouldn’t stare in people’s windows.
SCOG: Then why do you have the windows open?
I am irate.
Me: Because it’s hot, jackass!
My sudden expression of anger finally appears to get through to him. He walks away from the window quickly, and I take my seat and pick up my book. It’s not long, though, before I hear muttering outside. I’m able to pick up the word “jackass” from among the mumbled words. Sure enough, it’s SCOG, hanging out just out of my view. I go to the window again.
Me: I can hear you, sir.
SCOG gets animated. He begins pacing angrily in front of the window, red with anger (which may have been a trick of the light), fists clenched. I try to placate him.
Me: Look, I’m not trying to offend you personally, but there’s no reason for you to be at our window, at all.
SCOG: Why did you call me a jackass?
Me: Because you’re staring in our window, and if you don’t leave, I’m going to call the cops on you.
SCOG makes a noise rather entirely unlike human speech, something akin to a horse’s nicker. He walks close to the (barred) window, fists raised.
Me: (amused and angry) What are you going to do, punch me through the bars and screen? Johanna, call the cops.
She picks up the phone and makes the call. SCOG can hear me feeding her information about his height, weight, clothing, hairstyle, age, etc. Remarkably, he doesn’t leave immediately.
After the call to the police ends, he realizes he’s in trouble and leaves. In the interim between the call and the arrival of the police, I see him walk by going the opposite direction, carrying a bag of groceries. He gives me a mean look as he walks by.
After 15 minutes or so, the police arrive. I describe the situation to them. I assume he is long gone, but…
Me: We weren’t feeling threatened as much as creeped out. I don’t know where he went, though. I’ve never seen him before.
Police officer 1: Oh, we saw him. He was standing in the middle of the street.
Police officer 1: Yeah, I don’t think he was all there.
Me: Well, that much is obvious. I know there’s nothing you can do. I hope we don’t have to call you again.
So ended the drama in two acts of people not having the fucking sense not to stare into my windows.