A Movie the Neighbors Could Watch
We moved into a loft with great big windows and for a while, I thought our life was like a movie the neighbors could watch. Our windows faced their windows and after looking into their windows for a few days, I decided their lives were boring and they would probably rather be watching ours.
We were a young and happy couple that danced in the living room, surprised each other with balloons, carried each other around for piggy-back rides, sang songs, played instruments, threw pillows and prepared feasts with potatoes, peppers, bagels, Brussels sprouts and wild bouquets of flowers, which we put on the table and pretended to eat. We also fought like banshees, all sharp teeth and snarling sounds and it always ended with tears that we wiped with dishcloths because they were the only things around. One time she stormed out. Another time I stormed out. Another time we both stormed out together and fought in the doorway. We made up eventually and those scenes played out like a dance. Me over here with my arms crossed, her over there with her back turned. Then we ended up on the floor, holding each other and crying because the world was loud and terrible and we didn’t want to live in it without the other.
Our movie had everything: ecstasy, tragedy, absurdity, love. What did our neighbor’s movies have? A puzzle to pick at. A glass of wine to sip. A lonely phone to swipe. An old lamp to flick on and off. It’s a wonder so many human beings can live with themselves. Their lives were so boring. At least they had us to watch. On any given day, they could be moved to feel envy, horror, pity or lust.
A few weeks went by and something happened. We came home, sat on the couch and gradually the neighbor’s curtains began to close. The strangers sealed themselves away, one-by-one, like well-trained audience members leaving a lackluster performance. I wondered, for a long time after that, what we had done to make our lives so painful to watch.
Erica Peplin is a fiction writer living in Brooklyn. Her work appears in Joyland Magazine, American Chordata and McSweeney’s.
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Image: Edward Hopper