I am indebted to John Fowles who inspired this conversation.
I'm dreaming. I'm out walking on a weekend, walking through a big city.
Which city in which country doesn't matter. Just a big
city. Any big city. In any country. The streets, almost totally devoid
of traffic and pedestrians, are lined, like any city streets, with
buildings, offices, stores, apartments, and town houses, most of whose
windows have no drapes or blinds. Many which don't have drapes or
blinds, have tinted glass, making it impossible to see inside. Those
with no drapes or blinds or tinted glass
the sunlight outwards, also effectively shielding who's inside,
preventing me from seeing them.
As I walk I can tell I'm being watched, watched by people
behind the windows, watched by people I can't see. They see me, but I
can't see them. I peer into the window panes as I walk by, trying to
see through the glass, trying to see beyond the drapes and the blinds
and the tinted glass and the
trying to see what's and who's behind them, trying to see what's
inside, trying to see who's watching me. But, much to my chagrin, all I
see is my own
on the glass looking back at me.
In a burst of creative
I even put myself inside a building I'm passing. I put
myself behind a window looking out through the glass at myself
walking down the street. I'm inside the building behind the window,
looking through the glass at myself outside walking down the street.
From the inside I see myself outside looking in - at least
trying to look in. I see the quizzical, puzzled look on my
face as I, outside, try to see inside, and can't.
Continuing walking, I
how many people are watching me, how many people can see my entire life
on open display, how much of my life is a totally open book read by
hidden people I don't know and can't see.
Even though I don't know them, even though I can't see them, these are
the people I put on my best behavior for. These are the
people I put my best foot forward for. These are the
people I strive to look good for. These are the people I
from. These are the people I hide I'm
from. These are the people I hide my failures from.
These are the people whose approval I yearn for.
I can't see them but I know they're there. I know they're behind the
windows, shielded from me by the drapes and the blinds and the tinted
glass and the
They see everything there is to see about me. Try as I may, there's
nothing I can hide from them. They see me when I'm doing
wrong even though I'm diligent hiding it from them. They
see me when I'm being unintentionally bad. They see me when I'm being
rude. They see me when I'm being inadvertently cruel, inconsiderate,
intolerant, and unkind. They see me when
They see me when I'm sad.
I'm naked to them. I've got no natural protection against them. I'm
embarrassed. I'm scared. I've got no place to hide. My shoulders
involuntarily hunch. I turn up my collar to the cold. A shiver runs up
my spine. I turn a corner.
I stop, mesmerized by equal quantities of surprise and delight. A
blazing smile illuminates his face. He waves his right index finger
back and forth slowly in front of his chin, and says to me "There's
nobody out there Laurence!" in that rich, deep, Philadelphian
I stand there, reveling in the moment, reveling in his
reveling in ourpresence,
in our sudden communion. What he's just said hasn't hit me yet.
Then it does. And when it does, I gasp in shock with the deliciousness
of it. There's nobody out there. There's no one in the
buildings. There's no one in the offices. There's no one in the
stores. There's no one in the apartments. There's no one in the town
houses. There's no one inside looking out through the drapes, the
blinds, the tinted glass, and the reflections. No one. The
windows are all empty. All empty windows. Every one of them.
There's nobody behind any of the windows. There's no one watching me.
There's no one for whom my life is on open display. There's no one
reading me like an open book. There's nobody out there. It's a
relief. All the bodily sensations I've carried because of what I
about them, suddenly disappear - they vanish. There's nobody out there.
All the windows are empty. All the sensations are mine. They're
not caused by any hidden watchers to whom I'm naked with no natural
protection to be embarrassed in front of, to be
them. They're mine ... all ... mine ...
I look around for
to thank him. But he's no longer there. "That's alright" I say to
myself, "I'll catch up with him again somewhere soon and thank him
then.". I make my way back the way I came, past all the buildings, past
all the offices, past all the stores, past all the apartments, past all
the town houses.
This time I only see the sun's
on all their empty windows. Nothing else.