As the morning light begins to turn from pink to a diluted yellow I sit at my apartment’s window sill. From there, looking down to the sidewalk and street below, if I take time to notice, if I brave to linger, a curious scene comes to light.
My leaning, cantilevered bird's-eye view is a strange perspective, looking down on people, places and things. My second story window affords a human-eye view of the street, of life that passes by in single-frame stutter-step motion. High noon sunlight exposes a different impression of ordinary life.
From my perch, it's not only the odd penguin-footed, hat-capped and coated body shapes that exist, but the distinct silhouettes of all their shadows as well. Each figure is drawn, sketched out in grays and thread-woven textures while their accompanying shadows are in a flat, dark-charcoal to blue-black inky pattern that bleeds out from the bottoms of their feet.
These bodies can stand perfectly still for hours yet their shadows will ebb, stretch and genuflecting in lock step with the passing of the sun. All of this motion and pattern randomly scattered over a matrix of cement squares, defined by dry black crack-like grid lines. The pedestrian’s push-pin bodies and their liquid shadows plot an arbitrary and erratic course up and down this cement petri dish.
Hunched above, I venture my gaze over my apartment’s paint chipped window frame. Up here, I’m immune from the sidewalk bacteria below. Above, overhead, looking down and watching, I, like any self-absorbed mythical god, find humanity becomes barely more than a curiosity. Seeing nothing more than the haphazard going's on of the wanderer's and staggerer's through life, with their stitched-on shadows shackled in tow. How queer, how surreal the apparent dance between flesh and shadow. They pass, stop, stoop, turn, pivot and hesitate, a comedic ballet all for the amusement of those of us looking down.
Heat rises in waves off the cement, distorting the figures, blurring their motions as if in a water pond. Their hats and kerchiefs mimic deformed lily's as their shadows lengthen like ripples from pebbles dropped in an algae pond.
Stabbing glare shoots off chrome bumpers and slanted windshields. It stings my eyes and pushes me back into the darkened confines of my sterile apartment. Watching for today has ended, I’ll heat up a can of tomato soup and make toast for supper. Maybe tomorrow I’ll venture a brief walk in the hallway.
Late afternoon seeps in. Dense landscapes of clouds pass over head, darkening the mood inside my apartment. I sit in my chair sipping at cold, ashen coffee and look out my cracked open apartment door. There's a world out there, I've seen it all before. I convince myself I'm no longer that interested in it. I see the sun pass time by yellowish light allowed through the roof transom and watch it move, spread along the hallway floor. Periodically, I see people coming and going past my open door; a neighbor with clutched bags of groceries, the bumbling mailman, his mailbag stuffed with junk mail. Twice a day the fat old divorcee in 4D passes, taking her toy poodle for a walk. I don't know any of their names. Mostly I watch through the door. My apartment’s door is framed by heavy dark wood and has raised beveled panels. It’s doorknob is egg-shaped and there's a tarnished and scratched foot plate on both sides of the door. I leave my door open for a variety of reasons: I'm a bit claustrophobic, the apartment has better ventilation when it's open and I get a vicarious, voyeur thrill that reminds me the world must still exist outside that rectangular opening.
In a stare-locked pause, I fantasize myself getting up on the spur of a moment, walking through that door, turning right and heading for the stairs. I descend four flights down, confidently stride across the ceramic tiled foyer and out the glass door entrance, further out into the courtyard of the walk-up apartments I dwell in. Then the thought passes and I sit waiting for the next person or event to cross my apartment's narrow rectangular portal. I set my coffee cup onto a saucer and rub my eyes. I can sit and imagine all kinds of scenarios, like an anonymous door to door solicitor being brutally mugged by the lonely potted ficus tree in the corner of the hallway next to apartment 4B, or a trail of drunken revelers staggering out from a New Year's Eve party being gregariously enacted in apartment 4A, spilling their cocktails on the musty carpet; an inebriated man in a wrinkled business suit tries to cop a cheap feel from a younger woman when he stumbles and falls against her low cut blouse. She laughs maniacally through her large, lipstick smeared mouth and presses herself against him. I've seen, heard and imagined it all. The fantastic, the mundane, the pitiful. It all fails to interest me or motivate me to venture outside of my third floor sanctuary.
When the night descends, it's easy to recognize that the Man-in-the-Moon lives in a fourth floor apartment in the building across form me. Every night a light gets turned on in the apartment and there in the window is a face, like it was painted on a large white balloon. The incandescent glow of the room-light gives this face a yellowish tinge within it’s translucent white sphere, especially around the eyes and smile. The Man-in-the-Moon's face is always smiling and peeks just above the window’s simple half valance. The roundness below his smile is partially covered by the drapery rod. His head floats ever so subtly, like it wasn’t attached to anything. When I look across the street, I can see part of a wall behind him and part of the ceiling above him. The fact he’s always grinning annoys me. Like he's hidden himself in that apartment, with no one the wiser, except for me and him of course.
There's a man in another apartment building across the street right next door to the Man-in-the-Moon's apartment. I can see more through his window, I can see the tops of his door frames, the tops of his furniture backs and an antique lamp his wife brought home and set on a table next to a chair. I see him walking around his apartment in his BVD undershirt and the bluish glow from his television set that stains the man’s whole apartment. He never looks at the window of the apartment adjacent to his, he never looks at the Man-in-the-Moon; I doubt if he even knows what's right next door to him. Anyone can see the Man-in-the-Moon, especially at night, when the street is dark and the buildings are drawn in shadows. The apartment’s convex window bay is strongly illuminated and only a couple floors up from the street. Anyone can look up and see the Man-in-the-Moon for themselves, setting just above the curtain, his wide closed-lip smile, that vapid, painted on smile. He isn’t fooling anyone, he doesn’t fool me.
I don't know why he's hiding out in that apartment. I’ve never seen any other occupants there and neither has the man in the building next-door. I try not to let the Man-in-the-Moon see me looking at him, a nosey voyeur, gawking, spy spying. I peek around the corner of my window sill, pushing my curtains only an inch apart. Sometimes I turn all my lights out and stand far back in the shadows of my room and leave my curtains open. I stand in the dark, in the archway to my kitchen and eat saltines and peanut butter while I watch him. The lighted window across the street is easy to see, but regardless how I disguise myself, I know he's aware of my attention, he keeps looking straight at me, smiling a fake, condescending smile. No matter where I move in my apartment, his eyes don’t move, but he sees me and seems content somehow, knowing I’m watching him watch me.