The Window: Stories of New York

BIRD WATCHING

My office is in a basement. The fluorescent lighting accentuates the blinding white walls. We’re four employees, our desks pushed against a wall, our faces glued to our screens, ears plugged into variations of music. They listen to Sheweky, I listen to The White Stripes, but at the end of the day, I guess it’s all music.

Our boss rarely speaks, and when he does, it’s in a language I don’t understand. The rest of the worker bees nod and follow suit with the actions he commands, and I akwardly have to remind him that I speak all of three words in Yiddish. He sends me on coffee runs to avoid the uncomfortable task of communicating in his own version of a foreign language.

There are windows on the wall that our desks occupy, but no one takes advantage of them. I’m the only person in the office who keeps their blinds open.  It’s like the rest of them are hiding from something. I  like being reminded that there’s a world outside of the basement. I like being reminded that there are good things outside. Everyday, at around the same time, a young child, who I am assuming lives in one of the houses near the office, runs through the alley way above the office. Without fail, he stops at my window, presses his hands and face to the glass, and makes a face at  me. He’s Chassidishe. He has payis longer than his face, honey skin, light brown hair, and is almost always wear a cap, and the same, puffy, faded blue coat with crisscrosses on the breast pockets. Sometimes, he brings other children, probably his siblings, to come stare at me through the window as well. Sometimes I smile and wave, sometimes I pretend not to see them. They stand at my window for 10 minutes at a time, whether or not I look back, just staring into the glimpse of a different world. What do they know of business hours, awful bosses, and uncommunicative coworkers? I don’t stare at them for too long, because I don’t want anyone to notice that I’m not paying attention to my work. I want to connect with them with more than a smile, but going outside in the middle of a work day to play with these children would be a completely inappropriate use of office hours.

I give them names, and I tell myself their story. Every afternoon, when they visit my window, I sew together another piece of their story. Are they happy children? Do they have friends? Do they speak English? If I try communicating in my broken, misshaped Yiddish, will they sneer and run away? Are they cold, standing there with their bare hands glued to the window pane? Will their parents flip out if they walk by and see them having a staring contest with a grown woman?

They’re just children, I tell myself. They’re curious. They want to understand what I’m doing down here when I could be up there, building a snowman with them.

Perhaps, one of these days, I’ll go outside and offer them more than a smile.

I doubt it though.

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