There are over 25 million houses in the UK. The EPA estimates that the average house has 22 windows. That means there are at least 550,000,000 windows in the UK. From houses alone. That’s a whole lot of windows, and windows weird me out.
To me there is an immediate problem that arises when I look out of my bedroom window. To what extent is a window used for looking out? A thought first introduced to me by Mr. Twit (of Dahl’s ‘The Twits’), who asked “Who wants every Tom, Dick and Harry peeping in to see what you’re doing”. It’s one thing to question how often I watch unsuspecting strangers from my bedroom window, but another to think about how often I almost unconsciously watch tv through people’s windows or mentally chastise them for buying that sofa with those blinds. Because that leads me into a downwards spiral of how many people look inside my window, especially when I’m there. How many people have watched me through my window, and just from those few seconds, as they drove past, have created a potentially permanent image of me?
You’re estimated to see between 90,000 and 42.5 million faces in your lifetime. All the people you walk past in the morning, the strangers you lock eyes with through your car windows, the person who handed you your afternoon coffee make up this figure. But how many of these people do you make a judgement on? How many do you remember? Have any of these strangers made a direct and significant impact on your life, without you realising it?
I make up stories for people, as I watch them go about their lives, creating somewhat of a little fact-file; occupation, family life and what’s on their mind right now. When out at dinner I’ll asses the parties around us- are they married with those kids or is she just a much older daughter? Maybe she’s the aunt? Actually, the kids are really giving off bad ‘vibes’ to her- she’s the new girlfriend. This ‘judgemental’ characteristic of mine perhaps allows me notice and see more, but what if I’m blinding myself or prohibiting all sorts of potential memories?
I think it’s odd that every time you walk down the street you see a singular moment in time of someone’s life, and nothing else, but also that even then I feel this weird kind of empathy. I don’t know anything about that crying girl, or why she’s even crying. That guy with the untucked suit, running, I secretly egg on in my head, but what if he’s running from something and not towards something? This snapshot, this tiny, insignificant moment, is all they are to you.
There are some people I see every day, and although I’ve never said a word to them I feel this strange kinsmanship. To the boy that wears the same baggy blue jeans and navy t-shirt every day, who walks just a bit faster than me; both with our headphones plugged in, even though you walk on the other side of the car park to me, I then follow you down the road until we separate, do you notice me? Do you want to know my name as badly as I want to know yours? Or to the couple that walk down the road I drive to school on, at 8 every morning, my indicator of how late I’m running (the further down the road you are, the later I am) where are you walking from? Where are you walking towards? How can someone that is so imperative to my daily routine not even know I see them or talk about them to my friends? How can I know that the you’ve worked matching outfits twice this week, but you have no idea that I know? It almost hurts me.
I was sitting in the back of my car in downtown Mumbai when I first saw a man hit a woman. It was hot outside, with a greyness in the air and loud. Really loud. Horns and yells and rabid dog barks. But the seats in the car where cool, my senses overwhelmed by that new leather smell. Everything stopped when I saw that couple though. I watched him lift up his hand in slow motion, and watching the girl scream, unable to drag my eyes away from the action, as she pulled away, ducking from his oncoming fist. She didn’t move away fast enough and simultaneously she and my heart were crushed by him. Barely any heads turned, no one did anything to help, and the majority of people didn’t even notice it had happened. Then the traffic lights turned to green and we drove away, leaving behind the couple and my childhood innocence. Those strangers changed my outlook on the world within a single minute, without acknowledging me or even knowing I was watching.
What if I am in that defining moment for someone? What if I was accidentally a part of someone’s happiest memory? Does anybody recognise me in the morning? This (maybe too large) large part of me desperately craves validation, and in many ways being remembered, even just by a randomer, makes feel as though I’m important. But windows are different. Because you have no idea who’s watching you through a window, who’s peering up from below. Windows create a frame from which you can look out of/in to, limiting what you can see. A window enables these moments, these still life portraits of a moment.
So, I’m funny about windows.