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Observations of an Expat

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Reading time: 3 minutes
They’re sitting on the small balcony, chatting. The sun is shining bright today, and the temperature is just perfect if you sit in the sunlight. They’re slowly sipping coffee and smiling.
picture of a city through a window

 Or maybe it’s tea. I like tea. It’s a good day to be in a good mood. I imagine they’ll be off to work soon. He’s wearing a carefully ironed shirt and she’s already pulled her hair back in a tight bun. Maybe they’ll ride their bikes to go to work today. I would, if I had anywhere to be. I’d want to feel the sun on my face on such a beautiful day.

credit: Serge Esteve

They’re so close to me, yet so far. I don’t know their names, or where they come from. I don’t know what they do for a living or if they are happy. Are they a couple? Are they friends? Family, maybe? Sometimes, when I pull my curtain, I glance outside and see them. The two people occupying the apartment on the second floor of the building just across the narrow street.

It’s strange, how you can take a quick look out your window and into someone else's moment. It’s only a glimpse into their lives and it doesn’t reveal much, but it’s the lives of real people who live just across the street. Do they ever look out their window and happen to catch a glimpse of someone else cooking, or watching a movie, or playing the guitar? 

Do they get annoyed at the noise from the apartment right downstairs, the tenant who likes to host dinner parties on Wednesday nights? Do they ever see me?

looking at window
credit: Alex Ivashenko

I can never know, but it’s fun to wonder. I’m new in this city, and when you’re new in a place, a stranger across the street might be all you know for a while. When you open your window in the morning, they might be on the other side of the street, doing the same thing. Or you might catch a glimpse of them laughing with friends they invited over, or washing their dishes. Little normal lives stacked on top of one another. They have their own stories that you can’t know but you can imagine what they might be like.

I sometimes think that making up stories based on such trivial things is a habit of the lonely, and I can’t deny I’ve felt more lonely lately than ever before. Being isolated inside an apartment does that to you. And it makes you wonder if the people you sometimes hear talk when they leave the windows open, are happier than you. They’re just strangers you might run into at the supermarket and won’t even recognise, because you don’t really know their faces. They’re an almost silent buzz in the background of your life - always there when you happen to look out the window, but never with a name, never with a story.

sitting on the floor next to window
credit: Anthony Tran

It’s rainy and cold lately. The little balcony across the street hasn’t been occupied in days. A cup of coffee or tea, while snuggled up on the couch, feels better right now. I know it because I do it too. It’s cozy to wrap yourself in a blanket and watch the rain leave its temporary marks on the glass of the window. And behind it, the lights in the apartment across the street are on. There’s life in there. Maybe they’re cooking something nice for dinner. Or maybe it’s a lazy day - just noodles or eggs. Maybe they’ll crack open a bottle of wine. I know I wish I had some. 

My upstairs neighbours laugh loudly. There’s life there too. And love. It warms my heart to know that. And just like that, the girl in the new city begins to love her new home.