Everyone has a secret, whether it be an innocent crush or a hideous crime. But my secret is nothing like that: it starts with the picture I see every day when I wake up and roll up the curtains to my bedroom window and sit down to attend my Zoom classes.
We will start at the very left side of the picture, with a view onto the balcony. The ground is a little dirty from the soil that spilled from several potted plants, but it has been painted recently so it is nice and shiny. Occasionally, small sparrows sit on the bricks and sing lovely melodies. Looking rightwards, there are several dark red, almost purple brick houses with luxurious gold doors leading to the chandelier-lit inside. The owners of these houses are rarely seen outside, but their children used to play out on the sidewalk on their scooters and skateboards, the boys in their small suits and girls in their long dark skirts which they surprisingly do not trip over. As we look onward, we see a light gray house with a front yard that is always full of the most beautiful things: from flowers like large peonies and daffodils as bright as the sun above to glowing reindeer and snowmen. The owner of this beautiful house is an old veteran and his wife, who only go outside to walk out their old dog. In front of that house, there are several large trees. They do not appear to be much during the autumn or winter, but when spring comes, the view is filled with a bright green color that always brings joy. However, the leaves also cover up the view of a really magnificent building that is at the end of the block across from the window. It is a pretty large house compared to the ones seen in Brooklyn. And compared to the ones in Brooklyn, this house has such an interesting shape and surroundings. Instead of the average rectangle, it has diverse shapes of different sizes and colors, making it such a joy to look at. During the spring, a tree in their front yard blossoms with the strangest flowers shaped almost like helicopter blades. Rightwards, a dark red brick house stands tall and beautiful, with a sleek modern design and stands out from the rest of the neighborhood. It is quite a mysterious building at first glance, due to the dark color and large size of the building, but something about it, maybe in the fancy staircase leading up to the entrance, or the several plants decorating the building’s surroundings, makes it look spectacularly elegant. Next door, there is a simple-looking house, but this time, it is its residents that give it life. Inside the house sit two little children, staring out from the window at those walking by, or playing on the sidewalk nearby. They look on with such amusement, that it is hard not to stop and smile. This sidewalk, which children usually play on, is right next to a tall brick apartment building with a small grassy yard, where little children usually play tag or run around on the grass with a football. The picture overall shows a beautiful and peaceful neighborhood, in which thousands would dream of living in one day.
So where is the secret? Look closely. A man walks down the street slowly, coming out from two double doors from right below the window. He screams out in an almost animal-like way every several seconds, crying out for his inability to access drugs that he so desperately needs to be himself again. Occasionally, someone complains to the police about the noise, but he always comes back again. His family is unable to afford proper treatment for him, meaning that he may suffer like this for many years ahead. On the same street, several adults are seen fighting out in the street, the men almost ready to attack each other, while the women are shouting and looking on. The people living on the street call the police on them as well but compared to the man, they get taken away. The police cars drive off from the street littered with garbage that no one is willing to clean up, besides the garbage truck that comes along. the garbage truck, even though it cleans up all the large bags of trash, leaves the streets littered with even more plastic packets, remains of food, and other unidentifiable bits on the sidewalk and small road. When nighttime comes and the windows are covered by curtains, shouts, screams of little children, and dog barks are heard out on the street anywhere between 11 pm and 4 in the morning. Sometimes, those mysterious people who spend so much of their time in the night play loud music from a loudspeaker, or possibly a car. It is always filled with strange beats and vulgar language that most people would prefer not to hear at one in the morning. It makes me have a sudden fear, maybe an irrational fear, that I will get hurt, stabbed, or even murdered.
Somehow, the well-known idiom, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, an idiom overused in thousands of situations, applies to my secret. It reveals the hidden truths behind the pretty houses and front yards, a secret that brings the picture outside of my window into a different light.