In the morning, I’m greeted with the blare of honking horns. You would think I lived in a city with all this rhythmic bleating as though the angry pounding of a claxon is the only way strangers can be heard. But when you look through my window, you are plunged in suburbia. A yellow house sits across from me, something straight out of the Pixar movie, Up. The only thing missing is the thousands of balloons ready to lift it into the air. On the curb, next to the freshly painted house numbers, the green, blue, and black bins, bathe in the sun. Sparrows conglomerate on manicured lawns and disconnected chirps ricochet in a grove of oak trees.
Outside my window plays a silent movie doused in color. Dogs prance along sidewalks; a family of bikers swerves in the calm lanes; joggers count the beats of their hearts to the beats of their songs. This is the stereotypical peaceful scene before a catastrophic event, before the first meteorite finds its mark and announces doomsday in the blockbusters. But, nothing will disturb this serenity, except the neighbor’s broken car horn.
I am cocooned in a bubble. A comfortable sphere full of sun-kissed lands and sunburned people who worry about getting skipped on Wednesday garbage collection days and faded STOP signs. It’s a quaint little cul-de-sac where bikes equipped with training wheels wind around in figure eights. There sits a murder of crows, frustrated at the lack of scraps to peck on the freshly cleaned streets. Here, parked convertibles and polished family cars lounge around, unhindered by parking tickets. The missing dog was found, and its poster remains on a tree trunk, a reminder of the happy ending.
There are signs that show support for presidential candidates and social movements and others that display Thank You’s scrawled in kid letters using kid markers. There is a march for justice and equality going on a neighborhood away; there is another protesting the election. But their screams and cries must have gotten lost in the wind—the same wind that makes the trees outside my window dance, their leaves catching the sun. The gunshots that reverberate worldwide are only heard on TV. The causes these posters advocate or oppose concern a faraway place, detached from our own. It’s easy to hide behind these colored rectangles of cardboard; it’s a fun activity to distract the children from boredom.
What you think you see is a triptych of the American Dream, measured in feet and cut into squares to fit inside the frame of myFrench window. A storied white picket fence surrounds the house next to mine. Of course, no one would dare to intrude on this community. Our armor is 24/7 security cameras, sleek Dobermanns, internet-connected doorbells, and neighborhood security patrols. It’s the elusive end of the road that we all subconsciously want. Happiness has been pursued. There is equality here. And freedom. Who knew that the result of all this would be a road that leads to nowhere.
You wait for something to happen. Anything.
I’ve been waiting. I used to stare out thewindow for so long, until I was lost in my own world. On rainy days, when the gloom is heightened through the fiberglass, I absentmindedly root for which bead of raindrops would fall first and streak across the finish line. The molecules of water acted as a second window, blurring the outside into a confused jumble of drab colors.
My window is a droplet that looks into a dead end street in a closed world. I could always close the shutters and retreat back into myhouse. I could delude myself into thinking that the Outside is an idyllic, yet incredibly boring, movie that plays on repeat. Dogs, dog-walkers, gardeners, joggers, bikers, drivers, FAST FORWARD, REWIND, PAUSE, STOP—what difference would it make?
But even though this exterior is real, it’s not the reality. It’s an expensive backdrop for a play scene that only a few will ever get to watch. I could smile as I peer through myprotective barrier into the blue sky, a sky so azure that it looks squeezed from a store-bought tube of paint. Little utopian clouds glide through as we point and claim that that one looks much more like an eagle than a butterfly. I close my eyes but still see the remnants of the golden sun imprinted on the inside of my eyelids.
Outside my window, the neighbor’s car shatters the silence. And when it stops, the avian warbles take over in unison with the tick of an antique clock. It’s comfortable to translate clouds into animals or see which raindrop will win the Grand Prix or close your eyes and watch it all replayed. But I know that what I’m really comfortable with is not knowing.
Then I wouldn’t realize that the Outside turns pewter-colored a few blocks over, darkened by smoke and fire, force and escalation, pain and suffering. The stale smell of sweat, gun smoke, and grimy tears and their matching voices can’t permeate through these walls. I wouldn’t notice that this décor attempts to conceal a broken stage led by a visionless director and a troupe of unfeeling actors.
And then my eyes start to itch. My smile starts to waver. I see the cracks in this rostrum and the gashes in the painted cloth that we hung. It sags on one side, begging to be pulled down. I know what it’s meant to hide. Tick, tick, tick goes the clock as its hand counts down the seconds I stay here, waiting behind mywindow, a cracked pane of glass that muffles the distant calls.
If the voices don’t reach me, then I must go to the voices.