Rear Window Revisited

At age 62, I finally had enough space to stop sleeping on a convertible sofa and buy a real bed. After years on a waiting list, I moved up in my rent stabilized building from a tiny studio to a small one bedroom with spectacular light. I was lucky to live in Westbeth Artists Housing, an oasis amid the pricy condos in the West Village. When I graduated from the 3rd floor to the 8th, I lost a horrid neighbor who kept me awake all night slamming her hall door. I gained more square feet and a better view.

I’d landed on the couch (yes, I was also in therapy) after my 26 year lesbian relation ship ended, leaving me broke and broken hearted. I had to rebuild my life. It took five years. By the time things were was back on track, I was old enough for Social Security.

Now I overlook the townhouses on my block. At sunset, glorious pink and red colors splash across the sky as the sun drops into the nearby Hudson River (blocked by a new luxury tower). My three large windows, facing northwest, afford light from dawn to dusk. I have a sliver view of New Jersey, where I escaped my conservative Catholic family in 1975 and moved across the river to be a journalist and a proud gay woman. After decades in Greenwich Village, I finally had a really cool loft-with a view into another world.

From one window, I can see into the two top floors of the apartment building on the corner: pricy rented penthouses that feature terraces with a river view. Sitting at my desk, I look directly into their large living rooms and kitchens. I measured my lack of romantic progress against my neighbors across the street. Since my break up, I’d tried online dating, speed dating, praying, chanting, using the law of attraction, but my social status was the same as when I moved two years ago – I’m still single.

When I arrived in December 2011, the one penthouse was unoccupied. I watched the agent show it to prospective tenants. I wondered who’d take it. As I started to see boxes pile up in the empty place, I knew it was rented. Soon a single guy appeared.

That spring the new tenant had a housewarming party on his terrace. His guests were straight couples in their 30s. A few had young kids and the crowd looked like an ad for Abercrombie & Fitch. I decided he worked in finance. My second summer, the single guy had a female companion as he sat outside reading the newspaper on Sunday. He was dating. I was on hiatus.

During my first year, the original couple on the top floor had romantic dinners on their terrace. In the afternoons, she sat outside sipping drinks, reading magazines, sunbathing on a chaise lounge. Either she didn’t have a job or she worked at home. I was jealous when I came back from my full-time teaching gig and watched her hanging out.  This past summer, I saw them outside less frequently and I wondered what was going on.

I see the neighbors more when it gets dark early and their lights go on at 5 p.m. This winter, as I noticed the Christmas tree go up in front of the sliding glass doors of the preppy guy’s place, it was obvious the woman had moved in. They sat around every night and admired their tree. I enjoyed it too; it was cheerful.

The couple above had nothing festive on display; I decided they were Jewish. As I looked closer I saw she was holding a baby. I had a feeling they were married. How did I miss the pregnancy? After the holidays, I saw a black woman with braids holding the baby- the nanny. So many changes across the street.

Assuming my neighbors looked into my apartment, what did they see? Woman at her computer, woman standing on one leg in the yoga tree pose. Woman dancing around by herself. Did they think I was weird or pathetic?

When I first got this place, I was dating an attractive attorney, who came to my house warming party, but she decided she just wanted to be friends. When I bought a classy platform bed, I hoped this gesture would attract love. It didn’t, so far, but I’m sleeping much better, and my astrologer said 2014 looks promising.

On New Year’s Eve, the preppy guy, wearing a white shirt and navy sweater vest, made dinner. They ate in front of the tree. I felt lonely as I watched them. I had no plans. I was popping in movies and heating up leftover pasta. At least I had good wine.

The next day my 92 year old mother called from New Jersey with good wishes and described her rocking New Year’s Eve. She’d gone to a dinner party, with my sister and brother-in-law, and they got home at 2 a.m. I was already asleep by then.

Still I love the solitude of living by myself. But at this time next year, I hope my neighbors will look into my place and see me dancing with a beautiful woman and remark, “Hey, that woman across the street finally met someone.”

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About Kate Walter

Kate Walter is a master teacher and award-winning writer who specializes in essays, memoir and creative nonfiction. Heliotrope Books will publish Kate's memoir Looking for a Kiss in 2015. Kate has over 25 years of diverse writing and editing experience. This includes articles for consumer and trade magazines, arts reviews, profiles, personal essays, opinion pieces, reports, newsletters and curriculums. She writes about divorce and dating, religion and new age spirituality, urban gardening and neighborhood gentrification, and life in an artists' housing project in downtown Manhattan. Kate Walter has an MA in Media Studies from The New School. She teaches writing at NYU and runs private workshops at Westbeth Artists Housing. View all posts by Kate Walter

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