Bon Voyeur take 2


On a tight schedule while I'm in NYC, but I wanted to check in. Since I don't have time to wallow in the pondering pool today, here's a tidbit from when I was here last year:

I've heard New York described as a city where "everyone performs and no one watches." But I, like most writers, am a vampire, so I do watch. I absorb. I wonder. I speculate. I spy.

I've been sitting here among the living, eavesdropping on conversations at a diner near 53rd and Lex, jotting down thoughts about the expression on the waiter's face as he is apparently told in emphatic Italian that he must wear a little hat that is being handed to him. I have a few favorite diners in Manhattan, and I always sit as close to the counter as I can, especially if there are elderly men there. Or hookers sometimes. Lots of actors in this neighborhood. Actors can always be counted on for a good corner booth vignette. (As my client's husband said about his artistic wife yesterday, "Drama is requisite. If no drama ensues, drama will be created.")

I was getting out of the shower in my pod this morning and through my open window, I saw a man on the other side of an identical window across the way, standing in his tiny pod shower, rapt in the act of self love. (The bathroom windows are thickly frosted for privacy, of course, but opening the window is the only way to keep the pod from steaming up like a Hopi sweat lodge. I love a good vision quest as much as the next person, but I'm here on business, darlings. I require dry air to dress appropriately. If I wanted to stand in a dense cloud of humidity, I would have stayed in Houston.)

My inner vampire was instantly intrigued. Not because he was beautiful. He was not. He was pot-bellied, hairy, and worn. But vampires are oblivious to that which is only skin deep. They want blood. There is transcendent beauty in the humanity of such a moment and its backstory; the yearning for a lost wife, the memory of a hooker at the corner diner, the endlessly transporting possibilities of pod world.

Our faces were shielded by the frosted glass. In the unlikely event I end up in the elevator with this person, neither of us would know it, and that anonymity keeps this from being a skeezy and uncomfortable experience.

This isn't the first time I've witnessed an unspeakably private moment through a window across the way in New York. Suburbanites are apparently much more conscientious about installing and lowering mini-blinds. We tend to have a heightened awareness of our neighbors. New Yorkers stacked in pods separated by narrow alleys are more interested in air flow. It's a different sense of self. "What lies beyond your window doesn't interest me, so why should my inner window life be of interest to anyone else?"

I know I'm not the only vampire in the city, but I know the vast majority of people are performers, not watchers, so I enjoy a sense of invisibility walking down the street in Manhattan. There is something liberating in the knowledge that everyone is fully engaged in his or her own business. Nobody passing by gives a flying you-know-what about me, where I'm going, what I'm doing, or if these pants make me look fat. For some people this dynamic makes the city a lonely place. But the upside of apathy is that it precludes passing judgment.

I enjoy Manhattan the same way I appreciate a brisk walk through Mercer Arboretum. The variety of life forms amazes me. The imperfect beauty transports me. The subtext feeds my vampire appetite.

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