The View Out My Window Is My Greatest Pleasure
The image you see above is the view outside my bedroom window at 4:16pm Sunday evening. If this photo had been taken at 6:16pm (or even — I’ll be generous — 5:16pm) I’d say “what a beautiful winter sunset!” Instead, the vista gave me a strange urge to lean far enough into the window that I sort of just rolled out, as if rolling off of a bed. (I do have a small balcony, but it’s designed for flowerpots, so this manuever is purely hypothetical.) What I’m saying is that the view made me sleepy. It made me want to knock off work call it a day. Unfortunately my working day was nowhere near over.
I couldn’t really lie down on my bed because my bedroom is also my office and my bed is a wall bed. Most days, I dutifully put the bed up into its cabinet, an only slightly more strenuous version of making the bed. I do this so there’s space to pull my desk away from the opposite wall and set it next to the window. (All cables and cords are arranged to make this a smooth transition.)
In the pandemic, I spend nearly all of my time at my desk. There’s not really anywhere else to go, since my sofa, is petite and mostly decorative and I don’t have a dining table. (As you may have gathered by now, the tradeoff for my view is that my apartment is quite small.) This means that my waking life is essentially a toggle between two views: the computer screen and the real life cityscape behind my window pane.
Recently the thought came to me that the view from this window may in fact be my favorite thing in the world. I love this view so much that if someone offered me a larger apartment for less money chances are I wouldn’t take it. I love this view so much that even though I’ve been threatening to leave New York for the last four years I still haven’t left.
I know there are people who might find this love pronouncement profoundly depressing. A view is your favorite thing? What about loved ones? What about ice cream? What about that giant, drooling dog you’re always going on about? Fair enough, but people, pets and fatty foods can be an encumbrance. They can get in your way. A view, despite being in your face, is always gently off to the side. It’s not a fixed entity, of course, since it changes with the times of day and seasons of the year. But it’s reliable. It never blindsides you. It never messes up your schedule. I adore my dog, but he chews the rugs and gets me up in the middle of the night when he has a bathroom emergency. My view would never do that. My view is here to serve. That is to say it’s here to soothe. And soothing is a service these days, let’s face it.
Which brings me back to the 4:16pm sunset. For lack of a more eloquent way of putting it, this is what I have to say about the sun going down at that hour: you’ve got to me kidding me. Yes, it’s like this every year. No, there’s nothing unusual about standing by helplessly as your afternoon becomes muffled by darkness and you’re counting the hours until it becomes an acceptable time to go to bed. But this year, I surely needn’t tell you, is different. This year, the views out our windows — if we are lucky enough to have windows with views — are pretty close to all we’ve got. They are what we look now at instead of our social calendars, instead of a friend across a bar table, instead of just about anyone’s unmasked face. When they go dark, we’re left looking at our own reflections in the glass.
I feel obliged to say that my view does not disappear altogether at night. The river goes dark and the barges disappear along with it. But the dabs of light from nearby apartment buildings bring out the voyeuristic storyteller in me. If I squint through the tree tops I might catch the shadow of someone passing by her window. Or maybe she’s standing there squinting back at me. In normal times, either of us might be out at a party or at dinner. We might on that plane that’s blinking overhead as it descends, half-empty, into LaGuardia. But for now we’re left gazing through glass into mostly blackness, which would be okay if it were even yet five pm.
But it’s not even 4:30 and we’re still weeks away from the winter solstice. There will be fourteen darker days to come before the sunset begins to inch its way backwards. There will be some unknown number of months to come before we can begin inching our way back into our lives. Until then, it’s just me and my view and the problem of having nowhere to lie down during the day because my bed is tucked away in a cabinet and my sofa is so dainty that not even the dog can lie on it without falling off.
Maybe that explains the occasional urge to float out the window, to collapse into my view as if it were a loved one, ice cream and my dog rolled into one. And maybe that’s why I really don’t appreciate the 4:16 sundown. It’s far too early to go to bed. My desk cannot be moved from its window seat until 9pm at least. My view will not return until 6am or so the next morning. Until then, all I can do is look out at the tiny glowing squares of distant windows and imagine the lives of the people inside. I imagine calling out to them in the night, though there’s only one thing I can think of to say. I see you.