Houses at Night

This week I didn’t use Wikipedia’s random page. This is just a piece I wrote when the moment struck.

Hopper_Edward_Night_Windows

I love listening to my headphones in public. It’s like this weird collision of public and private. Like I can be watching a video on my laptop, listening through my headphones, but be surrounded by other people talking and laughing and eating. And some of those people are also on their laptops with their headphones in. And maybe one of them is watching a video, and I can look up and see the video playing and not hear the sound but instead hear the sound of my video. It’s so loud in my ears its overwhelming and it feels likes its inside my head. It is my head. It’s my thoughts. So I’m experiencing this room with all these people in it but I’m totally alone and no matter how tall the ceiling is in here the sound from my headphones fills the whole room and so I fill the whole room until its only me, but I’m watching all these other people, and they’re all doing the same thing.

It’s like when you are driving and you do something weird in your car like pick your nose or drop something and attempt to reach it by your feet or anything personal or private and you look over to see someone in the car next to you staring. And you make eye contact and then you look away and it feels so weird because you both saw each other, saw each other seeing each other, when you both felt like you were alone. 

Or like when you walk outside on a beautiful night. Like one of those nights that is perfectly warm to where you don’t sweat but you don’t need long sleeves and you feel like you’re floating in the air. And when you breath in you feel like the air is fresher than its ever been even though you are in a city and cars are driving by and someone across the street might be smoking. It doesn’t matter because it just feels that crisp. And it’s evening so the sun is down, like its out of the sky, but you can still see the sun glow low near the horizon and so there’s this array of color fading from that line. It’s yellowy-green, to lime, to turquoise, to dark blue, to black sprinkled with the most visible stars above you. 

Anyway so you’re walking outside on this gorgeous night and you pass a house and the lights are on inside. Not like the TV is on and you can see that whitish glow, but the lights are on and its golden in there. And there’s an aura, like a halo hovering outside the windows of this house. And when you walk by you look straight into the window and you can see perfectly everything inside of this house. You can see the furniture. You can see the keys on the table by the door. It’s looks perfectly lived in—like in that Ray Bradbury story about the house after the atomic bomb. And then you remember that this house is lived in. You remember because you see the people inside. Maybe they are making dinner. Or maybe there’s even a party happening inside, like a small party, and there’s a group of people and they have drinks. And you can see all of this but you never think about how fragile this moment is. How it could be broken if the people inside, the people performing this movie just for you, were to look through the window and see you. Then it would be over. Then you’d all remember that you’re not alone—not ever. You’re never unseen, unseeable. 

But I think that’s kind of the point. No one really wants to be unseen. Why would they have bought that house on that street with all the other houses? Why would they be driving their car around all those other cars filled with drivers? Why would they be sitting at that table in that crowded room watching a video on their computer? No, I think we all want to be seen. We all crave it. We all want that feeling of being alone while being surrounded. Being visible for one moment within a million.