When I was a teenager, I kept in shape running along the boulevard-wide streets of my placid suburban neighborhood. Unlike my runs around the city, I never had to look over my shoulder to make sure a car or bike messenger wouldn’t careen into me. A car drove by once every half hour, tops. There is nothing like running in such quietude that all you can hear is the slap of your feet on the asphalt and the chorus of late-August crickets rising from the manicured lawns. IPods didn’t exist back then, but if they had I would’ve used them and been robbed of a cherished memory.
Running can be boring, especially to a teenager with a hyperactive mind fueled by supercharged hormones, so I had amused myself by pondering what was going on behind all the windows with their lights on. Passing by my next-door neighbor the living room bay window glowed yellow through the curtains. I wondered if this was the night they talked in hushed tones about divorce. She was a horrible nagger and he always looked unhappy. A block later I might see the bedroom light shine through the window in the house where the cute girl I had a huge crush on lived. I was innocent back then so I imagined her writing in her diary about waiting impatiently for me to ask her out. One late evening I caught a glimpse of her silhouette peering out from her window as I ran past. I thrust out my chest and ran a little faster.
Now I entertain myself the same way when I run past urban apartments and condos. The difference this time is in the density of windows. So many more scenarios to dream up. The suburbs hide secrets, but the city vibrates with them.
There’s a path I like to run, one that eventually takes me down a bridge and then over another bridge, where I pass by a lot of stately apartment buildings, their randomly distributed window lights flickering like cats’ eyes in the twilight, framing the stories of anonymous lives. I mentally sketch out vignettes. Here is a couple arguing about kitchen utensils… there is a guy blankly watching TV with his dog laying in his lap… and three floors up is a girl who starts her first job in two days just noticing the stain on her new skirt she’s modeling in front of the mirror.
Down the street more glimmering windows pop into view. In one of them, maybe that one over to the right with the old silver-handled white refrigerator I can see through it, an ex is being slowly lowered onto her bed, unknown hands pulling up her shirt, a flash of skin followed by a moan. She arches her neck and pulls up a leg. Her nail polish color hasn’t changed. For a second I wished the light would go out. Another window and maybe I’ll see my silhouette girl.