Shame, shame, shame

For years, I have struggled with smoking. I had quit for twenty years, but for the last fifteen or so, I’ve been on again, off again. In recent weeks, I’ve been smoking.

Often, first thing in the morning, at 5 or 5:15, I step out onto the deck behind my house. I light a cigarette and take out my phone. Sometimes I read the Times or the Washington Post.

Sometimes I record a journal entry as a voice memo.

Sometimes I keep my phone in my bathrobe pocket and look at the stars, the trees, the clouds, and try to discern the temperature. I’m usually within 1-3 degrees.

The view from my back deck is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” on three sides. These are the windows of people’s homes. Dozens of them, not hundreds. To my left, as I stand on my deck, are the closest ones, about fifty yards away. Six or eight buildings, each with four floors of windows. The closest of them all, the one into which I have the clearest view, has a bedroom on its second floor where a woman in her thirties often sits before her mirror at the same time as I am having my cigarette. She does her makeup, her morning ritual. Sometimes she stands up and walks over to her closet. Often she wears sweatpants, sometimes just panties and a t-shirt, very occasionally, just panties. I would be lying if I said that I don’t look forward to glimpses of her. She’s too far away for me to see any detail, but I can make out her shape, that she’s fit, lean, curvy.

Her ass is a thing of beauty, for sure.

This morning, she and I both ran a little late.

At 5:30, halfway through my cigarette, I noticed that, although her lights were off, one bright blue light was blinking. It seems she has one of those alarms with a light attached to it.

She sat up, faced the bed, turned off the alarm clock, and looked out the window.

Did she see me? Did she suspect anything? I wasn’t actually doing anything untoward, other than looking – and not even looking looking – more like, glancing away from my phone to notice the changing light patterns. I wasn’t looking hard.

Most of my mental attention was on some political story – one that, as do so many these days, was making my heart race in an unpleasant way. My thoughts weren’t really on her.

But when I glanced to my left again, maybe two or three minutes later, really just to check and see what her progress was, the window was dark. Darker than usual. A shade had been drawn, covering the window from sill to ceiling.

Had she seen me?

Did she know I’ve been appreciating the views she’s been giving me?

I thought I had been subtle, furtive, invisible even. But I’ve never seen the shade drawn.

In a painfully familiar way, shame washed over me.

And a postscript: I realized, today, that she simply might have seen me, become aware there was a potential audience, and taken privacy, without actually seeing into the depths of my dark soul.

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