There is a colorful couple perched on the fence across the street. She sits with her arm resting loosely around his shoulders, her neon orange and green jacket contrasting sharply with the ebony darkness of her skin. He sits, tapping his leg and looking down the street then back at her, down the street, then back at her. I wonder—are they happy?
I look up from the couple and hear the cheerful tune of an ice cream truck a few blocks down the street. A tune I’ve heard so regularly in the past week and a half that it features in my dreams. When I mentioned the hordes of trucks working the streets to my roommate, he laughed and joked, “Oh yeah, in this neighborhood? They push drugs out of those ice cream trucks.” I nodded and laughed along, thinking, for the sake of humanity and the sanctity of my childhood, please, don’t let that be the case.
My eyes wander up from the ominously parked ice cream truck to the windows of the ten-story walk-up across the street. I start counting the windows of all the buildings and get lost somewhere around two-hundred-and-forty-six. There are so many windows within the confines of a block. Lives upon lives upon lives, packed in like ice cubes in a tray. I see movement behind the glass panes and the sheer drapes and I wonder if they see me up here, standing alone on a rooftop, observing. A foolish part of me feels like Nick Carraway and I fantasize for a moment that the tiered, stone castle of a hospital only eight blocks away is actually Gatsby’s mansion. A part of me wonders, maybe I’ll see him in the window with his cool pink suit and his effortless smile. I’ll catch his eye as he turns away and walks back into the pages of his namesake.
The streetlights have turned on in the length of time it’s taken me to write this piece, but the ice cream man’s song can still be heard over the low rumble of the city. The lights glow, hanging from stoops and stone outcrops, the cars sound louder and the people on the street walk with purpose or an uneasy lack of it, standing at street corners, hands on hips, watching.
My colorful couple still sits on their fence. Her hand now rests on his shoulder but otherwise they haven’t moved. They sit and they watch the world spin like so many other people. A strange feeling stirs within me. For one of the first times in my life, I’m not the one in motion, but rather the silent spectator. I’m the one sitting on the sidelines taking diligent notes and keeping track of the score instead of playing the game. It’s an unfamiliar feeling that my mind can’t help but wrestle with. I struggle with the reality that sometimes it’s good to be the silent watcher, reflecting on the world and frantically scribbling down notes on a yellow pad of paper. That being in constant motion isn’t something I should strive for. I’ve heard time and time again that silence and stillness are good for the soul. It’s moments like these, as I stand staring out over a warren of windows in the fading light, that I am reminded why.