I’ve watched over this patio all winter. It sits out back behind my building, a little cordoned section cut off from the gritty alleyway by just a few slats of wood and a couple rows of bamboo. Its own little bubble, separate yet apart of the restaurant that it is connected to.
On restless nights, I would gaze down on it like some god from my third story window as the snow fell, slowly accumulating on the tables and gathering on the bamboo leaves and string lights. It was too cold to allow patrons to gather out there. The restaurant would instead use the space to collect the bottles emptied by late-night drinkers. This collection gradually became indistinct icy mounds in the waves of snow, growing and growing until someone finally took the bottles out to the recycling bin just outside the wooden wall. Their discordant swan song drifted up to my window early that morning. They were gone by the time I looked down.
As the weather warmed up, the rains came, battering the tables, bamboo, and detritus. It would pool in the buckets that were used to hold the abandoned bottles. I dreamt that I could hear the water pounding at the wooden walls and metal table tops, washing away my thoughts, but in reality the sound was too soft to reach my ears.
Later, I watched the sudden April snow kill the blossoming green on the bamboo leaves. They became a dull, light brown, reminding me of the parched grass of the drought-stricken Texas of my childhood. Days after, once the snow was all but gone, I watched as the wind whipped the seemingly lifeless stalks around. Sometimes the wind would be so dramatic that little whirlpools of leaves and trash would drift up and dance around the alleyway, reaching far beyond my three stories. I wondered what those leaves saw of me from their higher position.
Then the day of the first Red Sox home game came, and there were people sitting out there. I didn’t even notice, too focused in my increasingly busy world. My roommate had to point it out to me. I took a moment to peer out and observe. The patio looked different. The restaurant had changed the tables, added chairs. Families and friends now sat in that space chatting about the game and their lives over a glass of wine. The waiters moved back and forth, ferrying drinks and food presented on pristine white plates. The patrons looked at them eagerly, swaying like the bamboo stalks in the wind. I leaned closer to the window glass, hoping to overhear their conversations. I couldn’t make out the words. Still their shouts and their laughter drifted up. The people looked happy in the dying light of the day. I couldn’t blame them; it was finally beautiful out.
I wanted them to look up at me. I wanted them to lean over to each other and ask about this strange young woman spying on them from three floors up. But no one ever looked up. They were too engrossed in their world to ever notice mine.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to sit on that patio and have a drink. The wooden walls and dry bamboo stalks around me, the clouded sky and the hanging lights above me. Would I look up at the buildings surrounding the tiny little closed off section of the world? Would I notice a young woman gazing down, watching me sip my wine and eat my burger?