Two or three nights ago, a while after dinner, my daily routine saw me in my bedroom holding Breaker of Horses tight in my arms, rocking him gently to sleep.
I was standing in the dark of the room, right in front of the window — which was wide open, like all these past nights, in a desperate attempt to invite some less-than-torrid breeze in. The night was so hot. My son was naked but for his diapers, I was shirtless, and his running nose (or perhaps it was his drool) merged with my sweat. The resulting uninspiring but transpiring mix provided some relief against the heat for both of us in the form of evaporation, as tiny gushes of breeze stroke our skin, drawing the shape of his back, his head, my hand, my shoulder.
I was peering outside the window, absent-minded. On that particular day, Breaker of Horses seemed to agree with the whole it's-time-to-sleep project and was playing along (or else I would be writing a duller entry instead of these tender words). From him, I could feel only the weight of his hot little body pressed against my chest, and the swinging of his limbs.
Outside the window, the world happened — or so it seemed to me. Two almost identical suburban housing blocks, seven or eight stories high, stood symmetrically at both sides of my field of vision. Modest tree tops, bushes, street lamps, our swimming pool, their swimming pool, entrances to garages, a palm tree, antennae around the centre of the picture, in somewhat close distance. Less important buildings in the background. And four famous towers in the distance, to my right.
Those two closest buildings displayed the usual fascinating array of lit windows versus dead windows, lives happening against radio silence, silhouettes moving among squares of blackness. I have always loved the gradient of temperatures that is what everybody understands by “lights on”: from operating-theatre pure white to depressing yellowish to warm fuzzy orange.
From that blind watch post right before my window, across the silence of the summer night, one could infer (or make up) every little chore and entertainment and rest and misery from what little was distinguishable within each and every rectangular frame that opens on those two brick walls on the other side of the estate: a bodiless arm that pops up and straightens the curtain, the intermittent glow of a large screen bathing the opposite wall, that neighbour over there walking up and down the room (is she naked? is it a “she”?)…
A sudden gush of fresher air hit us both in my face (his back), and it felt great.
I realised I had absolutely nothing to do in that right moment. Nothing, except to wait a couple more minutes to make sure Breaker of Horses was indeed asleep, to keep on looking out into the night, and to feel the contrast between the amber-hot, pulsing life I was holding in my arms and the breeze of that Spanish summer evening. And so, with a kind of childish simplicity, I committed to doing just that for longer than my responsibility demanded — beyond those two perfunctory minutes. Call it my pursuit of excellence in the line of duty.
I resolved to stay right there doing that, and let that be all there was.
[To be continued]
“Windows at Night”: Paul Nuttall (CC)