On Windows in my life…
My childhood bedroom window used to have no sheers, just a patterned blue cotton fabric that my parents urged me to close in the nighttime. The walls of my bedroom were blue. A few years later, my parents asked what color curtains I wanted. Because I liked yellow, I asked for yellow curtains.
Did I mentioned I had light blue walls?
Blue + yellow = green. For ten years, I swam in swamp green. A decision made when I was eight years old colored my teenage years.
With the yellow curtains came sheers. My dad still told me to shut my curtains in the nighttime. My silhouette could be seen he said. I never wanted to shut them. I didn’t want my room to be green. And if I could not see out, who could see me inside?
“In California, people really don’t like curtains,” said our interior decorator. She was excited to have clients who wanted curtains. My husband and I, both born outside of the state, wanted curtains with swags and jabots, borne of fabric so thick that light would not be able to penetrate. I wanted to shut the light out, and he wanted a luxe treatment. With every flourish and fabric we chose, her face beamed.
When she gave us her proposed drawings, we were filled with glee.
The lace curtains from Sears, circa 1950 from previous homeowners, came down. The upholstery-thick fabric went up in our south-facing bedroom.
I slept until noon for the first time in years.
“Or you could just not care and not get shades,” said the shade vendor, who was fidgeting with my sink faucet, which had nothing to do with windows, so why was he touching it? “Sometimes, these young girls, they just hang out in their windows, like they want you to look at them.”
“The people across the Bowery from you–they had to get curtains once this building went up.”
I wanted to usher him out the door. He’d already given me a price on the sunshades that bore the inclination to do so, and now I could smell the sweat on him in the new apartment festooned with half emptied UHaul boxes, a handle of a saucepan sticking out of one, and sheets pouring out of another.
I had been waking up at the break of dawn since we moved in.
“Get eyeshades said my friend,” and so I began to sleep beyond dawn, and until the sunlight moved across the room until I could feel the heat on my body.
At night, the tenants in the building across the street stare. I got binoculars. And stare back.
I put up California king flat sheets.
It’s been 2 months since we moved in, since we got the exorbitant quote for shades. The sun comes up earlier now, and I awake briefly to fumble for my eyeshades. After several eyeshades, I have come across a pair that I like.
The binoculars are put away. I saw a naked woman in the hotel down the street, applying lotion for what seemed like an eternity. I told myself to not apply lotion in front of my open windows in the nighttime.
I’m back in Berkeley now. In NYC, we ended up getting cheap curtains from Bed Bath & Beyond–blackout shades and cloth curtains. Totally utiltarian and functional. I slept. I am back in the house with the French upholstery fabric curtains. I am back walled off from the world.
And yet I cannot sleep in. Because I’ve a toddler who screams awake each morning.
I love her, but I cannot sleep.