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A Love Letter To The Person Across The Airshaft

Senior Staff Writer Sarah Perry has a confession for her neighbor to hear.

I had just finished the struggle of carrying two large suitcases up a few flights of stairs when I first saw you. Underwhelmed by my room, I looked out the window, hoping for a saving grace; I didn’t know it then, but I found you.

My bedroom window directly faces your living room. Most times of day you’re sitting there, perhaps with a blanket, always alone. I knew from the moment I saw you sitting alone on your couch for four hours that we already knew each other in a past life.

After only two days, I admired you for your boldness in leaving your windows open to the countless voyeurs across the shaft. I feel as though only people who are truly comfortable with themselves can keep their windows open, without blinds or curtains, to those around them.

Do you see me like I see you? I lit a candle last night and you lit one tonight; was it because of me? Or was this habit shared unknowingly? I see small glimpses of your life that show that sonder is a real word: the way you adjust the brightness of your lamp, the way you sit on your couch for hours on end, the way you walk back and forth across the room. Hopefully these comforts make you happy.

I realize that we will probably never meet, but I want you to know that I feel as though I understand you. When you lie on your couch, stomach down and legs straight for hours, I feel as though you are the image of humanity. After all, we’re most at ease in our own homes, where usually no one can observe—the fact that I can see into your home and you can see into mine gives us a kind of mutual trust, the kind that only two strangers can share.

The first time I saw the air shaft I was disappointed. The light that reaches either of us is a mere shadow. The airshaft might be considered ugly, but with the illumination from your living room I’ve begun to see it as it truly is: a connector of many lives, for without it I never would have been an observer to yours.

tenement airshaft via wikimedia commons

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