You’re reading How I Cope, a series sharing self-care tips as we all adjust to the coronavirus pandemic.
My own flat is a mirror image of the ones directly opposite my window. Older, but not like the Victorian period properties that dominate much of east London, ours are 1970s-style and perched on top of some shops. They have single-pane windows and decaying frontages, all weather-bitten tiles and mossy brick. They have confined terraces, like sheep pens, out on the rooftops.
If I look over to the right there’s the newer apartments. All sparkly clean brick in shades of pale cream and rich red, like they are on the pamphlets promoting new houses. There’s new detailing in a terracotta colour to break up the brickwork, although I’m not sure of the material. They’re ever so slightly taller than the old houses, almost like the top flats in the new block are glaring down at us below.
I’d always been fascinated by the feeling of intimacy between myself, in my flat, and the humans that live in the flats across the road - but lockdown has magnified and intensified that interest. With endless days stretching anonymously into one another, I’ve naturally found myself staring out at the familiar figures opposite in moments of procrastination, or when I’ve been sat outside loading up on vitamin D during the long lockdown evenings.
The windows opposite, and their occupants, have become constants in my life in a period where so much is changing.
From my window, I can see a guy I met on Grindr. He’s sat in his own flat – one of the newer, luxury apartments on my street – with the window flung open hoping to repel the heat and let some air in. I consider waving at him, but I can’t acknowledge him IRL! Who in their right minds would do that?
So instead I do what any right-thinking millennial would do and message him on Instagram (we moved the conversation over from the app a while ago). After a short conversation we agree that a socially-distanced walk around the park would be nice one day –– maybe I could gain some real insight into what life’s life on the other side in the plush new flats?
It certainly seems confined for the woman on the top floor who prances back and forth on the phone all day, presumably working from home, staring out the window on her calls and perched at her laptop at the desk near the window right in my eye-line.
She used to have her windows open, which offer broad and sweeping views from high up, but she has closed the blinds now in what I can only assume is a furious reaction to not being able to enjoy the outside world due to lockdown. Or perhaps she just saw me looking in on procrastination breaks and got triggered.
Back on the other side, a family with young kids crowd at the small, square window on the top floor room directly opposite mine. They’re there night and day, staring at what I presume is the TV.
If I glance two doors down, further to my left, there’s the housemates on the sesh every Friday who wave drunkenly across the road at me, also on the sesh, dancing alone in my living room, waving back. On some Friday nights we’ve been known to dance ‘together’ from across the street; once they even went for a cigarette and yelled something over at me while waving their arms excitedly in the air, but I couldn’t hear them properly so I laughed awkwardly and went back inside. The following day, hungover, we obviously never dream of acknowledging one another.
During the daytimes, people queue down the side road that splits the older houses and the newer ones to access the bank in an age of social distancing. Sometimes my flatmate, also working from home, pops into my room and we discuss the length of the queue. “It’s reached Cash Converters!” she cried, on one particularly exciting Wednesday.
Everyone has to join that queue, I remember. For the bank, or for the supermarket, which I can also see if I peer further to the left. It sort of democratises the lockdown for all of us, that queue: no matter which of the houses we each live in –– nice or shabby –– we all still have to join it.
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