My friend sent me a picture. He lives across the street from me. Or should I say he lives across the street from where I once lived. It’s been a few years since I moved. But he is still there. On a few occasions since the move I have been in his apartment, looking at my old place from his point of view. It instills in me a faint longing but nothing too strong. It was a studio apartment. It was perfect for a certain time in my life. It was even perfect, in a way, for a time in my life for which is was not perfect: ie. when my wife and I brought our little baby girl to spend a summer there. I would put her in a sling and walk downstairs to the gorgeous street and prop my laptop on the railing of the stoop and work there, standing beneath a cherry blossom tree, while she slept.
She was three months old when we arrived in May. Walking up the stairs was no big deal. I had lived in that place so long. I had walked up the stairs in the company of all sorts of people. When I moved in I could not have imagined the soft bundle of beauty pressed against me now, so small, as I made my way up.
Stairways, hallways, elevators. The little interior spaces in which time stops. When you occupy these spaces you enter a kind of time warp.
In I liked this feeling I had walking up the stairs very much. A pregnant woman is “expecting. “But the opposite it true, at least it was for me. Ever since she was born everything was, in some way, unexpected. The feeling on those stairs, for example.
By the end of July she had grown heavier. These increases in baby weight are barely perceptible, but the body knows. Especially if it is carrying the not-so-little person up and down four flights of stairs. When we gave the place up I was sad about it and also totally resolved and content, too. That little baby was like a perfectly placed bit of punctuation for my time there. About the neighborhood, and the city, I still have all sorts of feelings. But about that apartment, no question. Time to let it go. And I did.
But then I got the picture from Josh. His own little punctuation mark, in the arms of his wife, looking across the street. And something about the way his son touches the window moves me. It is a gesture of longing. An accident of form–which is the kind that is always the most convincing. I felt a pang, the nature of which I can not even be sure of. Just an evocative moment for me. Maybe that barren tree, the blue sky, the color of the bricks, and the sense of a nascent spring. Or maybe just the sense of something being so close you can touch it, but not that close that you can touch it. Something totally vivid but utterly out of reach. On closer inspection I see that the middle window of the apartment is open, the top pane pulled down. A shiver. Why? I know what the feeling is like when standing that very that spot: If you close your eyes, you can see the whole world.