South-Facing Window

My office at my new job on Front Street has three walls of huge windows. The largest of the three walls faces the office next door to us — a law firm — and I happen to be directly across from their meeting room.

Throughout the day, each day, that room is host to several people who come in to sign papers, etc. Some are there for 5 minutes, others stay for an hour or longer. I find myself, in an admittedly voyeuristic activity, watching the goings on in this meeting room and I imagine stories for everyone: the old woman who came alone, never took her coat off and stayed only long enough to sign some papers; the sharp-dressed man so tall he dwarfed his lawyer, who leannnnned back in his chair rocking confidently; the man and woman, who sat at opposite sides of the table and clearly did not want to make eye contact. Why are they there? What are their stories?

The old woman who comes alone; she wears a fancy hat and carries a brightly colored handbag. The name I give her is Claire, she grew up running around her parent’s hat shop downtown and married a man who loved her whimsy. He passed away last year and she is here to sign her will, but only to get her kids off her back about “being prepared”. Why would anyone want to prepare for death, she thinks. And, who is this tall man acting so proudly? I decide that he is a very wealthy person, born into money, there to discuss a pre-nuptial agreement in order to protect his precious dollars should his soon-to-be-wife ever discover his extra-marital proclivities. The sad-looking man and woman, avoiding each other’s gaze so intently, are ending their marriage. They cannot agree on who should get the house (she wants it simply so he cannot have it) and so a mediator has been called in to help them come to a decision. In the end, neither of them will get the house — it will be put up for sale. She nods slowly, resigned to losing this battle and silently vowing to fall in love more cautiously next time.

It’s an ever changing filmstrip of lives I see each day from twenty feet away and through two layers of windows. I don’t know if the people in that room know that I can see them or not. But, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Their stories are mine to shape, to try to know, to wonder wistfully about.

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