Peek

Blue Fifth Review 2014


We all go to our living room windows at the same time and look out across the courtyard at each other. Four buildings, six stories each—arranged in a square with each apartment exactly alike—the living room facing the courtyard. This might have been student housing at one time andnow it’s subsidized Manhattan rentals. No one seems to know who started the 6 o’clock Peek.

I use binoculars but some people use telescopes to look at each other. No one seems to mind but they do care if there is no one looking out from an apartment. Also, no one seems bothered that besides the six o’clock Peek there are neighbors looking in at neighbors at all hours of the day and night. For years people have waved to the same people and feuds have broken out if someone you’ve waved to at the Peek suddenly is waving to someone else.

The Peek lasts for five minutes, tops—that’s all—five minutes and then people go on about their business. Sometimes a whole family will be in on the Peek but most often it’s just one person who takes on the responsibility.

I’m subletting for six months after waiting a while to get into this building. I have my favorite “Peeks”—the blossoming teenage girl in 4C, the elderly couple who don’t peek but stand holding hands and smiling in 5A, and the woman in 2C who barely gets home in time for the “Peek”. She’s lovely and has a telescope but uses it sparingly. She stands in front of her bay window most evenings and lights up then looks around before honing in on my window appearing to be staring only at me as I stand back in the shadows. I wonder if she was used to Peeking at the person I sublet from.

Last night she held up a sheet of paper where she had written, “Phone?” Since I couldn’t comfortably show her my cell number I wanted to give her the apartment phone number with its answering machine using my own sign, but then that could lead to a phone message which could possibly lead to a courtyard meeting (of which there are many) which would mean that she’d ask me to take off my ski mask and I’m not quite ready yet, after only two years, to let my former wife know that I’m still obsessed with her.

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