On the way to work I ride in the second car of an eight-car train. It is strategic. Because when the train arrives at the station where I depart the stairs up to the street are at the far end of the platform.
The train is crowded when it reaches my stop and I must wriggle my way out. Tucking, bending, and darting between others just to step across the threshold. On the platform and as the doors close behind me I look into the car where I was seated to see the faces of those who were in there with me.
As the train pulls out of the station it moves past me as I walk in the opposite direction. I look into the window of each car as the train accelerates forward. The distance to the stairs means that every window of the train passes beside me. I look to see if anyone is looking out at me.
Doing so gives me a rush of optimism. Will I see a familiar face? Will I catch someone’s eye? Will someone see me?
I want them to see me. I want them to wonder who I am. And I know that they can only for a moment because they are moving away from me. I want them to hope that they’ll see me tomorrow and the next day. And the days after that.
When those that see me decide to want me even more, I want them to adjust their commute so that they’re with me in the same car. So that I might have a chance to sit next to them. So that I might have a chance to converse with them. They need to be aware of me to make this work – so every day I follow this routine.
I bought an apartment in a high-rise that is across the street from two other residential buildings, – both are twice as tall as mine. My exterior walls are all windows and thus look out – and up, to 500 other apartments and they too have walls made of windows.
My window coverings are designed to keep the sunlight out. But at night I open them fully. I want those who might be looking to see me. I want them to wonder about who I am and what I might be doing. I want them to study my activities, though they are common. Walking into the kitchen. Answering the telephone. Reading on the sofa. Or talking with guests.
I prefer to sleep with the windows uncovered because when the sun rises it illuminates my bedroom fully. I want those who may be watching me to see me asleep. To see me roll over and face away from the incoming sunlight.
I want those who are watching to see me getting dressed. They should see me when I arrive back at home each day. They should think about me. They should look for me – and then to want me more.
The fact that I am possibly being watched makes me feel alive. Safe even, because I am anonymous behind a sea of glass. I have always strived for this and now I have it.
Being an object of desirer is something I’ve always wanted. And now I construct it daily.
Once in New York I was an object of desire.
It was late July and I left my apartment for walk during the night. And though the sun had long since set, the city was still searing. Sweaty. Dirty. Dirty because I lived in Hell’s Kitchen adjacent to Times Square.
The sidewalk along Eighth Avenue emanated heat as the concrete released what it has stored all day and it penetrated the soles of my shoes. Eighth Avenue emanated a lot back then. Dingy theaters emanated the lust inside, attracted by the films noted on their marquees. The flashing lights of strip joints and book stores pulsed like the blood in my veins.
Desire is inhaled and exhaled on nights like this in New York. The walk didn’t calm me but rather created lasciviousness that percolated up inside of me. With a few dollars in my pocket I entered a book store and fed them into a slot below the glass screen in an arcade at the back of the shop. Pornography. And the sounds emanating from the other booths.
Back on the street I paced for a few blocks in either direction. Not necessarily looking for anything but rather looking and sensing everything. My white t-shirt now soaked from the heat. I rounded the corner on 42nd Street to head east, then decided against it almost immediately turning back towards Eighth Avenue.
A man walking towards me caught my eye. Dark thick hair. Handsome. Swarthy. In a manner that seethed of the environs. As he passed I turned to look back at him – one last chance to inhale his presence. We locked eyes as he looked back at me. A nod with an upward movement of his chin and then we slowly stepped towards one another. Carefully and metered.
It was a dance of infatuated zeal. One I knew instinctively how to maneuver. We uttered a sentence or two to one another. Comments about the heat. He took a step closer as though he were ready to whisper something to me. Then he did. “You want to…..?”
Yes, I wanted to. Though I walked away.
I have friends who are photographers and cinematographers. I ask them to shoot me. To film me. I follow their direction. Doing so allows me not to have to think and to only stare into the lens. My mind is cleansed. So much so that I crave this.
From raw photos I am transformed into images they create. I become what they see. And then I am visible through glass again – on computer screens and mobile phones. It offers the slightest bit of control – but only until I’m clicked. Liked. Reblogged. Retweeted. Now I’m traveling. Faster than a train. Faster than a plane.
The fact that I am being seen makes me feel alive. I have the ability to construct this. But I am living life from behind glass where there is no requirement to be heard. No requirement to be touched.
When I stopped wearing glasses leaving the house felt strange. And while I still wear lenses, the visible barrier is gone. I feel exposed. Vulnerable. I begin to adjust to the new truth. It is the first time in decades that I am – and that my soul is, visible out from behind glass.
As I begin to be heard and to be touched, I do so from behind glass. You are reading this on glass. It is the medium to which I am accustomed.
photo by: Studio Bema