I live across the street from a heroin addict. I watch him through his apartment window when the curtains are drawn.
I can see him now; his hand keeps coming to his forehead like someone does when they grieve. There’s the pinch of the space between the eyes, the constant nod of his head up and down.
The sun has not quite set. Final cars of rush hour are dwindling down Sutter street. Passersby are completely unaware of the pain taking place five floors above.
But I watch him from this chair, like a Hitchcock film, and Molly Drake is playing from my phone like a phonograph of the 21st century.
His pants are draped over the sill of his window. He is weeping.
Part of me wishes he’d look over across the way and see me. That in this perfect imagined place he’d realize he wasn’t so alone. That a complete stranger who knew nothing of what he’d witnessed or done just wished his pain would alleviate for a second. That he wouldn’t cause me harm, and that a simple moment shared between strangers across a street between two buildings could serve to cure an addiction.
He’s young, maybe late twenties, early thirties, and looks handsome from this distance. In the window next to his, an old man who always sits at the edge of his bed drinks beer in dark solitude. They are facing each other now but completely unaware. If that thin wall of sheetrock disappeared they’d be staring at each other.
What if we were all children again? And there were no cruddy parents. Each child had someone to wrap a blanket around their shoulders when they began to cry or feel alone. The bitterness of age…I wish it weren’t so.
Maybe he’s in withdrawals. Maybe he ran out of money and there’s nothing left to numb the aching sickness.
A little further down this wall of windows filled with characters is a man whose face is covered with tattoos. He slicks his hair back like a greaser; I’ve seen him smoking cigarettes on the corner at street level.
He masturbates in the window towards the street, towards our apartment. He does it during the day and at night, and at one point was sitting with both legs hanging over the sill. We called the front desk, both disgusted and fearful of witnessing an unwarranted suicide. When is suicide ever warranted anyways…after multiple complaints he’s drawn his blinds. But now there’s a foot of space allowing his head to stick out and watch the passing traffic, just as I am.
I look back fearful that’s he’s staring at me, which often times I think he does. My empathy for his self-loathing is non-existent now. He’s the epitome of a creep; a gnat that refuses to leave a hot house until it finally dies trying to escape a closed window.
So I look away from the windows of the Granada Hotel and turn my gaze back to the strangers on the sidewalk, guarded, quick, and passing, caricatures of their true selves, with gently cruel masks for the world outside of home.