Room with a view

Saturday, May 16, 2020

7:43 a.m. / my urban corner of NJ

At the start of the pandemic stay-at-home orders, I moved my laptop to the living room windowsill. It became my office space with a view. Sitting by the window for hours reminds me of something I haven’t thought about in years, decades: all the time I spent at my bedroom window when I was a kid who was always stuck indoors in the projects. It was hard to sit on the radiator that was directly below my window: it burned my ass in the winter and was just uncomfortable year-round.

In front of and across my bedroom window was also where my mom set up the clothesline, specifically because the heat of the radiator helped dry the laundry. This was only the case in the winter months, during which the clothes would hang in front of my window just a few hours. Without the heat from the radiator, the laundry would hang in my room for more than a day. Mami would set up the big box fan in my bedroom to speed up the clothes drying, which only complicated my window situation: then I wasn’t just having to push past Papi’s boxers to look through the window. The fan caused the boxers to be blowing in my face the whole time I stood or sat by the window.

If I turned off the fan or took down the boxers, Mami would get on my case about how were the clothes supposed to dry. I’d think, but never said, why did they have to dry in MY room. The clothes would have dried faster if we had a dryer, but having a washing machine in the kitchen was already against the rules of our projects, and why didn’t our projects have laundry facilities. If we didn’t live in the projects, laundry wouldn’t be such a big production. I could get to the window in MY bedroom and look outside and see past the buildings of Ravenswood Houses, or they wouldn’t be there at all if we lived far from the projects. I could be outside instead of staying inside all the time, where it was supposedly safe from everything in the world that my parents feared: los hijos de putas, los blancos, los morenos, los titeres, las drogas, la discriminacion.

I never said any of this. It didn’t have to be spoken. It was the hair trigger that could set off any of us in that 800 square feet apartment. It was safer to keep these things inside and unspoken.

I just always left the fan on, looked through my bedroom window less often, and saw whatever I wanted inside my head, where it was safest.

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