Sometimes, in the dark of night, I like to get out into the apartment’s dusty third floor balcony and sit silently. I get to squint into the windows and balconies of other apartments. It is from a distance but it is revelatory nonetheless.
A man is shooing pigeons off of the clotheslines on his apartment’s balcony. The pigeons have soiled some of the clothes and the man puts those clothes on the floor of the balcony. Is this for the maid to come and collect and redo this laundry in the washing machine? There’s a washing machine in the balcony. Are they even allowing house help inside their home during COVID? The pigeons refuse to leave. It is dark and the birds cannot see, so they return to the well-lit balcony. How did the man even know that there were pigeons in the balcony? I hear them sometimes. Scratching on the top of the metal cover of the air-conditioners installed at my apartment. Maybe they did the same at this man’s apartment. I can see an air-conditioner in his balcony.
My eyes wander to something flickering in another window. It looks like a screen – a large one. A television perhaps. But what’s with all the scrolling? Maybe it’s a screen-saver of some sort? The scrolling stops. Ah. They are scrolling through what I can only imagine are endless options on their television. Imagine because I don’t have a television out of choice. Haven’t had television, or the associated channels and programs, in over 12 years. I’m guessing that the number of shows must have only burgeoned.
A small light shows up in another window, which is otherwise entirely dark. It looks like a smaller screen. Bluish light. The screen is turned towards the window. Maybe they are trying to look at something without disturbing the sleep of whoever else is in the room? It is too far for me to discern what’s on the screen. This reminds me that I need to get my eyes checked. This is something that I have been meaning to do for more than six months now. I think that I have not gotten around to doing this because I’m going to find out that my eyes need glasses. For some reason, it feels like a betrayal. My eyes have betrayed me. My name is “Naina”. I should not need glasses, ever. My ego is interfering with optical health.
There’s a whiskey glass with gin and tonic in it, sitting next to me. I sip from it intermittently. It’s 40 degrees C outside. The drink has gotten warm. At least there are no mosquitoes to bite my bare legs. I shove a loose section of my over-sized t-shirt under my bra-less breasts. The sweat there gets absorbed by the t-shirt. I feel slightly less uncomfortable, buying myself a few more minutes on the balcony.
My neighbor’s living room lights are on. It’s late for him to have his lights on. Don’t old people sleep early? Especially lonely old people whose spouses have passed away? He lives alone. He took up college again, after his partner passed. I wonder if he would ever refer to his wife as his “partner”. She was sweet. But in the end, cancer had its way.
Who am I calling old anyway? I turned 41 this year. When I was 20, I used to think 40 year olds were old. Now who’s old? I should be kind to myself. At least in my own head. I should be gentle. My therapist told me that I should change the dialog in my head. Or was it a self-help book I read? I cannot recall correctly.
It is too hot now. The breeze has stopped entirely. I stand up, dust my shorts, pick up the glass and gingerly open the door. The air-conditioned air is supernaturally inviting. I take a huge breath and feel rejuvenated instantly.
I have no problems in my life. None that are what I would call “real problems”. I’m told that modern-day problems of modern-day humans are also legitimate problems. That just because we have better medical science, the marvels of technology at our finger-tips, all kinds of food from all over the world spilling out of the refrigerator, it doesn’t invalidate the problems we face.
Having never been comfortable with that notion, I wonder, what are our biggest problems these day? Someone said something mean to me on social media? Pigeons soiled my laundry? I woke up an hour after the alarm went off? Not being able to decide which hotel to curry favor with, for a party with my friends? Which type of mango to eat? ( There are three varieties in my refrigerator right now. )
No wonder my sister laughed her ass off when I told her that I got a stiff neck, due to a muscle pull, even though I did nothing all day.