The Watcher This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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For once, her hands were not smoothing out wrinkled shirts, scrubbing mildewed tiles, or sorting the fruits and vegetables on the third shelf in the refrigerator. Her shapeless, vegetable oil-stained apron, with the frayed right pocket and faded sunflower design, lay beside her.

She gazed through the thin layer of grime coating the window, passing over the vibrant signs dangling in the doorways of the shops below, over the posters advertising shampoo and novels, over sun-bleached roofs and weathered concrete walls, over the road that meandered through the jumble of houses and emerged on the other side, creeping through the vivid, quilt-like patches of rice fields.

But her eyes lingered on the people flitting through these scenes. She ­observed the farmers in their wide-brimmed straw hats, knees caked with mud, bending tirelessly over each shoot, the men and women wearing spotless business suits, bustling along the sidewalk, “Busy” etched into every twitch of their head, every swing of their arms – even the lady across the street who came out onto the balcony every afternoon at 4:30 to clip up socks and blankets.

Had they ever imagined that they, too, would one day become just another dot plodding along the sidewalk, just another indistinguishable smudge for someone else to scrutinize from her living room window?

Was someone else watching her, as she gazed at passersby from her couch on the seventh floor? She couldn't imagine anyone wasting their afternoons peering into her life. What was there to see? Perhaps the stranger would catch glimpses of her bursting through the door, staggering under bundles overflowing with carrots, loaves of bread, and cheese crackers, or watch as she tried to repair the table that wobbled whenever she removed the books she had stacked underneath.

She clambered out of bed at six weekdays (seven on weekends), usually before the alarm clock began its clamor, and roused the rest of the house. She brushed her teeth, combed her hair, and applied lipstick (though why she did not know), and then shuffled into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. On Sundays, she would cook rice porridge, but on most mornings she just groped through the refrigerator and fixed whatever she unearthed. A few slices of week-old ham and stale bread made edible sandwiches, and the kids loved hardboiled eggs with slivers of cheese. Her life now centered around these details. Would she use the cucumber for soup today or for salad tomorrow? Would she wash black socks or white socks first?

Of course, there were the simple joys of everyday life. A homemade (though slightly lopsided) cake from the kids on Mothers' Day, a call from the gossipy neighbor to pass the silent afternoons, a roll of new fabric she had discovered on one of her weekly trips downtown. But during those hours of emptiness, the only hours that truly belonged to her, she would often pull out the battered sketchbook that she kept behind the laundry ­detergent.

She fingered the sketches of tall, spidery-legged women clad in flamboyant gowns and dazzling suits, and the scraps of cloth pinned to the pages. To think that these sketches, faded and yellowed from age, were the only shards of her dream that remained. No one else knew that the housewife of Apartment Building C, seventh floor, the inconspicuous, soft-spoken woman who always purchased five cans of tuna and stored her quarters for the laundromat in empty film canisters, had once longed to be a fashion designer – a fashion designer whose creations would inspire others.

Once. Not now. Now her afternoons were spent watching the world from her living room window. She was simply a spectator, a watcher.
Her eyes followed a row of Mickey Mouse T-shirts bobbing on a clothesline. The lady across the street was now tenderly watering her begonias, wiping her palms on her checkered apron.

Time to make dinner.

That window needed cleaning.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

bwriter24 said...
Jan. 24, 2012 at 6:27 pm
this was real and raw, and you should be proud.
 
Illuminatus said...
May 1, 2011 at 10:02 pm

i simply loved your article.... the basic idea and the bitter truth of life have been symbolised so beautifully and yet easily ... really love , keep writting .

 

 
luvtwilight said...
Jun. 19, 2009 at 7:57 pm
That was an interesting piece and the intensity of the main idea was great, but if this is by the same person who wrote Tissues, I liked it better. It might be because I can relate to it better, and because I'm too young to relate to this piece. If it were an adult woman reading this, I'm sure she would ADORE it. It was great.
 
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