From Outside the Window
The third Thursday in November of the year 2015 was not unlike many others, in majority. The sun had set long ago by the time I closed the door of the last of the Wilson children’s bedroom door. I had served as Mr. Wilson’s nanny for only a short two months following the death of his wife in early September. Mr. Wilson worked as the CEO of an advertising company in New York, and him and his three children lived on the Upper East Side of the city, tucked away on the top floor of a high end building stocked with all sorts of suites I had never previously laid eyes on, coming from a small home in the suburbs of New Jersey.
Every night at the Wilson’s was the same as the last. I feed the children dinner, wash them, clothe them, tuck them away in their beds for the night. This specific Thursday was the first night I heard the peculiar whine of a withering woman, crouched on the side of the Wilson’s building, half hidden in the night. The desperate whine of the beggar crawled up the marble side of the building, creeping through the tight seals of my small bedroom window. The noise that night startled me, I tentatively tip-toed to the window, the dark of the night was a thick fog but through the blackness I could see the woman, a worn brown coat laying across her crouching knees, her skin was tethered and she possessed nothing besides the coat and a cracked bucket which she clenched with a shaky grip. My heart panged at the sight of this woman, knowing she suffered, having nothing while the family I tended to had everything, just eighteen floors above her bowing head. However I extinguished the light in my room and slipped into slumber, shutting out the beggar’s cries.
“Take good care of them, Allison,” Mr. Wilson instructed in his soft and monotone voice the next morning, as he kissed his three children meekly on their heads and left their penthouse suite to get lost in the rest of the city, just as he does every other morning. The day dragged on slowly after the children departed for school. Trying to find ways to pass the time, I began to clean the children’s bathrooms, each having their own, garnished with sparkling tile floors and spotless granite countertops, their showers were complicated webs of showerheads and nozzles that stand in each of the three bathrooms. Every day here managed to steal my breath from my chest, their spotless home, always equipped with organic snacks and smelling like that of a mixture of lilacs and lemonade, was something I abandoned in my childhood dreams. There were fruits and cakes and meats and juices I had never even heard of before my time here, overflowing in the spacious pantry. These are the lucky ones, I would tell myself. These are the people that others look up to, I would tell myself. These are the people I should be thankful let me in, I would tell myself.
Dinner that night was quiet as per usual- Alexandra, Matthew, and David, the silenced children of Mr. Wilson, ate the chicken I had cooked earlier with very little conversation. They were most usually well behaved, they smiled politely and respectfully but never with pleasure, they kept to themselves like strangers, out of their element, in their own home. They each whispered back a soft goodnight as I tucked them each into their beds, failing desperately at finding conversation within any of them. When I secluded myself for the night in my bedroom once again I heard the woman’s cry, full of somberness, discontent and desperate for help. Once again I shut off the light and blocked out the noise, forcing myself into a comfortable sleep.
Every night for the next couple of weeks I heard the same despairing sob from the same woman, who was thinning to nothing at each passing night. This is New York City, this is normal here, this is the way the world works, this is why I should be thankful for my small fortune, I repeated over and over in my mind every night for weeks. Surely it is not my responsibility to feed this woman happiness, although I sprinkled the few loose coins I had into her weathered bucket when I happened to stroll past her unofficially claimed sidewalk spot. I had always thought that was the way the world worked, the rich were the happy ones and the poor lived lives of endless begging- as if the purpose of the “poorer” people is practically polar of the lives of those like Mr. Wilson’s.
The weather had changed over time and the trees that had once given shade from the rain to the beggar were now as bare as a balding man’s head. My nightly routine was well on its way, my ears expected to hear the now familiar cry of the woman below. However, as the familiar cry had let out as expected, my ears were startled at how dangerously close the sound was to my bedroom walls. I listened closer, the weeping seemed to be coming from somewhere on the eighteenth floor. I looked down below and the woman was just settling into her normal spot on the hard concrete, her lips shut, noiseless. Scoping out the Wilson’s bedroom hall quietly, my feet came to a stop upon the door of the master bedroom. The door was slightly ajar, and inside I saw Mr. Wilson crouched on his marble floor, bowing his head much like the beggar below. The wailing came from his lips; shocked I turned away from the scene and hurried back into my own room. Why was he crying? Why were tears puddled below his bowed head? Why was he unhappy, what did he have to be unhappy for?
His cries continued on, matching that of the poor woman’s every night, when he assumed the rest of the house was consumed in slumber. On the fourth Wednesday in December, I found myself knocking softly on the door of the master bedroom, in the midst of Mr. Wilson’s nightly fit. I saw his adjust himself, silencing his cries and dabbing his eyes before approaching the door.
“Oh, Allison it’s you,” He said, silencing his sniffles.
“I couldn’t help but notice your upset,” I said quietly. “Could I be any help to you?” I offered.
“Oh,” He adjusted himself uncomfortably. “That’s quite alright Allison. I’m a man I can handle my own.” He tried to sound tough, his act not too convincing. He began to close the door when I called for him again.
“You have so much Mr. Wilson. You have all the money I could ever ask for, you have three respectable children, and you have the suite I envisioned in my dreams-“
“Money,” He cut me off, looking down at his tethered bare feet. “Isn’t everything, Allison.”
I had retreated to my room, puzzled. I ran to my window to look at the beggar, who was not in her normal spot. Only her empty bucket lay beside her spot. Overwhelmed I walked to my bed, slipped under the sheets; extinguished all light, let my thoughts consume me. The beggar had cried because she had no possessions and no happiness. Mr. Wilson cried because what he had didn’t supply him happiness. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to work, I thought. Your money and success should make you happy, I thought. If you can have whatever you want there is no room for sadness, I thought.
It wasn’t until I matured and the Wilson children reached an age where they no longer needed me to tend to them, that I came to a realization. Money can’t buy you happiness, they say. Money couldn’t buy the poor woman a family, money couldn’t buy her love. Money couldn’t get the three silent children to speak to their father in more than short sentences here and there. Money couldn’t revive Mrs. Wilson. Money could not bring back a wife and mother. Money couldn’t buy any of them peace of mind. Money is the dream, but money isn’t what we should be dreaming about.
From Outside the Window
From Outside the Window