Saturday 2nd March
On a dark and still night I went to the bathroom, upstairs. I left the window open. I weed which was accompanied by the usual sound of water hitting porcelain and I heard a voice outside and it said: ‘Classy.’ I was ashamed.
My neighbour is a man of perhaps 18 years old, who lives with his parents and spends an inordinate amount of time in the driveway tinkering with his car. But as all was deadly quiet and very, very dark, I had thrown caution to the wind-ow. My decision was, in part, influenced by my frustration at having to close the window every time I wanted to use my own toilet in my own bathroom for fear that the young man would be outside in the driveway as he is most days, as he has every right to be.
When these new build estates were planned, little space was spared between houses. So little, that even the daintiest, most elegant wee, can be heard by someone one floor down in the neighbouring property. The windows on my house open and close, yet I do not feel free to open them whenever I like. I find my right to invite fresh air into my home is inhibited by my fear of being heard; a liberty, a freedom is infringed. ‘What will the neighbours think?’ I say to my husband and he replies ‘Fuck the neighbours.’ If only I had his disposition to not care what people think; it’s a work in slow progress.
What would I think if I overheard the sound of urine hitting porcelain from the neighbour’s bathroom window? I would like to think I would conclude that the neighbour is a human being, like me. I would like to think that these are the sounds of life. But then, perhaps he thought he was alone in his driveway enjoying the solitude of a black and quiet night and my toilet music sullied his automotive tranquillity.
Windows release the sounds of private lives into the communal sphere. They give us glimpses beneath the veneer that we may see what others are really made of. When I lived in my London flat, I could hear the old Asian man playing his violin. I could hear the little blond girl screaming at her Mummy across the way. I could hear the man exclaiming ‘I love you’ in the throes of ecstasy. I could hear the woman in the neighbouring block shouting from her bathroom throne: ‘Who finished the loo roll and didn’t replace it?!’ I could hear the muffled voices, the click of a light switch, the snore from next door, the rumble of cars, the turbulent sounds of humanity.
In the suburbs, neighbourly relations are more restrained. The politeness is a barrier to the truth of who we are. And here in the suburbs, my moment of freedom, to urinate in the night with the window open is a display of my low class.
Am I: a) Wrong to leave the window open when I perform my ablutions in the middle of the night? or b) Is my neighbour wrong to deem me a woman absent of class due to my performing an audible bodily function or c) Was the building company wrong to situate one house’s bathroom so close to the neighbouring property’s driveway? or d) All of the above or e) None of the above?
I am undecided. But I do know that all these closed windows will magnify my urge to scream until every pane of glass in every window in this treeless, orange-brick cul-de sac, shatters into a trillion tiny pieces so infinitesimally small that the gentlest, Spring breeze will blow that which conceals our humanness far, far away.