Inquiry

I admire it.

My window has an audience. A picture frame of a poem gifted as an off-to-college present from my mother; a duet of flasks, one tall and skinny, the other short but wide; a metal cup with a handle, perfect for tea and water; my ivy plant, whose leaves number more than seven times the initial five it started with when I brought it to Brown. Behind the main characters of the stage—the foreground—is the unsuspecting setting. Unclear glass muffled from fingerprints and residue. With my non-existent knowledge in civil construction, I assume the frame is wooden, painted white. Despite the aged glass, the wood is like wine. Age evident but not distasteful. Behind it is a grid screen. It stops the bugs from getting in and from me falling out.

Most of the time, however, the pane is lifted more than a foot above its closed position. How wonderful such a simple change has been. Shallowly is a story of how this window has dyed the flavor of my first year of college—in a positive way. Deeply, however, is a larger commentary on our sheltering which twists sanctuary into captivity. What have we separated ourselves from?


Without

An acquaintance of mine said once, “I started playing chess when I was five.”

“Oh, is that why you’re so good now?”

“I’m not that good.”

“Your rating is literally 1800!”

In Freshman year of high school, I also remember meeting someone who had been a gymnast since the third grade. One of my close friends has been playing piano since kindergarten. It’s a usual occurrence to see these outliers broadcasted on YouTube and Instagram—a knack for art; an intractable sum of dedication. That isn’t me.

My idols, all of whom I’ve never met, tend to have a childhood filled with something. I did not. Vacuous. But this is all retroactively applied. I say this know with the knowledge of a bigger world, filled with more concerns and joys alike. I envisage my young environment as vacuous because time did not exist. I have fond memories of time not existing. Urgency was an undefined sensation—such a stark contrast to life now. When your world is the only one you know, you can’t see anything but that.

That basement and even tinier living room was my world—my detention. My existence was what was immediately in front of me: the TV.

“Today on How It’s Made, we’ll learn about how erasers first…”

“The Kid’s Next Door!…”

“But Finn, you can’t…”

Although I reimagine myself as being silent and unnoticed, it was the other way around: the world and around me was unnoticed. Unnatural. That infinitesimal space was only so because I could not see something larger—metaphorically and physically. I could not see more of the world—metaphorically and physically. There was much, much, much more beauty to behold. So much more chaos and serendipity. So much more to appreciate and wonder and stare at.


Comfort

DRRRING!!! DRRRRRING!!! DRRRRRRING!!!…

There are things which cannot be done when you are in a rush. Waking up is one of those things for me. Waking up is tormenting. My mind is resistant to being rustled. Far too easily are my late night reminders shoved behind the warming luxury of blankets.

In my struggle, a break in the clouds becomes apparent. Literally. I listened to a podcast a few months ago about how light rays, especially those that hit your eyes directly from the sun, not refracted and scattered through a window’s glass, are essential to the wake of the body. I keep my left eye a tenth open and my right completely shut. The left one can’t even do that much for longer than a few moments before its accumulated nocturnal debris grows too troublesome—but it’s enough for me to find the outline of a certain black rectangle. I need to shake it because I use a special alarm clock app. It’s a preventative measure for a chronic over-sleeper. All that matters is that it’s been doing its job. The fact that I’m conscious enough to have this thought proves my point.

I couldn’t help but notice the unfettered rays peering through the opening. Stopped a foot above the windowsill is the bottom of my blinds. I’m reminded of my foresight last night to lower them so that my present self’s retinas wouldn’t be burned. I mentally pat myself on the back for it. I then laugh at myself for mentally giving myself a pat on the back.

At any rate, the sunlight demands my attention. It is bright but balanced by the darkness of the crevices it cannot reach on my messy table. The area is bright enough to stir yet dark enough to sooth. I’m surprised at how natural this feels—was it always like this? No, my old room didn’t even have a window in the first place. In my trance I realize the coherency of my thoughts. I rather quickly raise my upper half from under my tempting sheets, rub both eyes with either hand, and check the time.


Discomfort

The season: Summer. The temperature: Scorching. The consequences of that heat are especially urgent on my soles. Not the entire flat of my feet, just two spots: One where my first and second toes wrap around the wire of my flip flops and another near my heel where the wire inserts into the sole. These particular points dig into my skin on every step. My East Coast campus is characterized by spurts of hills and plateaus. Unfortunately for me, my current path calls for the pain of managing uneven terrain perfectly conducive to the pricking of my soles. The twists and turns in these narrow, one-way streets don’t help either.

That’s the acute discomfort. Chronically demanding my focus is the humid stickiness that permeates every surface on my body. My clothing feels more like soggy paper at this point. The household walls across the street and close to my right are variegated, various, high, and annoyingly bare. No escape. With no passerby in sight so far; I am alone in this mundane struggle. The only saving grace from the blazing sun which burns incessantly is the relief of my first in-person class. I’m not bubbly or giddy, just expectant mixed with a tinge of nervousness.

I welcome the sun’s immense and uncomfortable pressure. It’s too good of a coincidence that the heat advisory warning overlapped with this momentous occasion—delayed by two weeks already, in fact. I like to entertain myself with my own humor, a habit I developed who-knows-when during that swath of solitude. So, I consider the sun’s grace a harsh “welcome back.”


Unnoticed

If your second semester in college was unexceptional, then mine isn’t so far off. Mostly monotonous weeks passed until any novelty arose at all. But only an inkling; a turning ambiance; an microscopically small shift. I stand at a distance, across my room, within the door frame. Peering through the open door makes me realize this is a feeling I never knew I yearned for. Even as this paragraph is typed, several weeks later in the semester, I sense a radiating motherly familiarity.

It was a surprise when I could finally put my finger on it. A few days and meditations later, I continue to wonder: How do you bear such a profound yet subtle shift in my day-to-day? How many of us can think this in our concrete utopias? Unappreciated. Unmoved. Unnoticed. Has such a moment ever penetrated into you as much as this window has to me? We stumble through life, becoming learned, deceive, love, and sputter out within the span of several dozen tree rings. An inanimate object, this window reminds me of our fickle randomness. We are small.


Beauty

Rarely do moments of clarity arrive. Ephemeral gifts only recognized a beat too late. As an exercise in free association, my memory is drawn, again, to that thunderstorm.

It paradoxically appeared gradually yet with little notice, not unlike my relationship with my dear window. I didn’t notice the storm because it was slow and gradual. But it could be felt. An intangible awareness. The winds shivered ever so slightly. A seemingly imperceptible turbulence in the air.

I find this akin to a fun-fact I read years ago. Buried in a forum thread is a comment that goes along the lines of this: I work as a paramedic. I have a lot of experience with these kinds of situations. From my experience, we have some sort of inherent sense that something is wrong. When a patient tells me they’re going to die, or they have this intense fear in their eyes—not the normal kind but a deep, infinite kind—I know something bad is going to happen very soon. Something fatal like a heart attack, for instance, happens minutes later. The human body just knows. I cannot corroborate this fact or the anonymous tale, and like with anything on the internet, it should be taken with a grain of salt. But its veracity is irrelevant. Almost like a dog instinctively barking at a brewing tornado, I felt a compelled certainty during this thunderstorm. I entertain a faith in that phenomenon.

Entranced in my chair, the flash seeped even into my room. It confirmed my gut instinct. With it passed, and my brain rebooted, I recognized this as a familiar yet confusing scene: Shouldn’t there… CRASH! The off-beat thunderclap shook me.

In this tiny space, I felt, for the first time, like I was living in more than just the room I call mine. The label of ‘room’ feels inappropriate now. With an open window, it was at this moment I learned sensations could be so raw. Such an oceanic largeness on its other side, and immensity that demands humility. I wonder: Why have I only learned this now?


Author’s Note

This is the second piece of creative non-fiction I’ve ever produced. I wrote this for a creative non-fiction class—I didn’t write it with a public audience in mind. Take what you will from it.