Photo by PoPville flickr user Tyrannous
Like Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense–I have a mildly embarrassing confession to make. But unlike him, I don’t see dead people.
I see naked people.
And I don’t know what to do about it.
When we moved into our rowhouse in Petworth in early 2008, the four-unit apartment building behind us only had one tenant. It was a guy, living alone. He kept to himself and didn’t seem to have a lot of friends or visitors. If it wasn’t for the occasional light on in the evening, you would think the whole building was empty. Eventually, he left to, and the building was completely vacant.
We’d heard from a neighbor that the building’s owner was somewhere in the vicinity of a thousand-years-old. Due to his ancientness, he didn’t have the time or energy to find new tenants. So the building just sat there empty with a for sale sign in front of it.
Unlike other vacant properties, it really wasn’t a problem. With the exception of someone once emptying a semi-automatic weapon into the air on the night of the Super Tuesday elections (no connection that I’m aware of), life in the alley that separates the empty building from us has been relatively quiet and uneventful. No intruders, no animals–just a big empty building seen from every back window in our house.
Then, one day this spring, the for sale sign was gone. Then we noticed some construction debris by the trash cans. Then, almost overnight, there were new tenants living in every unit. Lights on. People coming and going. Suddenly, the place was back to life.
Two days later, I was sitting in rocking chair calming my unhappy and awake newborn son, when I looked out the nursery window and saw the nude torso of the woman in the lower left unit. This wasn’t a passing thing either. She was standing right in front of the window, wearing only a pair of panties (well, she could have been wearing kneesocks and army boots, but you get the picture), lightly scratching her stomach.
I can understand how this happens. Though alleys are supposed to be more dangerous than the streets, when it’s your alley, you can easily get lured into a false sense of privacy and seclusion. All these residents have blinds and/or shades on their windows, but especially on warm evenings, don’t feel compelled to be all that militant about using them.
It was only two days until I saw my next exposed neighbor. I guy was coming back from a shower, dripping wet and wrapped in a towel, when he decided to remove the towel and bend over–thus mooning me while I was trying to change my son’s diaper.
When I was eleven-years-old, I was the same as every eleven-year-old boy: I was obsessed with naked people. My friends and I would steal copies of Playboy out of trash cans and sit and stare at naked bodies for hours. We treated these worn pages like holy relics. Now, as an adult, seeing strangers naked, especially those who I see clothed several hours later, is not something I seek out. No offense, but if I was in the mood to see naked people, it wouldn’t be them.
And it has continued. In fact, without ever actually wanting to, I have unintentionally seen a resident in all four apartments in some state of undress. Sometimes it seems like a colony of nudists has moved into the building in mass. The torso woman has repeated her naked scratching in front of the window on two other occasions. Last weekend I witnessed her next door neighbors fornicating in front of an open window at 4 a.m. (hey, kids wake up all the time).
At first, I was really embarrassed. I would close my window shades at the sight of a naked renter. But why should I be the one who needs to avoid looking out the window? Isn’t that like some kind of inalienable right or something?
Now, the question I pose to you, wise reader: What should I do? Should I say anything? Is this something worth caring about? (It apparently isn’t that big an issue to the tenants.)
At first I was tempted to leave anonymous notes saying, “When you stand naked in front of an open window, people can see your boobies.” But then I realized that since my house was the one directly behind their building, that they’d immediately suspect me.
Now I’m at a loss.
I feel I should be able to keep my window shades open without feeling like a creep or a prude.
What do you think? Should I say something when I see something?