My favorite thing in the entire world, ever, to do is walk down the street at night looking in people's windows. Some people watch reality television, but I like the simple storyline-less act of just stopping to have a look when someone's lights are on, catching a glimpse of a dog's snout, or Finding Nemo on the television, or a bare foot scratching another.
My second favorite thing is listening to someone playing an instrument at night, from the street. You hardly ever hear this anymore; people don't play music at home, or they practice at rehearsal spaces or in the agonizing light of mid-afternoon, after they've stumbled out of bed from another late night at the jazz club (apparently, my favorite thing happens in the 1920s). But I can't imagine a greater pleasure than standing on the sidewalk outside someone's cozily-lit house, on a cool fall's evening that's still warm and delicious, the air smelling of sage and sounding of crickets, and listening to the piano spill out from those buttery windows.
It reminds me of one of Madeleine L'Engle's rules for a happy family, the theme that spread from the Austins to the Murrys and their children: singing and music in the home. I've always wondered, marveled at her families who gather together and sing in the evenings, or play instruments together; not like the Allman Brothers Band, but just like a fun way to pass the time in the evening, instead of watching television. Of course, I don't watch television usually either, preferring instead to engage in singularly repetitive evening behaviors, regardless of the day: I work, I read, sometimes I have sex. I sleep, before midnight. And I wonder, amazed and reverent, at the people who play music, because they remind me of a comforting, cozy world, where people can talk to dolphins.
I went for a walk through the cool night, watching people's lives out here at the sprawling complex in Camarillo that is my home until October 19, and passed life after life that could have been mine. People stay home out here; the young ones don't want to drive very far, or they invite their friends over on a Friday night...one house I passed had rouged lacy curtains, laughter, and the smell of pot. Most of the others have families and kids and garages and Finding Nemo on DVD and that's another kind of satiety.
I look in the windows and try on different lives, when my own is, quite frankly, a little disconcerting. I wander and wander, leaving a trail of good friends, and I miss and I want and I work but I don't have a job. My life promises to be opening out more and more, but if you open too far, holes can happen and things can slip through.
So I look in the windows and listen at the doors, wondering if there's some secret everyone else has to how to be happy in their sweet, beautiful suburban homes, and I smell the hedgerows of sage, drying against the desert air.