Exposed in the autumn

A riff on curiosity and exposure

Exposed in the autumn

The glory days of autumn here in Nova Scotia are fading quickly. The trees are beginning to become bare.

Behind them, the scrubby undersides of the forest floors are becoming revealed. Carpeted with what once were the drapes.

Walking home from work, I encounter people, many of whom say hello or nod acknowledgement. Some even seek longer contact with comments about the weather and the time of year. 

On a warm autumn evening these encounters are pleasantly awkward.

The daylight is ending more quickly these days. 

On these walks home I notice homes with their blinds open and their lights on. 

I’m a bit of a moth. My eyes are attracted to these lit spaces.

I’m naturally curious. I want to see what the inside of someone else's' home looks like - whether I’m invited or not.

So what do I do?

I do what’s natural. I gawk. I peer. My gaze invades the personal space of these poor foolhardy souls who have yet to draw their blinds.

Do they have cool art?

What’s their sofa look like?

That’s an amazing fixture above their dining table.

What’s on television here?

It’s great fun.

It’s great fun until someone in the house catches me looking as I pass by.

Busted.

I’m not just talking about myself. The other person, who neglected to draw their blinds, to protect their privacy, they’re caught too.

Our eyes lock for a moment.

What to do?

If they were only a few feet closer to me, the glass and walls that separate us wouldn’t be there. We’d engage in a polite convention and be on our way.

But the glass is there. The wall is there.

They were not supported by the world for polite convention.

But now? Our eyes lock for a nano second. 

It feels like a lifetime.

What to do?

Smile and wave?

Continue to stare?

Plunge hands into pockets and gaze to shoes?

Even with familiar people, neighbours, friends and friendly acquaintances this is an awkward exchange that’s difficult for me to negotiate.

It’s kind of like when you catch someone picking their nose and eating it. Or scratching their butt and sniffing their fingers unaware that you can see them.

These are the moments were we feel safe and we’re seen. 

Or we’re feeling curious and our curiosity connects us with the shame of another.

What do you do when you notice someone seeing you inside of your home?

What happens when someone notices you noticing them?

How do you react?

If this is the book of wrong answers, what’s the right answer for you in this situation?