A figure of a man silhouetted against an upper floor window. Seated with his back to the glass, he seemed in conversation with someone else in the room. His broad shoulders filled much of the frame. Perhaps he was a visitor, would the occupant of the house have sat in such a place? Wouldn’t it be more likely that a visitor would be someone who might occupy a window seat and then sit facing into the room?
Lighted windows in evening darkness have been a fascinating prompt for imagining the stories that lay beyond them. Driving the Outer Ring around Belfast in the 1980s, there was a house between Knockbreda and Cregagh where there would always be a light in the upstairs window, no matter how early or late the evening. It was baffling, if it were a child’s room, the early evening light would be explicable, but not a light after eleven o’clock at night, unless the child had a morbid fear of darkness.
Maybe it was a fear of darkness that prompted the fascination with lights in windows and the personalities beyond. They were tokens of reassurance that one was not alone in the world, that, however peripheral they might seem, there were other people who shared one’s sphere of reality. The Irish custom of placing a lighted candle in the window at Christmas, lest the Holy Family be passing by and seeking a place of welcome seems, deeply rooted in finding a sense of reassurance in there being a light in a window.
Of course, the people beyond the glass are entirely unaware of being observed from the gloom outside. Had they a notion they might quickly close the curtains or extinguish the light, the idea of being watched by a stranger is something most would find disconcerting.
But what if there were an awareness that the lighted window might be a source of companionship for those outside? What if people felt that the excluding of the outside world as the curtains are closed also broke a tie, as slight and tenuous as it might be, with a whole world of people passing in the street?
One of the most beautiful things about summer evenings is the encounter with those who walk, those who garden, those who play, those who sit in the evening sun; summer evenings bring an awareness of people who disappear as the darkness returns.
Unless there are moments when there is a wish for privacy, perhaps the lighted window with the curtains unclosed is a statement of sharing a common humanity. If nothing else, it piques the imagination of a passing stranger.