Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, 1942

Windows are portals to other universes. You’re looking into my thoughts through a window, right now.

An illuminated small/medium/large window conjured by its hardware labyrinth.

And, for this brief moment of time, I’m chatting with you through the arranged pixels on this screen.

I’m pulling you through the memories in my mind, extending a welcoming hand out to you. Take a look into the Pensieve. Right now, we are two people conversing — an ordinary scene you’d see in the window pane of a cafe — where the fourth wall used to be.

Step into the elevator, we’re going back in time.

That night, it was raining cats, dogs, and elephants. I headed home from an evening at the MOMA, my umbrella dancing tipsily amongst the other plastic dolls as my body shivered. My breath rose and danced in tandem with the huffs and puffs of those around me. The puddles underneath my feet rippled and swayed, briefly revealing distorted portals to a world of the upside-down. As though they pleaded for you to not trod on them, but at least stop and stare into their abyss. By dawn, those portals will have evaporated, sealing the gate until the next rainstorm.

In the veil of the night, glowed the large arch windows of upscale restaurants. Like stately lighthouses in the night, each window beckoned me to witness a different island as I sailed past.

The light invited me. To briefly exist, in the same time and place, as the young couple on the first date, the middle-aged banker paging through the menu, the waiter conversing animatedly in sweeping gestures with the wisened older lady and gentleman. Each window, an illuminated cinema screen playing its own vignette.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that the pasta looked really good too.

On the subway, I settled into my seat. I’ll never forget the memory of standing on that platform and seeing them on the opposing one after our goodbyes. That was the last time I saw them. Do they remember that moment? It felt like it could’ve been a cliché poetic scene in some indie film.

I’m often hit with this awareness that everyone around me is living equally complex and vivid lives. Sonder. For this fleeting moment, we briefly exist in the same space and time. We are alone, and together. Will I ever see you again? If not, it was a great first and last encounter. Before the curtains close on this show where I am just an extra in yours, and you are one in mine.

The doors slam shut. With a sputter and a roar, the racehorse comes to life.


all at once.

I see the blur of the people on the platform as the train picks up speed. Then, darkness.

I wonder, did they see me in the blur too?

Out of the darkness, emerges a new light.

Briefly, the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths. Two racehorses vying for victory, jolting restlessly on the dusty track. And, there you are.

Missed Connections by Adrian Tomine

For those twenty seconds, those rectangular portals with their rounded metal corners usher in a glimpse of the neighbouring universe’s inhabitants. We’re in tandem, travelling companions hurtling down our paths until the next instant we diverge and we’re in absolute solitude again. Will I ever see you again?

As a kid, I would always look up at the planes flying high above my backyard, wondering if they could see me, in my light-up shoes and pink polka-dotted rain coat. When I’m on a plane and the city below me is in full view, I can’t help but wonder what the lives are like of all the people in the cars trekking along the highway, ants on a log.

When I’m in one of those cars, I can’t help but wonder about the lives of all the occupants in the little satellites around me. To the satellites high above, we must look like thousands of Skittles trailing along a path.

And in this car, I am just a nameless college student to everyone else, framed by the glass bus window, dramatically listening to my sad-music-on-the-bus playlist.

I like to think of people as playscripts. We’ve all got rich inner universes, imbued with struggles and joy. We’re all directors of our own films too. Some people will cast you into their film as a hero, some a supporting character, some an antagonist, some a clown. Or maybe you’re just Extra #249808420, which is a great joy in and of itself too. I used to think that to love is to witness and be witnessed, which I still believe to be true.

I now also think that to live is to witness and be witnessed. There is a difference between existing and living. To merely exist is to pass through time like a plant uprooted by the current, drifting through the river. To live is to jump, no, cannonball, into the deep end and welcome the absurdity of the waves crashing upon you.

How magnificently weird is it that I am typing this now and the words are appearing on the screen in front of me, and now you? How oddly wonderful is it to see everyone else living out their lives on campus, in this city, on this planet? And to be a part of it too?

So, I find great joy in the act of living. To call it an act is to stifle it. I’d amend that to say, to live is to be defiant. To be an eye for the universe and all its vignettes, its beautifully simple scenes, is to fight against the quieting of your own life. Maybe that’s why I love going to museums. Seeing the sculptor’s careful touch in the immortal stone, the strokes of paint left by the long-gone artist in that gold-framed window, the wear on the thousand year old bowl. They sing, even in their stillness.

It is through witnessing life and lives since departed that you can breathe more colour into your own.

And so, in this brief window of time, maybe this window of existence should this be the first and last time we’ll meet, I’m glad to have been a part of your film, in this vignette of your life. Thanks for being an audience of one in this cinema.

Keiichi Ichikawa

2 responses to “vignettes”

  1. this was so beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

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