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Because We Like to Watch

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B.
What Engstrom Sees: “One light goes on every night for about an hour. I’ve never seen anyone there. It’s creepy.” A third-floor light shines on a glass-enclosed nursery. “How the plants get watered is a mystery.”

Who Really Lives There: Theresa Fritsch, 84, retired editorial researcher and recent widow. “I’ve lived here 30 years,” she says. “I’ve been living downstairs since my husband died. I leave a light on my plants so that the neighbors can see greenery.”

What She Sees of Engstrom: “I don’t look.”

C.
What Engstrom Sees: A naked woman! “She thinks she’s high enough that no one can see her. But anyone on the third floor can. I think it’s a bit of a lonely-hearts situation. She’s like 35, though, so she’s probably more excited by us.”

Who Really Lives There: Leah Chalfen, 37, milliner. “I don’t use shades—I love seeing the sky. I never see the people directly across from me, so if they’re seeing me, it’s very mysteriously. But I don’t think they can, so I carry on.” Chalfen has been carrying on here for eleven years.

What She Sees of Engstrom: “On Halloween, I saw lots of nudity and costumes and stuff through that big window. He seems to be, um, social. I also hear a lot of people, and that goes for making love, too, though I’m not sure where it’s coming from, but maybe directly across the way. Oh, and there’s been a pair of sneakers on the deck ledge forever. I think he forgot about them.”

D.
What Engstrom Sees: An empty house. “I thought it was abandoned. The shades are always down. Then they were doing a lot of early-morning drilling, which was contributing to my hangovers. I finally saw the guy—he wears a long white nightshirt. He looks a little like Jack Kevorkian.”

Who Really Lives There: Gregory Abels, theater director, and Janet Abels, Zen teacher. Maybe the home is silent because they’re practicing zazen, a form of sitting meditation. The Abels run Still Mind Zendo, where she is the sensei and he is the “dharma holder.”


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