This is Not a Sign

I spent a lot of time as a child looking out a car window. My mom had a succession of Volkswagon Beetles, and as the oldest I had automatic dibs on the little bathtub-shaped cubby in the far back of the car. It may have been the most dangerous place to sit, snugged up next to the engine, but I had a dome window overhead and the noise drowned out the rest of my family and their music. My parents were nomadic, so I had a lot of time in that way-back seat.

I studied houses as we passed them. I spent hours imagining what was going on behind the red doors, the open windows, the perfectly trimmed hedges. I compared them to my house, wherever we were living at the time. Our houses always looked normal from the outside. I wondered if people studied it when they drove by. I tried to imagine what they saw.

When I got a little older, I started studying houses far more closely, looking for signs. I figured, in my 8 year old brain, that if Bad Things were happening in one of the houses we passed, there should be some sort of sign. And my child’s reasoning figured that if I could find that sign then maybe I could send help. And maybe I could get help.

I worried that I was missing the sign, that it was something common and I was overlooking it. Or perhaps we were driving too fast and I didn’t have a chance to catch it. Maybe it was an overturned planter, or the curtains half drawn. Maybe it was the porch light turned on in the middle of the day. My mom wondered for months who kept turning on our porch light every day.

After a while I figured that everyone else must be normal. That behind those doors and windows, they were having dinner and sharing stories and playing board games like the families in books. They didn’t need a sign. There was no sign.

My mom looked up at me the other day and said, “Remember how you used to stare out the back window of the car all the time?”

“Yeah, mom,” I said. “I was looking at the houses.”

“You sure were a happy kid.” she said as she went back to what she was doing.

Which just goes to show there’s no telling what’s going on behind those windows and doors.

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One thought on “This is Not a Sign

  1. The film “Happiness” truly opened my eyes to the dysfunction that is always hidden in plain sight in our world: Our neighborhood, our workplace, our town. Most of the time, we live a lie for the sake of ‘simplicity’ that’s actually so complex that it’s amazing that we manage to hold the pretty facade together for as long as we do.

Talk to me, people.

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