My room had a wonderful view.
It was on the eighth floor of our apartment complex, and when we sat on the bed all we could see was the treetops and the endless sky. There were a lot of things I didn’t like about the apartment, but I liked the light coming in through the giant windows.
The morning of March 19 was the last time I saw this sight. The playground behind the apartment complex was barren. Fewer cars passed through the normally busy intersection, a symptom of spring break in a college town and the invisible enemy potentially looming within all of us.
Like so many young adults, I returned to my childhood bedroom. I’m locked up in Indianapolis with my mom and our angry cat. COVID-19 has forced us collectively to sink in. We stay to look out of our windows.
Windows let in good air and bad air out. They let us see what is crawling in front of our doors. They provide a portal to the natural world from the created one.
Now that we are forced to separate from each other, windows are essential tools for connection. In Kirkland, Washington, the coronavirus ravaged the Life Care Center nursing home, infecting residents and workers and killing 37 people. The house forbade visits, so adult children wrapped in winter coats sat on lawn chairs in front of their parents’ windows. Workers inside the facility put the phones in the hands of residents so they could talk to loved ones, trying to make the most of their already limited time together.
As normal life came to a standstill, people across Italy opened their windows and went out onto the balconies to sing. Their voices echoed in the buildings and in the night air, the deserted streets becoming a concert hall. The act of singing with others is intimate. You breathe together. Each voice rises in harmony. You are part of a whole.
An irish grandfather met his newborn grandson through the window of his son’s house, his face an image of longing. In another world, he could have walked in, hugged the baby, posed for a photo that held three generations in one frame. Her son would be by her side, exhausted and elated.
A New York couple, fearing they might not be able to organize their first wedding, rushed to the city’s marriage bureau to get their permit. Their friend married them on the street while he leaned out of a fourth floor window for the whole ceremony. He read an excerpt from “Love in the Time of Cholera”: “For they had lived together long enough to know that love was always love, anytime and anywhere, but there was more. solid as he neared death. “
New York couple marry on the streets amid coronavirus crisis
A couple decided to get married on the street with the celebrant above them in a building window.
These stories grab us by the throat because they capture the essence of our predicament. We are all 6 years old Theo Maitland, the boy from Austin, Texas, who reads books with his grandmother, but now separated by a window. Like Théo, we get as close as possible to the people we love. We remember what it felt like to throw ourselves into their arms. We remember the soft wrinkles on the necks of our grandmothers. The smell of our father’s shirt collar after a long day at the office. We remember and rest our palms against the glass.
We are not made for loneliness. We can stock up on all the cans and toilet paper we can get our hands on sanitized, but there is no way to accumulate human connections.
Right now, our windows are some of the only places we can share our lives with each other, where we can see each other and be seen in return.
The spring is coming. The sun will shine. We will come out of the darkness of isolation and into the light. Warm air will blow in the sweet smell of rain, and we will open our windows again to welcome it.
This story was produced in partnership with Indiana University Media School.