The longer you look out a window, the more you see. That much only stands to reason. The longer you look, the more things you notice. He had been staring out of the window for a very, very long time. Probably since he was born. His mom liked to tell a story about when she first brought him home from the hospital. She said that his eyes never left the sky - as if he was captivated by what he saw.
There was no sky anymore. At least none like what he would have known as a child. Mom said they used to live in the country but something, something happened something, something economy and better jobs in the city. Something, something the skies were filled with smog and no matter how long he spent staring out the window into the thicket of clouds, his gaze would never pierce through. He would never see what he wanted to see.
But he kept looking out that window, looking for more details. It was a little silly. At first, all you could see was another building. Most people kept their blinds shut because they took one look and all they saw was a building. They never bothered with the second look. He did. He saw the building but moreover, he saw the bricks. He saw the steady hands that had set those bricks into place. He saw the story of the rock, how long it had lived wild and free before being stolen by human hands and taken to a place it did not belong.
When he wasn’t looking at the bricks, he looked at the windows. First, there was glass and then the apartments beyond. The window right across from his own had thick curtains hiding the room beyond. They were blue and stained at the bottom. He had stared and stared at that stain for such a long time it was almost silly. If he squinted long enough, it kind of looked like a face. His favorite game to place was picking out faces in things not meant to have faces - like stains and bricks.
But one day, the curtains disappeared. He watched, eyes burning with curiosity as the curtains were taken down and the room beyond them was revealed to be entirely bare. At first, he thought it was rather silly for the family to have curtained a room that was empty in the first place before he realized that they were moving out and a new set of curtains would take the place of the prior. He hoped the new curtains had stains.
It was in the middle of summer when new curtains were put up. He watched the woman who wore clothes a little too nice for this neighborhood do so before she wrinkled her nose and tore down the curtains entirely. She glared at them on the floor before she threw open the windows, hanging halfway out as she lit a cigarette.
He could smell the smoke from his own window which was also open - with it being summer and the apartment building not having AC - and it mixed with the taste of the popsicle which hung loosely between his lips and a bit dribbled down his chin.
The woman sighed, hung her head, and then dropped her cigarette down into the alley. She watched it for a bit and he watched her watch it. Then she turned back into the apartment and her voice cut cleanly through the air.
“Ko!” the woman snapped. “Get your ass in here!”
She continued screaming through the apartment and he was half sure that everyone in the surrounding three buildings could hear her. That’s why people got curtains. They didn’t want their faces to be paired with their voice. Everyone screamed at one another, especially in summer. The heat just made tempers worse.
The screaming didn’t stop for a long time and when it eventually did, someone new appeared in the window. A boy - around his age - had picked up the curtains the woman had torn down. He was struggling to put them up, on his tiptoes and his entire face twisted with strain. He just… wasn’t tall enough to get the rod to fit in place.
It didn’t stop him from trying, though. He struggled with the curtains for about ten minutes before he hunched over, defeated.
“Just get a chair,” he called. He couldn’t help himself.
“What?” the boy said, looking down. The windows weren’t entirely aligned so he was slightly below the boy and they were yelling to one another across a ten-foot alley.
“A chair,” he said again. “To stand on?”
“Mother would get mad,” the boy said, taking a step backward. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”
“That rule only applies to adults,” he said. “How old are you?”
“Ah man, I’m eleven!” he exclaimed, pressing his hands against his face. Just his luck this new kid was older than him too.
The boy tilted his head as if thinking this over very slowly. However, what answer he came to went unbeknownst to the other party as the woman’s voice picked back up from the apartment and the boy’s eyes widened and she slammed the window shut, turning his back to him. He sighed and turned his back to the window as well.
Another couple of hot summer weeks passed and the curtains to the window across from his never did go up. He stole a peak every day, testing to see if the curtains had risen or the window sill. He’d take either as a declaration. One would mean friendship and the other the opposite - strangers separated by teen feet and a sheet of cloth.
However, one morning, when he was struggling to watch the sun crest the peaks of the buildings in the east, movement caught his eye. He snapped his gaze instantly to the window across from his own and saw the boy. He’d opened the window and took a deep breath. His hair caught the wind before he turned and looked down.
The boy’s face did not change upon the friendly greeting given to him. He just looked down, down, down at him before he sighed. “Do you never sleep?” he asked, finally.
“What? Of course, I do,” he said. “Hey, your name’s Ko, right?”
The boy grunted.
“Mine’s Jasee,” he offered, just so they would be on level footing. He didn’t need any more of a reason for the boy not to trust him. “The sunrise is so pretty. I think it’s the one thing the city can’t ruin.”
"Yeah,” the boy across the window agreed before he returned to his room.
The seasons changed quickly and harshly. One moment they were like bloated pigs in the sweltering heat and the next they were being drowned like rats. Windows tended to close when the rain started but school opened up and Ko was only a grade above him so they tended to pass by one another in the halls. Jasee always offered a friendly smile and the nod of his head, but the only time Ko ever acknowledged him was through the window.
“Why did you come here?” Jasee asked one night when he swore he might’ve seen a star. “Everyone comes here for a reason.”
“Bad money,” Ko said.
“Like… counterfeit?” Jasee asked. He’d just learned what that word meant in class today and there was something inside of him that desperately wanted the older boy’s approval.
Ko shook his head. “Adult play kids games with money. Mother lost.”
“I think I get it,” Jasee said, not getting it at all.
Ko smirked and turned back to the sky. He knew that Jasee was lying. He had an ear for it. But that night even though there were no stars in the sky, Jasee saw one right before his very own eyes.