I have a neighbour whose back door faces on to the alleyway behind my house. From this vantage point he has a clear view into my kitchen, particularly if I've opened the back door to let my dogs out. Many a night I catch him stood there smoking a cigarette in the pitch black, the only part of him visible being the lit end of the filter. This man has seen me in my pyjamas so many times I've lost count. He's seen me with bed head, without a scrap of makeup, several times a week for the last six years. I have perfected the art of creeping around my kitchen in the dark so as to avoid his staring, which even I find ridiculous as I'm doing it. I once even managed to make a sandwich in the dark for fear of him seeing me in fewer clothes than I wish to confess. I used to find his silence and stealth unnerving. Creepy, even. Yet I've never so much as exchanged more than a "hello" with this man in the whole time I've lived here.
And then I realised one day that maybe it's me who's actually disturbing his routine, his little slice of peace and quiet in an otherwise boring and monotonous day. Maybe my dogs barking while he's trying to reflect on the meaning of life actually drives him to despair. Maybe he sees me appear silhouetted in the doorway in my nightwear and his heart sinks a little because he knows his solace will be disturbed.
None of this will make me stop scuttling around my kitchen in the dark fumbling for glasses and snacks from the fridge. Even after all these years I'd still like to maintain the pretence that he does actually recognise me with normal clothes on, as opposed to last night's outfit. But it did make me realise that sometimes we are so quick to judge another's motives for doing something that we don't stop to consider the alternatives. I'm not saying he purposefully watches out for me so that he can check out my latest ensemble (although who wouldn't want to see me in my frog-covered pyjamas, I ask you?). But I do think that maybe, just maybe, the only enjoyment this man has in his life is his one guilty pleasure.
And I can fully relate to that. Because mine is travel.