The window

Grey hood

Grey hood

I moved recently. My family and I packed up our house in Glebe and moved a couple of streets over. This suited us. We didn't want to travel to a new suburb and disrupt my son's first year of school. It's been hard enough for the poor kid getting used to kindergarten. Uprooting Bailey and dumping him into a new school with new faces would be upsetting for everyone.

Our new house is smaller – about half the size of our previous. There is no view. It's an inner city terrace, one in a row, facing another row of terraces. Small but charming and I like that we all sleep on the same level.

Our old house had big windows that looked out towards a park. The park had children's play equipment, grass, fig trees. Not quite picturesque but a nice touch of green amidst all the urban sprawl. My children had birthday parties there.

It was a nice park. At least during the day. At night it became something different.

Living inner-city is different from living in the outer suburbs where everything seems peaceful and there at least exists the illusion of safety. An inner-city suburb has a slightly dangerous unpredictable energy. Above the constant hum of traffic, police sirens wail. Walls are thin. You hear voices raised in anger and in joy. That's part of the inner-city's charm.

Street to street this vibe can change quite dramatically. Some areas feel wilder than others, more dangerous and unpredictable. My old house was in one such area.

Despite the wonderful community that made up the bulk of the area, a few desperate characters also lurked about. Most were harmless. Some weren't. You learned to give the hollow-eyed ones a wide berth. If you didn't you'd risk becoming a target. Being a parent sharpens your instincts for these things, keeps you wary. Maybe a little too wary.

At night, the park outside my house became a congregation point for these sort of people – people who had no business being in a park. I saw drug deals, folk drinking and setting fire to play equipment. I called the cops a couple of times. It's not cool when the drama happening outside your window is louder than whatever is on Netflix.

On the eastern and southern axis of the park's corner stood two pubs. Old man pubs. The sort of pubs that had regulars who sat out the front from opening to close. Sometimes I'd hear their coarse voices shouting unintelligibly in the early hours of the morning as they wound their way home.

When the pubs closed, the party often continued in the park. Drinks were consumed, cigarettes smoked, and slurred profanities exchanged. I'd smell their cigarettes while lying in bed. Luckily, my children are deep sleepers.

Sometimes I'd glimpse pedestrians walking past the park late at night and I'd get afraid. Especially, if they were alone. I'd wait till they safely left my field of view, tense, ready to run downstairs should the situation call for it. I don't know what I'd do if they were attacked. I'm hardly Batman.

I imagined I could see phantoms lurking in the shadows. Violent men with violent purpose. At least I hope I was imagining them.

It got to the point where I would force myself to look away from the window if I happened to pass it after dark. I didn't want to see anything horrible happening. I never did. Except in my dreams where the window haunted me, showing me things I'd always feared to see.

My new house is small but I like it just fine. The windows look out at nothing. Nothing much at all.


Michael Hearle