A few weeks ago, I noticed that the family in one of the apartments opposite mine had moved out.
When I moved in, the building opposite me was still under construction. I remember watching with interest as it was finally completed, then as people started trickling in.
From my little balcony, I observed people’s movements as they went through their lives — hanging up their washing, moving around their living rooms, watering their plants. To be honest, not a lot of people spent time on their balconies — I guess everyone prefers to be indoors nowadays — so when someone did hang out the same time I was out there, relaxing, I always took special interest.
In one of the top floors was that family — a couple with their small child. I remember when I first noticed them — he would’ve probably just turned one, a little boy dressed only in a nappy, taking a few unsteady steps as mum hung up clothes to dry. Sometimes they had friends over, also with small children. But usually it was just the three of them. Sometimes they would enjoy beers in the afternoon sun, chatting while their son played with his toys.
One time I crossed paths with the father on the street and almost said hi, that’s how familiar they felt.
When I sold my single bed a few years ago, the man who bought it brought along his son, who would be getting my bed. After letting his little man inspect the bed and give it his approval, we took a breather on the balcony. “Look,” the man said, pointing at the opposite apartment balcony, where my unknown neighbours were relaxing, “there’s a little dude.” And with the enthusiasm that children get when they observe other small fry, the son started waving madly and yelled, “Hi little duuuuuude!”
My unknown neighbour growing older has always been my marker of how much time has passed since I first moved in. I remember one day, with a start, that the “baby” was a toddler now.
Then, a few weeks ago, I noticed that their balcony had been seeming a bit empty. I observed the dad enjoying a solitary beer, staring out at the view, seemingly lost in his thoughts. His son strode in — with even, measured steps — he’d outgrown the quick, hurried steps of a toddler who is still making the most of the newfound skill of walking by running in short bursts.
Then they left the balcony.
Then they were gone.