Within windows

When I lived in Paris, I turned 20 years old. Soon after that, I visited New York for the first time. It was the Christmas season.

It was evening when I landed at JFK airport. I was surprised at how early the sunset was in New York. The darkness made me feel cold, lonely and anxious.

I took a bus from JFK to Manhattan, and even now I still clearly remember that day.

I felt nervous. In the seat in front of me were two men who were Hispanic. They were kissing continuously. Towards the back were some Chinese people. Their loud voices and excitement made me think they had not seen each other for a long time. In contrast, next to me were sitting a black family with their heads hung. They seemed isolated. The man I took to be the father was with 3 young boys. Even though there was no mother, they were like a family. Yet seeing them brought the cold, loneliness and anxiety back in a flood.

Even though I had just arrived in New York, something I had been longing for, I couldn’t help feeling slightly dispirited. I kept glancing at that family sitting in silence without a mother, seeing myself in their shoes, then turned my eyes to the view outside, all the time trying to keep my emotions locked away.

But this was impossible. And although that family had made me feel sad, it was the view I could see through the glass that really brought my emotions to the surface.

The tranquil residential area went on and on. I looked in fascination at each house with their proud Christmas decorations. Hanging from the door, in the porch, on the roof, lighting up the windows, even in the garden trees they were.

I had never before thought about whether angels existed or not, but at that time I found myself considering it.

I could see each tiny light of each decoration was trickling with the glow and worth of family.

The windows were particularly impressive. The individual character of each window frame; the warmth of family bursting through the glass; and the soft silhouettes of that family within could be seen through the window.

At that moment the black family got off the bus. I couldn’t help but hope that they were going to go back inside one of those windows I had just seen.

Wonder suddenly hit me. As the bus came round the last curve, Manhattan stretched out abruptly before me. Ever since my childhood, I had been in love with this scene. And as I grew up, my longing for Manhattan had deepened.

The vista was completely taken up by the many skyscrapers of Manhattan. I was always drawing this image in my heart. While I was being bowled over by the overwhelming sights that my eyes were fixed upon, the bus continued on its path through Manhattan. As we approached the skyscrapers, I became unable to see them in their entirety, and I noticed that a strange feeling had been developing within me.

Even though I was nervously arriving in Manhattan for the first time, which I had been longing for, I experienced an inexplicable feeling of returning to the place where I was born. Apprehensive as I was, a part of me felt at home. All the things I had been searching for since childhood were here, and it was as if they were opening their arms to welcome me home.

The feeling of loneliness had now disappeared. It was gone, it had been dispelled. Once more, from inside the bus, I cast my gaze from uptown Manhattan all the way to downtown Manhattan. Wherever I looked, I could see any number of windows. And again, from each window emanated a warm glow.

While I was gazing at them, I had the thought that windows were a symbol of human life. I noticed that the tens of thousands of windows were permeated with the fundamentals of our lives, like home, family, daily life, office work and so on.

When I at last found my way to Manhattan, from deep within me I was sure I already loved this place. All the things I had been seeking truly existed, every single one of them, and all of them welcomed me kindly.

Since then, I have been making glass and producing pictures using the concept of a window. Daily life is nothing unusual, but is the most meaningful part of being a human. So I believe that there is something important, a symbol of sorts, within the window.

It was a while after I came to Manhattan that I met her. What she was most proud of were her home state of Texas and the view from her apartment. One day I visited that small, downtown apartment of hers. It seemed that she had chosen an afternoon with good weather to show me the view from her window.

It was an apartment with a simple table and chair and nothing special in its appearance. There weren’t even any curtains on the window. She took the wooden chair and placed it facing the window, then made me sit down. She couldn’t wait and threw open the window.

I was impressed beyond words, my heart pounded in my chest. Seeing a tear roll down my cheek, she looked at me with concern but this quickly turned to pride and she gave me a smile.

The twin towers rose imposingly, high into an ultramarine sky. It was so beautiful. I held the view for a long while.

This touching moment passed quietly, yet lingered within me. I sat there, gazing at the Twin Towers, and one day became the next.
The Twin Towers inspired words in me such as modernity, freedom, hope, democracy, peace, dreams, the future, love, family, work, and life. These were words that I cherished and helped me to face life.

After that, I moved to Italy.

In September, 2001, I watched as my hopes, dreams and freedom fell down before my eyes on a live broadcast from America. I felt devastated.

These beloved windows were disappearing one by one.

The belief held in the windows of being free one day was now being destroyed.

Hope was turning to ruin.

I cannot begin to think how families felt, seeing their loved ones die on television.

Until yesterday, you worked in those offices. When they collapsed, what were you thinking?

Wounded democracy.

Will we ever know a quiet, daily life again? The last, painful day of a peaceful world.

There is almost an illusion within me that it has been a long time since I looked through her window at that most modern symbol of freedom.

The windows I had longed for are no more.

I was deeply wounded. I felt that something inside me had been erased.

When the sorrowful pile of rubble emerged from the smoke before my eyes, I thought that nothing would ever be possible again. As I saw the dreams I had kept till now become illusions and the whole world entering a dark tunnel, the words of my father flashed in my mind. Those were the words I resisted to believe above all others. I could not understand why my father told me this, and it didn’t seem possible that it was he who had said those words. They were words that I did not need; they had no connection with my own thoughts. My father wrote the words to me in a hospital bed, before slipping into a vegetative state.

”Life is a steep hill, which you must climb with a heavy load.”

I didn’t have to pretend to be strong anymore, and my spirit hardened as a result. But what I had accepted was cruel. For it meant that I would deny my own past and former thoughts. In other words, what I said to the Twin Towers in the moment of farewell, was what I was saying to myself until yesterday. This I felt with a burning intensity.

I was totally bewildered by the scenes coming from the TV. And myriad thoughts ran through my mind.

Despite all this, upon closing my eyes, I could see the windows as clear as day. They were undamaged. The warmth of kind families spilling out, hope’s light had not been taken away. I was not putting a brave face on this. This was how I truly felt.

When I was at a sensitive stage in my life, I had perceived what the truth was in my life and what was important to me.

Soon after that I became an adult. But even now, I live my life believing that. My perception will not be destroyed by any terrorist. So, of course, I still believe in those windows even now. And I can see freedom and hope at anytime from my window. And the warmth of family spills out. Daily life is unchanging, unlimited, and unending. I would like to invite many people to stand by my window. I want to look together at what we hold dear.

She was 28 then, and I have no way of knowing how she is now, but I think it is unlikely she lives there anymore. Even now I sometimes remember her window. Sitting on that old chair, looking out the window at the view. Even now the ultramarine sky remains. Huge clouds glide across. Nothing changes in the world.

I decided not to believe it again.

Tsuchida Yasuhiko New Year, 2003, Venice