Some of the most intimate things we can share with another person are our little routines, our quotidian rituals. I feel like I'm being let in on some kind of secret when I watch someone who doesn't seem to know I'm watching. In five minutes of anonymous observation, I can potentially learn something about a man that took his best friend five years to discover. Just as my neighbors might catch me attempting to gauge my flexibility by touching my big toe to my cheek, a habit I managed to hide from David for the first few years of our relationship.
It's interesting to feel such intimacy with people I've never officially met. This morning I went across the street for a cup of tea when I spotted her , the neighbor I watch, walking toward me. I smiled the familiar smile of an old friend and had the urge to run up to her, embrace her, and ask her what she was up to. She returned my silent greeting with the reserved smile of a stranger passing on the street. Seeing this, I withheld my barrage of questions in the sudden realization that I didn't even know her name.