Voyage Around My Room: Part 6, The Windows

What follows is a continuation of an out-right rip off I wrote in 2012 of Xavier de Maistre‘s book Voyage autour de ma chambre. Don’t miss the exquisite Part 5, The Walls.

The Windows

They are tall and wide the way windows have to be to gather as much of the available light as possible. I appreciate the old style molding surrounding them and wide sills beneath. The glass is newish, with wobbly black metal sashes and no mullions, and the screens only have occasional holes in them. The southern window has the small, exhausted air conditioner in it at the bottom with plastic accordion filling up the open space around it, sealed in with a bad foam insulation job. We draped an old gray towel over it the first summer we were here to try to reduce the incessant rattling of the plastic frame at the top and never took it off. The air con works somewhat, but in the deepest heat of summer when we are running it full bore, the wheezing makes it difficult to hear the programs we watch on our laptop. Each summer we are sure that we’ll demand that the landlord fix it or tell them to buy us a new one or we’ll buy a new one ourselves, but none of these things have happened.

Due to its smallness and the ability to isolate the space by closing the door, this room becomes the easiest to environmentally control. Between the air con and the radiator the room is the most consistently warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The rest of the house heats and cools with the passage of the sun, and forms an effective wind tunnel by opening the windows in the front room all the way down the crooked shotgun of the hallway to the back door that exits on the tiny metal cage of a balcony. But the bedroom is left out of the airflow almost entirely, so the room’s northern window requires two fans, one in the window and one in the hallway, to create any freshness.

The only treatments adorning the windows are the metal blinds that came with the place. I’m pretty happy with them because they are the two sets in the house that descend the full length of the window, have the least number of bent slats, and each possesses the twisty bar for the complete range of blind positioning adjustments. The northern set has its own strange bit of markings/decoration from a previous tenant: about half-way up the blinds there is a series of circular smears. Over the course of 10 slats, the smears appear one per slat in a diagonal line, going up from right to left about three inches apart. The smears are darkest at the bottom and fade to almost nothing by the 10th slat. The most interesting part is how evenly they are spaced; the number of smears fit exactly between the cords that run through and connect the blinds together. If I was a better housekeeper, I’m sure I would have cleaned them off by now. But since I’m not, I’ve been able to contemplate the smears the entire time we have resided here. What made them? Were they an accident or were they placed there on purpose? I have tried to picture the person who would have stood before these blinds and carefully spaced them out in such a pleasingly consistent way. I have to admire the control and ability to judge approximate distance and the aesthetic decision to have the smears change in value. It doesn’t look like defacement, but was it simply boredom?

The wide sills are an extra surface for M’s potential and former pocket items. Piles of free-range change, two thin black notebooks one of which is small enough to fit entirely in a man’s shirt breast pocket just like his dad, a small black Gerber clip knife sans serration to distinguish from mine, a lightweight Leatherman multi-tool, a lens wipe, Neutrogena Norwegian formula hand lotion, a yellow tube of lip balm with the label worn off, a pile of old receipts, and the room’s red numbered digital alarm clock.

The sills and frames were covered with paint that is still tacky to the touch, collecting dust and semi-adhering items to the surface that have sat there for a while. This problem is all over the apartment, but most visible on the sills during summer. Without central air, we keep many of the windows open throughout the summer. We also happen to live up the street from a Fed Ex distribution center that sends dozens of delivery trucks past our windows throughout the day. The diesel particles from the trucks (and other cars) build up a carbony black residue on the sticky cream sills that is a bitch to clean off. It’s like toner was blown delicately through the screens over the course of three months. Rags and cleaning fluid won’t do it; they just manage to glue the particles down and smear them around more evenly. They must be vacuumed first and then wiped down to reduce the residue. Summer in the city.

Author’s note: I did discover upon my final cleaning of the apartment before turning the place over to the management company a remedy for the black diesel dust on the sills: Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. That shit totally works. 

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