The May Queens
(originally posted 8/22/2013)
“Voyeur isn’t such an ugly-sounding word,” she said to herself as she crouched in the shrubbery outside my window. “In fact,” she noted, “it has an almost romantic ring to it.” She suppressed a small laugh. “Ask the voyeur to bring the bags up to the room.”
How do I know this? I was watching her watch me.
That’s my thing.
I like to watch people watch me. I could tell you more about her but I think I’d rather, not surprisingly, as you’ll find out, talk about myself. More precisely, how I came to be not only a voyeur but one of a very particular variety.
I started out being as interested in other people as most people are. We all mill about and take in our environments and as other people are part of our environments we take them in, whether it’s grudgingly or not, with varying degrees of interest. Depending on your mood, the same exact scene with the same players might be fascinating or just plain exhausting.
I was watching a man coach youth football years back. I was curious and absorbed with him and because I didn’t know him you might call me a voyeur but as I was standing there in plain sight of everyone I didn’t feel like one.
He spent the first half of the practice impressing upon the players what a superb athlete he was. In fact, most of the boys must have been wondering what hideous twist of fate had deposited this specimen in front of them instead of his making a fortune marching up and down some far-off stadium every Sunday in front of adoring fans. He gave me the impression that he had wondered that to himself almost on a daily basis since college.
The second half of the practice was consumed with making sure the players knew how fortunate they were to have him as a coach.
I wondered if he was aware of the fact that every parent there knew he was coaching for the singular reason of making sure his little Billy or Brian, or whatever his maladjusted offspring’s name happened to be, was going to play quarterback. I didn’t get that impression. I got the feeling that he thought he was fooling everyone.
All the while little Billy or Brian, or whatever his offspring’s name happened to be, threw the ball like a girl and seemed ready and eager to step up and begin disappointing his father.
Disgusted, I spun on my heels, walked awhile, and then saw what appeared to be a 40 year old man standing outside a grocery store smoking a cigarette. It was a bit creepy watching someone who wasn’t aware he was being watched; not “it puts the lotion in the basket” creepy, but creepy nonetheless. He was wearing the requisite uniform of a checkout man and he had the requisite posture of a checkout man as he leaned against the building and drew in great gulps of smoke. In less than a minute it was clear to see that he lacked the quiet dignity to just go out and purchase a gun and stick the business end under his chin and get it over with.
In my mind’s eye I could see him exiting his doctor’s after his yearly physical, greeting the news of his clean bill of health with mixed feelings.
Taking people in quickly went from fascinating to exhausting. All in the space of an hour.
How anyone can actually enjoy watching someone that isn’t themselves is really beyond me.
Different strokes for pathetic folks I guess.
I don’t want to be as dark as I am when I see myself reflected as just another asshole. A funhouse mirror telling lonely truths.
My next taste of voyeurism was when I was reading a book I purchased at a used book store. The Plague by Albert Camus, if you must know. As I read I couldn’t help seeing little brackets around different passages. At first I assumed that the previous owner was some sort of student and they were taking notes of the particularly important parts of the book. This theory fell apart when I noticed that few if any of the notations happened to be of any consequence. I wanted them to be the profound stuff or the witty stuff or at least stuff likely to be on a quiz, but the sentences framed between crude brackets were almost uniformly irrelevant to the story. Then every once in awhile they grabbed a phrase that wasn’t entirely meaningless so I couldn’t just write off the notations as completely random.
By the middle of the book ol’ Albert was boring the stuffing out of me, but the faceless scribbler had me captivated. I tried to look at each of the captive sentences as pieces of a larger puzzle I was unable to put together, but eventually I had to admit to myself that their machinations would remain a mystery.
I had been hooked, but the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze. I was jealous of the attention I had paid to this unknown note-taker and imagined how obsessed I would have been had the scribbling been a little more coherent.
What I needed was to take a little drive down to where voyeurism and vanity intersected.
I would be worth it. I’m better than that and I can prove it by stringing together words that make me feel for fleeting moments as wonderful as I do when I’m singing a song that moves me despite not knowing what it’s about.
I would write short stories within classic books using a yellow highlighter and then after someone who could fully appreciate the wonder that is me started to read them they would, no doubt, seek me out thinking that perhaps a little stalking was in order.
I made sure to clearly sign out each book that I had “published” something in so the trail would lead immediately to me. You wouldn’t exactly have to be Sherlock Holmes to solve this case.
My address is in the phone book.
… it didn’t take long.
Now I have four “admirers.” It’s rare that an evening goes by that I don’t see a bustle in my hedgerow and let me tell you something… I’m loving it.
The trick is not to let on that I know that they’re there. Sometimes it’s all I can do not to throw my hands open and bask in their voyeurism, but I’m made of stronger stuff than that.
I haven’t let anyone see me naked to date but I think it’s fair to say they’ve all seen me sporting naught but a towel. I don’t mean to be a tease, it’s just that underneath the towel I am fully at attention and that might be a bit much for both parties to handle so early in the courtship. There are a couple of females that I wouldn’t mind putting the lotion in the basket with, if you catch my drift, but then the dance would end and I wouldn’t trade these delicious evenings for all the physical gratification in the world.
If we are, to some degree, what others think we are, than the trick is to find a way to make them see us as we want to be and not just as we are. If they see me how I want to be than that’s how I am, right?
The battle rages on.