From my window, I can see all that I ever care to.

This part of town has gone downhill quite a bit, I'm sorry to say. Quite a bit, in fact.

When I was a girl (and I'm not telling you how long ago that was, but I will admit to thinking, back when I first heard Elvis on the radio, that this "rock and roll" nonsense was just a silly fad and it wouldn't last) this part of town was hot stuff.

Those who could afford to live here, back in the day, occupied the entire house, not just one of the modest, four-room apartments that these brick piles of faded elegance have all been broken up into.

When I was a girl, I always said I was going to live in this neighbourhood someday, and now I do. That's me, though. I always do what I set out to do. I'm some proud of that.

I've got a nice big bay window in my living room. It doesn't actually overlook a bay, but it's out

of the direct sunlight, and it faces the street, so I can pay attention to the comings and goings around here. It's a way to pass the time.

Lined up on the white-painted windowsill, my ferns thrive; and, for the side window, I've got one of those screen inserts, so I can get some fresh air occasionally without having a bird or a squirrel sneak in.

One time, a cat actually jumped through the window and stole a piece of toast, right off my kitchen table! The little thief jumped right out again, which was good because I don't like cats. Not one bit. You could have knocked me right over when I saw him zipping through my living room. I bought the screen panel right after that.

I've been here a long time. Almost forty years now. I'm the most senior tenant, and that ought

to mean something, but it doesn't. Oh, the landlord isn't a bad sort, but he just pretends to listen to me when I tell him what's wrong around here. He just humours me, he does, and nothing ever gets fixed.

There are six apartments in this old mansion, and I've seen quite the collection of humanity pass through here. Can't remember most of them now, and I don't really care. At my age, I figure I've earned the right to not care about anything that I don't want to care about. Almost like a trade-off, isn't it? Aches and pains, arthritis and asthma, in return for the right to a good heaping dose of guilt-free selfishness. I'm not sure which I'd prefer, to tell the truth. Some days, my hands do ache something fierce.

When I was a girl, I remember my Ma telling me that I had to look out for myself, because I couldn't count on anyone else to. I suppose she was speaking from experience. I don't remember my Pa. He ran off when I was just a baby. I don't think Ma missed him too much. She might have missed his paycheque, but I think that's it, really.

Ma was pretty, real pretty, with her taffy-coloured curls and her bright red lips. She always had her pick of men to take her out. Just like I did when I was old enough. And just like her, I'd no use for a husband, either. She learned the hard way, and I learned from her mistake.

I had my own job, and I earned my own money, waiting tables at Ricky's uptown. Ricky's is gone now, by the way. That's too bad. Didn't pay great, but the tips were good and we girls had a pretty good time working there.

Saturday nights, we'd get off early and meet up with some fellows and go out dancing. Those were good times. I made enough to dress nicely, to eat well, to put a little in the bank, and to rent this fine little apartment. I wasn't rich, but I was content enough.

Oh, but some of the things I've seen from my window! I could write a book, I'm sure.

Guess I never started to feel old, until I noticed that some of those rotten kids I used to yell at for playing out front of the building (they made an awful racket) started coming around with their own children, to visit their parents. The girls I used to wait tables with would come by for coffee and a

catch-up, and they'd show me pictures of their grandkids. Maybe that's when I started feeling my age, all those aches and pains and wrinkles.

Maybe that's when I started to spend more time sitting by my window. Just sitting and thinking. It was something to do, and boy, I saw some strange things, sometimes.

Few years ago – can't remember how long ago, now – one of the first homosexual marriages was performed right here in the city, right at the church on the corner. Such a protest that brought on! I sat right here by my window, on a gold velvet chair that was here when I moved in, and I watched the big fuss outside. These people, who likely didn't even know the two men who were having their wedding there that day, were all marching around, yelling, waving signs and such. They caused such a commotion.

Good grief. What was it to them? I know enough to know that good love is hard to find. If someone's lucky enough to find someone they love enough to marry, does it really matter if it's to a boy or a girl? It's not hurting me any. I remember all these crazy ideas that people had, back in the nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies. I remember thinking at the time that people themselves were going crazy. But when I see how people treat each other nowadays, sometimes I wonder if those nutty hippies didn't have some good ideas, after all.

To be fair, though, it's not all bad here. In fact, it sure is pretty outside, come Christmas time. The old streets are all soft-like with snow. Christmas lights sparkle from the antique windows and doorways, and at night, it's quiet. So quiet. You can almost hear the snowflakes falling on the ground, gentle and crackly. Like a Christmas card. I guess I wouldn't be surprised to see an old-fashioned horse and buggy sliding along, or kids singing Christmas songs out front. Kind of magical, actually.

Ah, listen to me ramble on, here. Who am I kidding about magic? I'm old, older than dirt even, and I'm sore, and I'm cranky, and I'm getting some fed up with that woman across the hall who's out until all hours of the night, at her parties. She comes home loud and drunk, and sometimes she even

brings men home with her. I've complained to the landlord about her, but she's pretty and he's a man, so I doubt he'll do anything about her. I guess it's a good thing that I'm going deaf. Maybe I'll get to sleep through a night sometime, instead of being jolted awake by her hollering and stumbling about. I was a bit wild in my day, but nothing like that. My crowd was considered "fast", but we weren't trash.

Not all the tenants are like her, though. There's one who's nice enough. He lives down the hallway, and he's as dark as a cocoa bean. Cute as a button, too. Doesn't speak a whole lot of English, but he smiles a lot and always holds the door for me. He's got a dog. I hate dogs. One time that big mutt got loose and ran down the hallway, right past my door. The dark boy ran down the hallway, hollering at the dog in some language that I didn't understand, but that wasn't the big deal. The big deal is that he was naked! The boy, not the dog. Nothing I haven't seen before, mind you. But I don't know who was more embarrassed that day, me or him. Probably him.

One thing that I don't like – it always makes me feel real sorry – is when the weather turns cold, and homeless people sneak in and sleep in the entryway. That's sad, that is. Ma always taught me that charity begins at home, and I guess I'd rather see the government put our tax money into this country, before they go helping out some other country. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, though. I'm sure the government's got its reasons for what it does. When those vagrants sneak in, I don't call the landlord about them. If they mind their own business, I pretend that I don't know about them. It's not hurting anyone to let them warm up a bit.

Oh, here we go again. The never-ending parade of people next door. They're usually quiet enough during the daytime, but it's "knock-knock-knock" all night long. I do get tired of hearing that.

Every now and then the police raid that building and make a bunch of arrests, and sometimes it even makes the news. But within a week or two, it starts all over again. I'm not sure what's going on there, but I don't think I quite like it much. I'm guessing it might be drugs, but I'm not sure and I'm certainly not going to go knock on that door to find out. I try not to stick my nose in other peoples' business.

Upstairs, I can hear music playing from the apartment of the young couple that lives here. I

don't know much about them, except that they listen to music a lot (but not too loud), they cook a lot (and it always smells good) and they go out a lot (probably to work – they're usually wearing uniforms). They say hello when they pass me by.

One time the young fellow knocked me over in the entryway. I was bending over to pick up some flyers that had been tossed onto the floor, and he must not have seen me when he pushed the front door open. That door smacked me right on the rump and knocked me right over! He was sorry, and he helped me up, but my rear end was sore for a couple of days. Kids don't look where they're going these days.

Sometimes, I think this neighbourhood is going completely to seed. It's a sad thing. It used to be such a fancy neighbourhood.

And now it's raining out. I love a good rainstorm. In this part of town, rain doesn't just sprinkle down in polite little drops. It falls down hard, in heavy, steady sheets and drenches a person head to toe, regardless how much rain gear they're wearing. It gusts against the old, rippled windowpanes, shaking the sense right out of them, and it drums a hard beat on the roof that even I can hear all the way down here on the first floor, even with my poor hearing.

On nights like this, I like to light one of those new firelogs in the fireplace. Doesn't warm the place up much, but it's nice. When it rains like this, I can't see much from my window anyway, so I'll just enjoy the fire for a while. It's awfully soothing, and I guess I might light one on of them tonight.

One of the upstairs tenants just hopped up the front steps to the hallway, and I can hear him

checking his mail. I may be an old woman now, but I do like to look at that one. He's one fine-looking young man. They sure didn't make them like that when I was young. I hear he plays sports for a living. He always says hello when he sees me, and he's quiet, and polite, and he's just dumb enough. Just the way I like a man. I guess I wouldn't mind if he were to run around the halls naked.

I can hear singing from upstairs, and it's not the couple who play music all the time. They've turned their music off. Maybe they're watching television. I bet it's that young girl who's singing, the

one who doesn't seem too bright. Nice girl, though. Very sweet.

Last week, she stopped in on her way home from the market with a potted rosebush for me. Said she was buying one for herself, and thought I might like one, with tiny yellow roses blooming all over it. What a kind thing for her to do! I've got that rosebush on my windowsill right now, and even though some of the blooms are dying, I can see some new buds starting to peek out of the leaves. I thought that was some nice of her. Her pretty little head is bald, and that's a shame, that is, because she's sick. Truth be told…I think she's dying.

I don't know everyone's name in this building. In fact, I hardly know them at all. But sometimes, it feels like a big, disjointed kind of family here. A family like I never had, like I didn't know enough to miss. It's kind of nice, I guess. I can be alone here, but I'm never lonely. A girl could do worse, I suppose.

Oh, no. He's out again. I can hear him, even with the rain pounding down.

Now, I don't know who that man is, or what his problem is, but he's definitely got something going on in that head of his. Every night at this time, he walks down the street, just hollering for all he's worth: "Crazy old Albert! Got an axe! Now Edna's missing!" Over and over and over. I always wonder if I should call the cops. I always wonder if he's Albert. And I always wonder about this Edna.

You know, maybe it's my imagination, but I think maybe I can hear this Edna screaming.

Someone certainly is, anyway. Who it might be, I can't say. Maybe it's the wind. Did I just hear a door slam? Of course, that could be just the wind in the trees.

Except…I don't think so.

I press my face up against the glass. My vision is all distorted from those heavy waves of water pouring down. It's hard to make things out clearly, but I can see well enough.

Oh...oh, no...

Yes, I can see, but this once, I wish that I couldn't. Oh, dear.

There's a woman collapsed out front of the building.

Looks like she fell down the steps from next door. She's half-naked, and beaten, and bloody, and she's crying. She's trying to crawl away, and the poor thing's fingers are scraped and bleeding on the pavement. The rain is streaming down, carrying dark red blood into the gutter, and there are men pouring out of that house, the one that the cops always raid. They're heading right over to that poor girl, too.

I don't think that they mean to help her.

My hands are shaking so hard that I can barely press the buttons on my cordless phone. It takes me a couple of tries.

Nine. One. One.

My voice is usually sharp, but not now, it isn't. Right now, I sound like a frightened old woman and I have to repeat myself a few times, so the dispatcher can understand me. I'm shivering so much that I can't understand everything he's saying to me, but I latch right on to what I need to hear most: Help is on the way. I back up until I fall in to one of the chairs at my kitchen table, still gripping the phone in my cold hands. They're trembling.

From my window, I can see all that I ever care to.

But this time...

This time...oh,dear...

I saw too much. More than I ever wanted to.