This post deals with sexual harassment and might be triggering for some readers.
Where I grew up in a green and hilly suburb of New York, my bedroom faced the house just behind ours.
And in the window of that house, on the right side on the second floor, I would often see a middle-aged man facing outward, completely naked. And he was doing... something, with his hands near his crotch.
I didn’t see exactly what he was doing in all its gory detail; I never stared for too long. I didn’t want to know.
But his intentions were clear: He was naked, pleasuring himself, and he wanted to be seen.
He had all of his brightest lights turned on even in the darkest of night, and he was possibly even standing on something so that more of his torso was visible within the window frame.
I wondered if I had done something to provoke him.
Throughout puberty and my teenage years, I saw him there regularly, sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night.
It made me shudder.
When I saw him or suspected he saw me, it felt a little like I’d just participated in something dirty. I felt complicit, a little bit guilty even.
I wondered if I had done something to provoke him. Had I sent him the wrong message by accident?
Did I get naked in front of my window with the blinds open one too many times?
Did I give him a reason to think I liked it?
Later, I also learned that this same man was sometimes seen in our backyard.
He would crawl through the hedges that separated our two homes to watch my mother who works out every morning on the ground floor.