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Anonymous Neighbours

© Erica Canepa

I am lucky enough to live on the 25th floor of a building in Buenos Aires.

The apartment is small, but my partner and I fell in love with the view the moment we set foot in it three years ago. The sky from up here is stunning, and I spend long hours looking at the clouds. From here, the passing of the seasons looks different than in the streets: it is not about just leaves and trees, but mostly about storms and the different colours of the sunsets.

For some reason, only a few months ago I realised how many neighbours I have! They have always been there, but their presence suddenly became tangible to me since the 19th of March 2020, when Argentine president Alberto Fernandez declared the national lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

March, in Argentina, represents the end of the summer. The days are still warm, even though we can already smell autumn arriving. From my balcony, I’ve watched neighbours using their terraces to escape their closed flats, spending time in little squares of open air. While mirroring myself on them, I’ve slowly got familiar to their little habits and embroidered stories to them.

On the top of the terrace at the corner with the main square, two families often meet in the afternoon and let their children play together, the taller kid usually wears Maradona’s national team shirt. In the white building that reminds me of a minimal beehive, because all the flats are studios, I rarely see people on the balconies, but many lights turn on at night, revealing life behind the windows. My favourite time of the day is late afternoon, right before the light turns orange, when it’s merienda time (the equivalent of the afternoon tea): at this time, when the sun is not so strong anymore, my neighbours sit outside to have coffee or to share a mate with their housemates.

At this time of the day a tattooed girl always take a big mug and sits looking around with her dog; a couple of guys fill the table with different kind of biscuits and share many mates and chat, despite of the emergency, they look relaxed, they seem to enjoy this break from life.

From up here I imagine to read their minds and I believe they look for their previous “normal life” in the open air of the balconies. Like L.B. Jefferies in ‘Rear Window,’ I look at all of them with my long lens. I spy these little and intense worlds with curiosity. Watching them is a way to feel life around me and to contrast the horrible news that is coming from Italy, my motherland. Or, maybe, Hitchcock would just call me a voyeur!
-Erica Canepa, March 2021

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