We got one of those Windows on the World packages today, or as the commercials say: “Just . . . WOW!”
I was in class when the installers came to hang the panels, and I came out of my room to find my mother sweeping up the packing materials and pushing it all down the garbage chute.
What do you think? She signed to me, indicating with a sweeping gesture the “window” in the kitchen and the set of three in the living room.
I signed back. How does it work?
She handed me the remote and the manual. By the time my father finished work and came out of his office, I had it figured out.
The panels showed scenes from thousands of different places. You could push the Info button and it would tell you the location: Wido, Korea; Iguazu, Argentina; Koh Kong, Cambodia. They went on and on. They were all live video, and you could birds flying in the sky, and the grass moving with the wind. I saw animals from time to time, but no people.
I loved it best when I found how to sync all the panels to show the same scene. It was as if half the house had suddenly disappeared and we were really looking out onto a savannah at sunset or a rocky beach in Japan.
My parents liked the ocean views the best, but my favorite was the grassy field with trees in the distance. They couldn’t understand that—it wasn’t as stunning as other views, and I couldn’t really explain it myself, but as I was lying in bed that night, it suddenly hit me.
I wanted to see the wind. Watching the grass move and the leaves of the trees twitching under those invisible hands awoke a longing in me I had never even suspected before. I sneaked out to the living room. The windows were set to match our days and nights and I sat on the couch all night long, hypnotized by the moon-pale stalks as they rustled and swayed.
Do you think all of those places are real? I asked my mom the next day.
Of course, they’re real, she replied, signing around the book she was reading. Why wouldn’t they be?
Can we visit sometime? I asked.
I knew the answer. She just looked at me for a moment, sadness mixing with sympathy in her expression, then bent down over her book again.
I asked my dad later, when my mother was out of eyesight. Maybe, he said, meaning that he didn’t know either but had not given up hope like my mom.
After a week of looking at the Windows on the World, I was near frantic to feel the wind on my skin, to feel cool and hot and rain and snow. I had never felt any of those in my life, but now they consumed my thoughts. It was like being an addict for a drug you have never tried. I could not tell my parents. As bad as seeing those tantalizing images, it would be even worse to get rid of them now.
Can I go outside? I asked my mom after class.
You mean to the community center?
No, really outside.
She frowned and looked suspicious, as if I were requesting to cook dinner or do the laundry. Finally she put down her book. Why?
I just want to. It was nothing I could explain. There was no reason to go outside except for work: certainly nothing particularly fun to do.
She nodded at last and picked up her book again.
I got ready by myself, but she came over before I went to the front door of the apartment to make sure everything was in order and that the connections were all snug. I went out into the hall and walked to the closest outer door.
Five minutes later, I was stepping out of the airlock and into the parking lot outside our residence complex. The sun was high above me, and the reddish dust danced and drifted in mockery of the wind I craved but could never feel.
I realized as soon as I came outside that I had made a miscalculation. I should have come out at night, but it was not until that moment when I really understood why I had wanted to come outside.
I lay down carefully on the concrete parking lot and punched in some commands on the computer built into the left arm of my suit. The internal display in my helmet sprang to life. It took a few seconds until crosshairs appeared in the upper right of my helmet.
Earth, it was labeled. Current distance: 67.3 million kilometers.
There was nothing to see in that deep blue expanse above me, but I kept staring at that spot anyway. I knew that at the intersection of those two lines, somewhere across unimaginable distances of frozen space, the wind was blowing through the grass.