Living with someone who didn’t grow up here has allowed me to see New York differently. Sometimes, I feel as if I am seeing it for the first time. « Why are the eggs here white? » (French supermarkets normally offer brown eggs.) “How many feet are there in a meter?» I am supposed to have an explanation for every cultural query, but I don’t always have the answers.
Several years ago, a French friend in New York asked me, « What are those things on the roof? » We were standing by the window and admiring the view. I looked out at the SoHo rooftops, but didn’t see anything in particular. What was my friend talking about? « Right there, on the rooftop, » she insisted. Ok, I saw the roof, but it looked normal to me. There wasn’t anything there. As I was about to tell my friend that it was just a roof , I suddenly understood. She meant the water towers which are situated on many apartment building rooftops (see photo). I had seen them so many times that I didn’t even notice them anymore. The conversation only lasted a few minutes, but I think about it often. It served as a reminder that I could look at something without really seeing it.