Radiolab

Navigate
Return Home

The Living Room

Back to Episode

(Photo Credit: Bernhard Suter/Flickr)

We're thrilled to present a piece from one of our favorite podcasts, Love + Radio (Nick van der Kolk and Brendan Baker). 

Producer Briana Breen brings us the story: Diane’s new neighbors across the way never shut their curtains, and that was the beginning of an intimate, but very one-sided relationship.

Please listen to as much of Love + Radio as you can

Produced by:

Brendan Baker, Briana Breen and Nick van der Kolk

Comments [35]

ss from baltimore

I found this story very moving and honestly-told. In a world where people have a lot of nominal and often-virtual friends (FB, Twitter etc), I found the connection between Diane and the couple inspiring because it was quite the opposite: They didn't know each other but Diane developed what sounded like a genuine affection for this couple and a love this surviving young lady. I am a bit surprised by the anger of some of the commentators. Diane is honest and not entirely comfortable with how this developed. To me her story is inspiring because it demonstrates the human capacity to love in the absence of familiarity.

Jun. 30 2017 03:45 PM
Margie from POrtland OR

It was morally reprehensible for Radiolab listeners to be given the opportunity to gawk through the window at a young couple's private life just out of curiosity and titillation. But to then turn the whole sad story of the young man's death into a national entertainment feature on NPR is even harder to comprehend. The storyteller and NPR should have sought permission from the surviving young woman, like the military photographer did in the second story. Just because the young couple's names were not thought important enough to be revealed, doesn't mean they deserved to have their privacy ripped away from them like Radiolab did.

Jun. 26 2017 12:02 AM
KathyBryson from Kerrville, Texas

I listened to this when first aired in 2016. This is a lovely story. Being a neighbor requires both discretion and tolerance for forced intimacy. I watch the beautiful child next door grow up to bear a beautiful child, the elderly man across the way succumbing to disease as his walks become shorter in distance and his lanky frame bent lower and lower.
I've just shared the intimate moments I've observed in my visual frame. I'm not a pervert - nor was/is the storyteller.
Thank you for sharing one of these neighborhood glimpses we can't ignore in a touching story about life.

Jun. 25 2017 03:09 PM
Fred from Someone's el

Someone's illness and death used for this pervert's entertainment. There is something psychologically wrong with the story teller.

Jun. 24 2017 06:45 PM
Norrie from Boston

If Diane has erred, she has had her moment of redemption: She has opened her own curtains and exposed herself to us and our judgement.

Apr. 10 2017 10:07 PM
J

A person sits in a darkened room with a pair of binoculars, obsessively spying on a couple across the street. This person watches the couple have sex, judges them, chronicles their daily lives/routines/schedules, and then becomes actually obsessed with the couple. When the spying person goes on vacation to see their family, all they can think about is what's going on with the neighbor couple while they're away. One of the neighbors gets sick and dies and the person watches the whole thing, inserting themselves into the tragedy by talking about it on a radio show and crying about the loss.

This is not beautiful and haunting. It's sad, pathetic, and invasive. I feel bad for Diane and her lack of investment in her own life, but what if it were a man spying on people and becoming obsessed with them? Wouldn't he just be a creep?

Jun. 21 2016 06:22 PM
Max Cottrell from California

To the highly critical commenters: I would say that I think 99 percent of people would do the same as Diane. The Couple deliberately displayed themselves in full view, it was impossible not to see them. What is rare is to find anyone is willing to freely communicate a potentially embarrassing story. Most people do not have the courage to do that. Given the opportunity, I would be happy to spend time with Diane but not with the self-righteous, holier than thou and often vicious commenters.

Feb. 24 2016 09:12 PM
Emily

This story is haunting to me, in more ways than one. Sadly, this story of a young couple facing what is likely cancer is not an isolated incident. Unfortunately, young adult cancer patients/survivors mortality rates have not changed since 1975. Every year 72,000 adolescents and young adults aged 15-39 are diagnosed with cancer. That's one every eight minutes. 10,000 young adults die annually due to cancer. That's one every hour. There are ~1 million young adult cancer survivors in the United States. And I am one of them. I have been where that young man has been, and I feel for him and his family.

Feb. 23 2016 02:28 PM
DeeKay from St. Louis MO

Very moving. Interestingly, I felt like I wasn't supposed to be hearing Diane's story because it seemed so personal, as if she was talking with her therapist.

Feb. 22 2016 03:53 PM
Gary Obrin from Avon Lake OH

Thank you for sharing this heart wrenching story with me. As a younger person I worked several years as a nurse, and patients died not in their home, but with us. Now as an old man, my 85 year old parents remain in their home against the wishes of some of their family. My father has cancer and no one lives forever. Your story while tragic is beautiful on many levels and speaks to me as a celebration of life. I will share it with others who have not been privileged to listen.

Feb. 22 2016 06:57 AM

i thought this story was fascinating on so many levels....a mother of a small child is a lonely woman, and Diane obviously inserted herself in a place that she probably shouldn't have....but I would imagine more people than less would find this entire story unfolding before them hard to resist....I think she was brave to tell the story and expose herself as a voyeur. I love that she shared her story, and this couple's story...with the internet and all the other media for looking at other people's lives anonymously, I wonder why this seems to strike such a nerve with people- if I leave my life out in the open by not having curtains, then I must be ok with the possibility that someone is watching....great story....loved it!

Feb. 21 2016 05:39 PM
Tuco Ramirez from Earth!

I don't know who is more revolting; this pathetic,creepy, self-serving, sick peeping hag "Diane" (and her husband)who have absolutely no regard for that couple's privacy. Or, this disgusting, exploitative, do anything for ratings, "This American Life" wanna-be show called Radio Lab who recorded and aired her sick exploits. Specifically, Producer, Briana Breen, indulges that vile wench and is complicit in her disgusting behavior with this disgusting piece of yellow journalism. And by editorializing in their own Orwelian speak, they (Radio Lab)state and try to convince us that Diane had an "...intimate... relationship" with the unsuspecting couple. My question to the producer and to Radiolab Editors is this: In what freakin world do you people live in, where someone can have an "intimate relationship" with someone else, when the other party allegedly in the relationship, is totally unaware of the existence of the first party?!! That's like a person having an "intimate relationship" with a wall. Impossible! Evidently, having a husband, a young child, and working from home were not enough responsibilities to keep Diane busy for the two plus years she and her husband spent creepily peeping into their neighbor's most personal lives. Diane needs a life! This is the sickest story I've heard on the radio in a very long time. And then the hag cries crocodile tears in the end, trying to manipulate the listener to see her as an empathy-filled "good Samaritan." That's the biggest insult to that couple and to me as a listener! What a SELF-SERVING hag!

Feb. 21 2016 01:55 PM
Moses Juwillie from Germantown, Maryland

I listened to this story with my wife and two kids on our way from church. What a teaching moment. Couldn't she have being neighborly? Offer food, offer to run errands, offer companionship, offer to stay with one of the ladies while the other one took a break, offer etc. Even after his death, there is still opportunity to be helpful to a grieving girl or mother. Please Diane, do something and stop being a by-stander. What if it were you in their situation?
Diane, we are all our brothers and sisters keepers.

Feb. 21 2016 12:49 PM
Tim from Los Angeles

I think this is a powerful, moving story told beautifully and with a certain disarming frankness by the narrator, Diane. I find it ridiculous that a number of commenters are appalled by her and feel no sympathy for her at all, which tells me they are the ones who lack humanity and fail to understand the situation she describes. I think there's definitely a voyeuristic quality to Diane's increasing obsession with watching the activities of the couple across the way, but her discomfort at first is not from being "prudish and silly," as she says. She can't help seeing a window that opens for viewing by others. She has every right to feel like the couple needs to be aware of their exposure. Privacy is something that requires consideration on both sides, so to speak. The young couple in this case failed to consider the effect of their engaging in sex and walking around naked in a large window with no curtains, so they're the ones who are in effect forcing themselves on others who will be able to witness what's going on. I consider it very discourteous on their part, a kind of oblivious behavior where they should really consider the consequences. Diane gets drawn in and increasingly fixated on their activities, which is something she should have resolved quickly instead of letting it go on so long. It seems to me that what she should have done is somehow communicated to the management of that other building that a tenant is effectively exposing themselves to neighbors. Her mistake was allowing the spectacle to go on, believing she was somehow supposed to simply "live with" the couples' constant exposure.

Feb. 21 2016 12:20 AM
David from Boston

This story seemed to demonstrate the story teller's voyeurism and lack of humanity. She clearly got her kicks from watching this young couple and then seems to expect us to feel some empathy for her as their lives turned tragic. By not choosing to find some reasonable way to let them know what was going on, she chose to invade their privacy, sinking deeper and deeper into violating the boundaries of a couple, their family and their own private loss. My wife and I felt no empathy for her tears, only surprise at her behavior. I am glad she doesn't live in my neighborhood. She needs to donate her binoculars to a charity and rethink her ideas on the boundaries that are worth violating in order to get a story or entertain yourself. Her ending by talking about that she may have slept exposed in front of a window herself at a young age seemed like a gratuitous justification for poor, insensitive behavior.

Feb. 20 2016 05:02 PM
Elizabeth Dubus from Praireiville, LA

I cannot remember being more appalled at human behavior than I was when I heard this story this afternoon. Seven months or so go by without the narrator and her husband seeing the couple: when she does see them, the woman is sitting in the window naked and the young man is skeletal and bald. I tuned in after the story began, but there was a reference to the narrator being annoyed because the couple didn't have curtains. The absence of curtains doesn't give anyone the right to invade the privacy of others. I grew up in Lafayette, in Louisiana's Acadiana, with standards of behavior that included not invading people's privacy and always behaving with decency, sensitivity, and compassion. How could the narrator watch someone's death and then turn it into a story to be aired on the radio? It took the coroner's assistant looking at her as though she were a thrill seeker to realize what she was doing was perverse? The final insult, to me, was her statement that she wished the young woman knew someone was out there rooting for her.

Feb. 20 2016 04:38 PM
cate

perhaps this story has been eloquently told, but i find it both disturbing and provocative.

her actions are voyeuristic and creepy. plain. and. simple.

binoculars? really? this is just so wrong on so many levels.

i can only imagine the reaction of the subject if she knew that she was the object of both this woman's attentions and the emotions attached...first she's annoyed, perhaps jealous...followed by pity...followed by her cries to "move on".

i have been in a similar situation as the subject, and i would be furious to think that someone was an interloper to my most intimate moments, and, without hyperbole, i would feel violated.

perhaps they didn't have curtains because they simply enjoyed watching the sun, the rain, the outside world. perhaps it never occurred to them that there would be some ghoulish voyeur with vision aids watching them.

is this woman's life so lacking that she has to insinuate herself in to someone else's story to make her own world of more import?

i think this story and her choice to share it is more telling about her needs than that of the subjects.

creepy. creepy. creepy.

Feb. 20 2016 03:46 PM
Bridgett from Reno NV

What a voyeuristic freak--turn your chairs around, put down your binoculars--and GET YOUR OWN LIFE!

Feb. 20 2016 02:13 PM

This story kept me on the edge of my seat (kitchen chair), and, as so often happens with Radio Lab, by the end of the segment, I'm spellbound and standing right next to the radio. Thank you so much for this actual love story, the likes of which defies characterization.

Feb. 20 2016 01:35 PM
TheRedHare from Huntington, NY

My soul is hanging open, agape and raw and moved from this intimate narrative. It is, to me, another kind of love - the removed familiarity we have with fellow commuters or co-workers. It is somewhat disconnected yet attached. Thank you for this story. Changed my day, for good.

Feb. 20 2016 12:32 PM
Tony from Bronx,NY

I found this story so moving and personal that the narrator was inserted into this young couple's life by merely being window neighbors.
It was so touching to to listen to it. I wished that the narrator would've offered some kind words to the young lady when the deceased was removed.
Thank you for sharing this story.

Feb. 20 2016 12:30 PM
Cathy

I too found this story extremely moving. I can understand how conflicted the storyteller felt about her voyeurism and whether to reveal what she could see to the couple in the apartment without any curtains. Telling the story to the public, however, bothers me. It feels unethical. Although the couple should not have had an expectation of privacy, they most likely were not aware of how visible their bedroom was. What if the woman and the family of the couple hears this broadcast and notices how closely it resembles their experience? They might be touched, or....they might find it incredibly intrusive and embarrassing.

Feb. 19 2016 04:10 PM
m.KARRELL from los angeles

This story is nothing more than naive , simplistic, indulgent. It says more about Diane than about the family. "He chose not to go to a hospital, or a hospice." -- I'm sorry -- he chose?! How ignorant can this woman be? She wanted to be protective of a woman grieving so she watched through her binoculars?! You have got to be kidding me. She thinks her grief is real? She thinks she feeling something genuine? Tell her to get over herself.

Radiolab has lost something in its over reaching to find 'provocative' story telling.

Feb. 18 2016 12:56 AM
m.KARRELL from los angeles

This story is nothing more than naive , simplistic, indulgent. It says more about Diane than about the family. "He chose not to go to a hospital, or a hospice." -- I'm sorry -- he chose?! How ignorant can this woman be? She wanted to be protective of a woman grieving so she watched through her binoculars?! You have got to be kidding me. She thinks her grief is real? She thinks she feeling something genuine? Tell her to get over herself.

Radiolab has lost something in its attempt to find provocative stories.

Feb. 18 2016 12:47 AM
Bernard from Cleveland

What an inhumane response to such a visceral series of events...To just watch, just be a voyeur to people, let alone people living next door, suffer like that for so long and not feeling captivated to do anything but watch.

Feb. 17 2016 08:28 PM
Matthew Lawrence from West Sacramento, CA

This piece is deeply moving - but I have a question. What work was done to verify the story? It is so emotional, and so beautifully told, but also suspiciously resistant to fact-checking: the person who died has not been verified; his lover has not been interviewed; nobody else had a view into the window; the directory at the front door wasn't helpful... It just seems a little vague. Can the producers tell us what they did to confirm the story?

Feb. 17 2016 03:29 PM

Do not listen to this at work. I am having the hardest time not crying at my desk.

Feb. 02 2016 05:59 PM
Ola from Norway

Hey,
Does anybody know the name of the ambient piece of music at the very end?

Jan. 29 2016 08:49 AM
Cera Ward from Oakland, CA

This had (has) me in pieces, I haven't been able to stop crying since finding out the boyfriend was sick. I hope that the girl hears this podcast, I bet she would be touched and would be understanding rather than finding it creepy. The woman telling the story was so relatable and authentic.

Such an amazing piece of human history, I'm so grateful to have heard it.

Jan. 06 2016 01:58 AM
Todd Erkel

Diane had one moment to actually participate — the moment of recognition of someone's possible need — and she chose to indulge instead. The story epitomizes a kind of self-aggrandizement thinly disguised as compassion or empathy. Feel embarrassed, admit your wrong and risk everything....by getting off your chair and putting a note in the lobby of the building. Come out from hiding. Otherwise, stop watching and by all means do not capitalize on someone else's life in the name of art.

Nov. 26 2015 11:03 AM
Elika

Was there ever any follow up to this? Do you think the girl or any of her family heard this and thought it might be about them? The part that really haunts me about this podcast is the very last sentence "She doesn't know that there's someone out there really rooting for her." It makes me think of God, or ghosts. Some part of me really hopes our loved ones who pass away can look down on us and root for us, even if we can't see or hear them. This story has stayed with me over the last few months, so hauntingly beautiful.

Oct. 03 2015 06:18 PM
Tom

haunting and beautiful. Thank you RadioLab.

Oct. 02 2015 11:19 AM
A from Manhattan

Can't stop thinking about this...

Jun. 29 2015 10:48 AM
Adam

wow thats heavy and bleak... not what i was expecting.

Jun. 17 2015 11:19 PM
D

Wow...wow...wow.

disturbing, comforting, affirming all at once...great story!

Jun. 10 2015 01:24 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.