The neighbor looking out the window
It would always be there. That one piercing honey colored eye. Barely peeking past the curtains. I thought I was going crazy. Maybe I was seeing things. Every time I looked next door, there it was. It would always stare back from across the lawn. The window was always polished, opened just a crack. And there he would be: his mahogany fringe barely whispering over his eyes; his half-crescent moon fingernails barely grazing the curtains to make sure he had a clear view. I tried waving once. His shadow did not flinch. He did not blink. A car drove past, then another. There was no sign of movement from him. So, I brought my mug up to my mouth, let out a lethargic yawn and closed the curtains. A second later, I peeked from under the curtains to see if he was still there. He was not.
It made me curious. I wondered often about him. I wanted to ask questions. Did he dye his imperturbable hair? Did he like picnics out in the dark? Did he have a profusion of books? He was like a transient mystery, and I felt as if I could not stand savagely still and watch it fade away before my hanging mouth.
My hands slowly fidgeted up my blouse in a pattern. Today it felt like any other day. I raised my eyes to the window, expecting another pair of eyes to shout back from across the lawn, but those melted melding eyes were simply not there. Those melted melding eyes were simply not there? What? The curtain was in its place, the window 90 degrees agape. But those eyes, where were they? I kind of stood still, trying to countenance such hole in my daily routine. Mindlessly, I grabbed my coat, put on a hat, and with my house keys hanging off my bottom lip and tucked between my teeth, I opened the front door.
Melted rays slid down my arms, wrapping me up into a lukewarm embrace I felt like I could stay in forever. I languidly opened my eyes, catching sight of an ultraviolet car choking smoke as it sighed ahead. My eyes skipped across the rows of white painted twin houses that most precariously blended into the sky.
I sighed apathetically. Every breath and churn of the muscle I took, was bland and shallow. Days were on the tip of the longest hand of the clock, making full circles and always coming back home at the end of the day. I was sick of it. Sick of the boredom I could never swat away.
This is why, when that little excitement I had was taken from my day, I felt like I couldn’t move forward. And those peeking eyes were all I had. Hell, I felt too attached to those auburn eyes winged by long lashes. Because those shapeless pupils made me feel something I couldn’t decode. Those eyes were the pill that saved me from madness.
Was I going too far? It was too late. I was dependent on the neighbor looking out the window.
Ducking my head, I scampered across the lawn towards the brown-eyed neighbor’s house for the first time. A tide of glacial air hit me. A warm fire climbed up the pit of my stomach and I almost stumbled back. What was this feeling? I felt it building up, overwhelming my empty mind. I almost swung from side to side in a drunken state. I never felt like this before. I knew nothing, save for that I wanted more and more of it. I reached his house, grappling to that complication of the mind. I straightened my back and walked towards the window. The window that separated those coffee eyes from the outside world.
My fingers skimmed the windowsill, slightly pushing it close. I pressed my forehead to the untouched glass, while trying to make out the room on the inside. It was empty. Blank. White walls, white tiles. Nothing but rebound echoes and ghostly footsteps. Was I outside the wrong house? My eyes lazily grazed the surroundings: this was definitely the right house.
Slightly trembling, my knuckles hovered over the mahogany front door with courage screeching up my ribcage, but not seeming to spark any action. The air stood still. I could almost hear it snicker at the back of my mind.
Abruptly, the sound of metal grinding over metal and a loud turn of the key clambered up my ears as I let go of my hovering arm. Expecting a pair of brown eyes behind the door, I stumbled out a short held, “Sorry.” As I tilted my head to the side, my fringe tucked behind my ears. I was met with darkness. The heavy door slammed against the wall. There was no sign of a presence, of a beating heart pumping blood. Holding my breath, I peeked inside the house: the curtains were closed, lights were off. Every source of light had been eviscerated.
My lips were slightly apart, barely exhaling, and my hand trailed along the doorframe. I took three painful steps into the house and in one blink I was plummeted into a dark cloud.
A loud thud of wood banging against wood caught against my ears. My mind hyperventilated over different possibilities, clouding my vision. The front door had closed itself in a whisper of dust that had somehow managed to crawl down my throat.
Pressing my freezing fingers against my lips, I choked out a series of coughs.
I felt like I was disturbing the preserved silence of the house. Squinting, with my arms outstretched, I treaded forward. There was no sign of furniture. There was no sign of life.
Nails against wall.
I felt cold evaporated breaths trailing up my arm.
Screeech. I clenched my jaw.
The thin nail trailed over the goose bumps that was screaming on my arm.
A slow exhale caused the nails to retract.
In a volatile moment, fluorescent light bulbs flickered on from the ceiling, in a domino effect. The smell of cheap plastic and burning wires followed me as I made my way down the corridor.
In the distance, I saw a blank room, revealing the silhouette of a man bent over a chair, opaquely cloaked in darkness. He outstretched his arm, pointing at me, then dragged his calloused finger to the empty chair opposite him. Keeping my eyes grounded, I shuffled towards the chair and sat down. I felt my frigid breath whisper past my gaping lips, as I raised my eyes cautiously to square the man’s.
The neighbor looking out the window. It was him. This was it. A slick column of light hit his eyelashes and dragged across his razor jawline, bouncing off his thin lips. My eyes found some sort of inane relief in seeing those robotic brown irises once more. I closed my mouth and strung up a sentence of words in my mind, ready to spill it out of my lips.
“My name is Enoch”- he said- “that’s all you need.”
His voice was coarse, half-broken and forced. Lazy syllables stretched out of his mouth tiredly and, as he lifted his eyes to me, he did it cautiously, as if he were scared of the world unfolding around him. I stayed frozen.
“Let me tell you a story.”
The words caught at my throat and I felt helpless. So, I nodded slightly.
“I was young.” He closed his eyes, a wave of nostalgia flickered past his eyes.
“I felt numb that day. It was 12am, and I felt like I was missing something. So, on that day, I climbed outside my window for the first time, even though I knew I could use the front door. You know? It just made me feel more alive.”
“I knew that bar, not often talked about, but it was a way to get away. Maybe I could drink and let the alcohol wash away the numbness as it threw daggers of fire down my throat. And that’s what happened.”
“I wasn’t the only one at the bar. There was another person. She was tired and she looked like she was there for the same reason. We glanced at each other and raised our glasses. With alcohol flowing through my veins, we found each other and I said, ‘Do you wanna dance? Do you wanna dance in this bar, at the back of the corridor?’”
“And minutes passed, and my hands were on her hips and we were slowly dancing to the music in our minds. Each having a different beat. Our stories clambered out of our drunken lips, together with our confessions and our fears. And that was the closest I had ever gotten to somebody. Fifteen minutes later, she was at my doorstep and we were saying goodbye, sober.”
“She said: ‘I’ll be there next morning, and every morning, outside your left window.’ I fell in love with those fifteen minutes of my life, and also with the stranger I spent them with.”
He shifted in his seat, his eyes looking down at his hands.
“I couldn’t explain why. But I guess everyone falls in love with strangers at a different speed. Maybe it has to do with the way our heart beats. Maybe?”
“The next morning she wasn’t there and her hair wasn’t tied up in a bun. I opened the window and she did not kiss my cheek. She did not say, ‘I’ll be here tomorrow.’
She just wasn’t there.”
“I knew she lived next door to me. But I did nothing, because so did she. Every morning I would look out that window and maybe have the courage to hope she’d remember me one day and come rushing back.”
“But probably I fell and she didn’t. And those memories meant everything to me, but she maybe woke up without them at all.”
“It made me feel something. And I felt human. But everyone gives up waiting and hoping one day. Today it is.”
My head was spinning in confusion. Why was he telling me this? I found myself stumbling towards the front door of his house and slamming the door close. The words he had said hit the back of my mind. My mind was a winding mess. With my hand through my hair and my back against his front door, I sunk down to the ground.
Memories suddenly came flooding back.
His eyes swimming in mine.
His hand on my hips, yes.
His feet moving to my beat.
Saying goodbye on his doorstep.
Not remembering one thing the next morning.
I stopped breathing. I was the girl in his story.
It was me.
I opened the door immediately, running through the corridor towards the two chairs. I skidded to a stop. He wasn’t sitting on the chair. I screamed his name. Once, twice. He was gone. The house was empty and so was my heart.