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Samantha Hartley
2mo Boston, MA, United States Story
Window Thoughts

A Short Story 

The one constant was the rain. Though the years had robbed the city of many things, the rain still happily meandered through the streets, content in its devastation of the impeccably pressed pants and lavish shoes of New York’s finest. In his time, it had dashed underneath the hooves of horses as proud and elitist as the individuals residing in the carriages they pulled. It had eavesdropped on wartime conversations, been the onlooker of immigrant dances. The enemy of the factory worker on their shoeless walk home and the old money family planning dinner parties for the sole purpose of showing off their refurnished chandeliers alike. But the rain now ran beneath the tires of automobiles, stopping to admire its reflection in their gleaming brass. It listened to talk of stocks and colored television; it watched the beginning and end of relationships outside of coffee shops. The old money families had been replaced in status by the self-made man, the wolf-like individual garnered from the scattered lineage of the factory worker. The old man is prone to spending his days at the window now, his way of accepting the role of watcher to which he had been reassigned by the passage of time. New York passes him by in a colored parade of suits, men and women on their way to work, oblivious to the silent observer of their journeys. His own shirt is marked by perspiration, not from admirable labor but from the excruciating exertion of ascending the flight of stairs. He had built this city, though now he can hardly make out the contributions he and those who worked tirelessly alongside him had made amidst the growing skyscrapers. By day, they were the self-christened awakeners of the city that would never sleep. By night they were the admirers of Irish department store workers with lilting brogues and skin like porcelain dolls, girls who never turned down a dance or a drink. They were the lighthearted jesters watched by unamused police officers who knew them all by name, though trouble never succeeded in its quest to interrupt their escapades. The streets had been theirs as much as the rain’s, for they had known them just as well. But the streets were simpler then, and the more the city changed, the less the old man remembered, though the memories he wished to forget prevailed.

A flash of golden hair passes underneath the window, momentarily drawing his attention back to the present. Its owner continues on her path, her hair capturing the weak sunlight fighting its way through the rainclouds until she vanishes into the shadows like an extinguished flame, disappearing from his sight. The old man’s heart constricts, though nowadays he struggles to discern whether his declining health or the reminder of an unfinished love is the cause. Her hair was longer than hers had been, but its unintentional ability to give and take away sunshine was nevertheless the same. When she had entered his life, she had become the sole recipient of his admiration, to the dismay of many an Irish girl. All of the cops in the city could know his name, as long as she did too. New York shrunk to just the Brooklyn street where they would meet, all other places becoming unnecessary in his eyes for the simple crime of lacking her presence. Leaves painted by autumn fell from the trees around them as easily as promises fell from their lips, framing them in their own brightly colored haven. The city around them was changing, buildings reaching higher, streets bracing themselves for automobiles. But their world remained the same, seemingly rendered untouchable by the spell their young love had cast over the cobble-stoned sidewalks. They fought and then made hasty amends often within the same sentence, unwilling to tarnish the fragile innocence that exists between two hearts learning to beat together. They talked about art, each trying to embellish their intelligence with random references to the symbolism of Caravaggio’s use of light and shadow and the superiority of Michelangelo’s David to Donatello's. They marveled at china and silks they couldn't afford in the windows of department stores so luxurious they bordered on self-conscious. They discovered how cotton candy tasted better when shared on Coney Island, how the Statue of Liberty seemed less lonely when two people viewed it together. She challenged him, and he comforted her.

A sudden peal of laughter draws the old man’s gaze back out the window. He looks dutifully out upon at a couple racing against the sudden downpour, giddy in their struggle to decide who is more deserving of their small umbrella’s protection. They come to an agreement, folding it away in order to brave the rain together. They kiss. He looks away. The past reaches for him with unforgiving hands. It was during the time of the year when the rain changed to snow as it fell, where all New York held its breath to see what complications it would cause when it reached the ground. She had pressed her white glove against his face in a silent apology for what she was about to say. He could still feel the warmth when she withdrew it, but every winter since he had only felt the cold. She was leaving the city. Leave New York? He had marveled at the idea, as if leaving the city was something that rational people did. But her mother was unwell and her father supposedly unable to stomach the ever-growing population, though the real reason, a decline in work, his pride prevented him from revealing to his family. It had begun to sink in as she walked away from him, face streaked with tears or the melting snow that dropped from her lowered eyelashes. He watched as the falling snow gathered around her, framing her golden head and giving her the appearance of an angel sent to him to be the bearer of the news that the life he had planned for himself was not to be. He strained to watch her leave for as long as he could, but it soon became impossible to discern her form from the effervescent dancing figures participating in the waltz between snow and wind.

She had left his heart with a question mark, condemning him to a life of endlessly looking for the period only she could provide. Letters he wrote found their way back to him, though his intended recipient never did. She created a new life for herself, and he was left behind with the one she had made for him. He remained, it seemed, eternally stuck between past and present, unwilling to release the ghosts that belonged to his past but surrounded by the changed city where no reminders of them resided. He sits now at the window of the house they met in front of each time, the house that now belongs to he and his wife. Theirs is not a great love, but he finds solace in the fact that of the thousands of people who pass beneath his window, only some will ever experience the kind he once possessed. He wonders if they looked up what they would think of him. A man far detached from his youth, certainly. He wonders if they could understand why his heart could still be broken, when lost love was so seamlessly replaced by new love in their lives. His eyes drift from the window and sweep across the cool blue china, the richly colored silks of the furniture he had no part in choosing. They linger on the modern paintings his wife populated the space with, always insecurely straining to convey their deeper meaning to visiting eyes but that he could only ever see as an accidental collaboration of color. She calls to him from somewhere within the shadowed room, her voice a ringing reminder of all he no longer is. Smoke from her cigarette curls through the shadowed room like an exhalation, a cruel reminder that his own breath will soon be robbed. His gaze shifts away from the past and back to the future. He turns from the window. He turns back to his reality.  

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1 comment

  • Bethany Heinrich
    Bethany Heinrich Mogul Influencer
    2mo ago

    "the Statue of Liberty seemed less lonely when two people viewed it together." Very true :-) 

    "the Statue of Liberty seemed less lonely when two people viewed it together." Very true :-) 

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Hello everyone! I am currently studying Film/TV and PR at Boston University and am a lover of beautiful things, from places to films, songs, clothes, and works of art that remind me how possible it is for us to create and add beauty to the world. I am so excited to be a part of a community that [...]

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