the envelope sat on the corner of the table, menacingly.
he sat by the window, writing in the darkness. he always left just the bulb above the cooker on, when he was by the window. outside, the snow began to fall, lightly. he looked through windows, into his neighbours' lives - who loves who, he imagined, as he wrote scripts for their dinner conversation, for passing words at the kitchen counter.
i wonder what would happen if they ever found out how i write, he wondered, fearfully, as he wrote the words to go with the tall, slight, awkward-looking woman's gaze out her own window. is this a sort of theft?
she looked at the snowflakes with empty eyes, clutching her wine glass with clenched fingers - as if she needed, badly, to hold on to something real. the lines on her face traced out puzzles - deep grooves by her thin lips, tiny dimples just visible.
she wasn't smiling.
perhaps she's lost her job, he thought, but immediately dismissed the notion as too banal. but perhaps banal is what they want - life is, after all, a series of banalities, capped off by that most routine of occurances, that inescapable habit we all fall into, sooner or later.
she loved. he could see, in the emptiness, her story: she loved.
when she had left that morning, she didnt know if she was going to be coming back. she had said things- terrible things, things that he may not have deserved, but that finally broke the dam, and flooded out of her. where does one go, in the space between what people deserve and what we feel?
she had told herself it was nothing. those moments of nervous fingers at the dining table, of not being able to look at his eyes, of expertly dancing around their lives.
he had suggested they move in together. it had seemed so natural, at the time. they had met, laughed, loved (softly, warmly) and now their lives were intertwined.
and with his fingers between hers, she felt, sometimes, that this was enough. but then he would pull away, and she would gaze out the window.
the night before, she had walked into their room and sat at the edge of the bed. he was reading - Irving, she remembered, bitterly. He'd have liked this.
She had started to cry, and he had looked up from his book. he came to her, and she hung limp as he tried to comfort her.
'what's the matter?' he had asked.
'there, there,' he had said.
i don't think i love you, she had said, in a small voice.
i don't think-. she couldn't finish. how does one explain a life that has become laced with ennui, to someone who has done nothing but love. love fully, and well. isn't that how stories are put together - you love well, and all of the other things fall into place.
but what if people aren't pieces?
the next morning, she told him she was leaving. that she needed to be away from him. that she needed time, that she would come back, perhaps, but that what she needed now, more than anything, was to get away.
she didn't know where she would go.
when she came back in the evening, he had already left. his things weren't in the cupboards. his bookshelves were empty. their pictures were gone.
frantically, she looked through the drawers, trying to find something - anything - that he may have left behind. she took apart the bathroom, she ransacked the lounge, leaving magazines strewn all over the floor. there was nothing there. had he been a figment of her imagination? how does one leave, so completely, so as to have almost never been there at all.
he had left a cd in the stereo.
with trembling fingers, she pushed play.
well i heard there was a secret chord, buckley (not cohen) said, and she almost smiled.
it had always, somewhat paradoxically for one so kind, and unfond of trite lyrical encapsulations, been his favourite line:
maybe there's a god above,
but all i've ever learnt from love,
was how to shoot at somebody who outdrew you.
the tiny notes tinkled into silence, as she walked to the window. it was empty, with him. but it was empty, still, without him.
carefully, he closed his notebook, and put out his cigarette on the windowpane.
and then he walked over to the table, picked up the envelope, and put it away, with the others.
he had written that letter to her so many times that he had lost count.
outside, the snow grew heavier.
- neon shines -