By Cole Moser
CHICAGO — In an unexpected move the Chicago Transit Authority announced...
(photo by Neil Miller, Jr.)
So, I’m going to participate in Bold Moves October.
"Bold Moves October is an initiative started on DateByNumbers intended to give people...
The curtain is white, gauzy, and floating dreamily in her window. The wind blows it back and forth. When it moves, I can see her blonde curls, springing in the air.
I’ve been in her bedroom before, stark and white and clean. A mattress and box spring with white sheets and a white quilt lay on the wall close to her. I am in her alley in the middle of Boystown, the scent of the Thai place down the street and her perfume blowing towards me.
I am in love with her, but she is in love with another man. He walks into the bedroom and puts his arms around her and squeezes her from behind.
The dress that she has chosen to wear today is hanging on the nail on the bedroom door. I wish I could be the one to help her zip the back of it when she gets dressed.
She doesn’t know that I come here to watch her, at least daily, at any time of the day. Like now in the morning when she is getting ready for her day, or at night when the lights are on in that white bedroom and I can see easily into her world.
A world I was once part of, once that guy sleeping and fucking on those white sheets. I was once the one zipping up the back of her dress when she put on her clothes in the morning. I try to keep my bitter jealousy in check, but sometimes that new guy just pisses me off. He’s not nearly good enough for her, nor is he her type. He’s the good-on-paper guy— makes loads of money, from a good family, bland like vanilla ice cream— that she swore off when she was with me.
I am that guy no longer. While she is busy moving on, I am standing in her alley as the sun is rising and the #8 bus noisily moves down Halsted. She is now untouchable for me, and I constantly crave her.
I hang up my white dress on the nail on the bedroom door. It was a breezy, warm day in Chicago and the smell of the Thai place, even early in the morning, is wafting through my bedroom window with the gauzy, white curtain. Pad thai and dumplings come through the breeze as I spray perfume on my naked chest.
Jeffrey comes in and puts his arms around the back of me. I squint at the summer sky out the window to the alley. The sun is barely up across the city skyline.
“Good morning,” he says, freshly showered and clean. I, on the other hand, still have bedhead hair and am groggily yawning. He hands me a cup of coffee, exactly the way I like it. He takes care of me and anticipates my every need, even when I don’t ask for it. Sometimes it made me want to throw up.
“Good morning,” I say, still half asleep.
The white dress was one of his favorites. There is a long zipper in the back that he used to take his time helping me to zip because I couldn’t reach it. I knew he was just starting at my ass longingly. I shake Brock’s memory out of my mind and concentrate on getting myself ready to get down to the El on a summer Chicago day.
The El will be crowded, hot, and sticky. I’m sure I will soon hop into a train car whose air conditioning would be broken, therefore making the sweat pour down my face, ruining my little makeup that I wore, the humidity making my curls stick out more horizontal than vertical.
Jeffrey always left before me, so I had plenty of time alone in my apartment. I needed that time, alone with myself, before I made my way to the gallery, which didn’t open until 10:00 a.m. He, of course, needed to be down at Deloitte in his cubical and his suit and tie by 8:00 a.m.
As I walk down Halsted, I feel a little as though someone is tracing my ballet shoed steps. My white linen dress floats with the breeze. I take my time that morning walking down the rainbow clad streets. The smell of bars that play show tunes on Monday nights and serve fruity drinks was heightened by the summer heat— a combination of vomit, cologne, and vodka.
“Brock— is that you?” I ask aloud to no one. I can feel his presence. He continues to haunt me constantly. I feel like he watches me from afar and from up close. My hairs stand up on my arms because I know he is near by.
I was in love once. It feels as though it was ages ago now. Brock was the one for me. We spent our time being that couple who made everyone else want to throw up, but also induced jealousy. We were inseparable. We were invincible, convinced nothing could break our gaze.
The apparition of Brock may never go. I am afraid I’m unhinged from reality. But I’m not sure if I want to face verity.
We were doomed from the start— him a Southsider from Beverly, from a working class family with seven other siblings, me from the North Shore, an only child from a well-to-do history and lineage, though I never liked to admit it. We met at my favorite bar in Wrigleyville. He worked as a bouncer part time while he was in law school, I was a broke MFA student, a frequent visitor and customer at the bar busy getting cute Cubs fans from the West suburbs to buy me drinks.
We fell in love quickly and easily. We moved in together to a tiny one bedroom apartment on the Northside, in Boystown, next to the flamboyancy and bustle of Halsted Street. We could barely make the rent as we were paying off student loans from law school and art school. Drunk, young gay men celebrating Pride and Market Days would fall asleep drunk in our stairwell and in our bushes in the courtyard, but we didn’t care. We were happily in love with flowers and rainbows shooting from every orifice of our bodies.
After awhile, I stared seeing her more often— not just from the alley through her bedroom window, but on the El and when she walked to the Jewel. She would go to work, and I would float on behind her down Halsted and then to Belmont, just a few steps and duck behind an alley or a doorway if she turned around. I knew she knew I was there, but I wanted to hide it and keep myself unknown. I was a secret that I knew she hadn’t told anyone, because really, who would believe her? Her friends, who I am not sure ever really liked me, would tell her she was crazy and paranoid. Then she started to believe that herself, that maybe she really was crazy. I knew she wasn’t.
I also didn’t want her to know I was there because I didn’t actually want to ruin her life or get in the way. I just wanted to watch her from afar and imagine her in my arms with my hands running through her hair or us entangled in those white sheets like old times. I didn’t want to actually scare her or give her the creeps, but instead to just let her know I will always be with her.
Sometimes I’d whisper her name just loud enough for her to hear it, but no one else. I knew that would send a shiver down her spine, but sometimes I just couldn’t help myself.
“Emily,” I would gasp.
I’m with Jeffrey now. He suits me well and we work decently well together, but the passion and the fireworks constantly exploding like me and Brock just doesn’t happen. I’m not sure I’ll ever fall in love again. I’m scarred, like a burn victim who has had multiple plastic surgeries to cover it up, and knows they are still there even after all of the skin graphs.
I’ve never told Jeffrey that I think Brock is here. I don’t want him lecturing me about how I should move on or get over it or be hurt that I was still thinking about Brock when I was with him now. Jeffrey is the antithesis of Brock— safe and buttoned up to Brock’s energy and radiance. Jeffrey was what I needed now. After what I went through, I was ready for safety.
I continue to watch Emily through her window into her white bedroom with the white gauzy curtain, white bed, and white sheets. I realize that the dress she is going to put on today is also white.
It seems like just a few moments later, thought it is months, I peer through the window at her, it seems as though everything before me is white. It’s December in Chicago and snowing. There is white washed trim and white brick on the facade of the apartment building. All the trees have turned white. But is that because of the snow? Or am I losing my mind?
I suddenly realize that as the days go on, that more and more of my world has become white with a dull flat reflection. And then I recognize that maybe finally it’s my time. I’ve been stuck in limbo for so long, and finally the whiteness is spreading past only her and past the window into her world. The whiteness is becoming everything I can see. It all turns white before my eyes.
And just like that, in one moment shorter than a blink, I feel like something has left me. The ghostly feeling has disappeared my pale skin. It’s snowing in the city and I look out my bedroom window through my linen white curtain to see the white, dull, polluted snow piling up in the alley. I hear all the boys in the neighborhood yelling as they are headed to the bars and see the flashing traffic lights reflecting off of the snowy dusk. And I think to myself, this is exactly the same weather as the accident.
Melinda E. McIntire