“In that Window”
By Kevin C. Steele
In that window, there was once a room of doubt that she lingered in. She didn’t wander outside from the yesterday gallows to test the sparkling daylight or hummingbirds. Solitude and destiny. Alone, gazing at the grass below and wondering why tomorrow had wandered away. Joy had not found her a comfortable companion, so she whispered to despair and coaxed it out from under the bed-shadows, mewling and damp, softened by her affections. No man had loved her in a long time, not since. Since. Several reckless summers had passed and her heart did not want. Her skin didn’t cry for the sweat of a body beneath her. She’d built that room form her warm loneliness and it became her lover.
I told her once that I would love her and give her my heart to share her whisper-dreams with, but she rebuked me as the callow fool every man’s heart was. She had no need of my fumbling poetry and lukewarm ministrations. She was too hollowed-out by love’s tortures, from such an early age. She didn’t need my companionship or false promises of eternity. She’d already accepted the finality of a greater love, the love of tragedy.
The tragedy sat upon the bed-side, bone-twig feet set firmly on the floorboards. Dust-moats sparkled and danced in the sunbeams shimmering through its ribcage. The moats could be its its hopes but it had none. None except the one that lay next to it, Mindolene. It woke from its slumber to find her sleeping next to it, their two hands intertwined. It looked now at that hand, that claw that only resembled desolation. Dust-moats also cascaded from its fingertips and it knew itself at once in that moment. His place wasn’t love or home; his place was just peace and an end to the breath of days. Tears might have flowed, but he couldn’t remember what they tasted or felt like, so pregnant shadows had to suffice for what could pass as grief. He knew she wouldn’t rebuke him like so many of the others. She would linger for him just long enough to echo for him.
He turned back to her, watched her sleep for two shallow breaths longer, then he touched her naked breast. A tender spark blinked in the air between his fingertip and her skin, then silence, stillness.
Her eyes snapped open fox-trap quick, body heaving forward as if on a pulley. Her supple back went rigid and she looked at him. The tears came then, tears of joy for the peace he’d brought her, a gift no man could give her. It was the only other tenderness and touch she’d ever wanted. She reached out to take his hand, but he shied away. She tried to reach for his cheek, but he turned away. This was the last mercy he could allow himself, but he couldn’t refuse her. So, he turned to gaze into the sultry darkness of her eyes and found a quiet joy there, a spark that she gave him with a kiss of such a delicate magnitude and grace. He held her last breath as she fell into his outstretched arms and embraced him.
For a moment or longer, he held her there but she was already gone. She’d left the room just a breath ago, by way of the lonely window now haunted by her reflection. So, he laid her body down on the downy, sweat-stained mattress and stood over the bed. He bent down and whispered something, a secret only for them, then walked into the deepest shadows of the room and was gone.
I could’ve given her gifts, but not like he could, not such tender, eternal mercies as he could. So, I just stand here now, looking up at that lonely window and sometimes, when the afternoon lingers a bit and the cicadas can coax her to stay, I can see her in that window, a soft smile between us.