Winter Tempest

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It all occurred during the first tempest of the New Year. The color green was something you only saw on Google images or in memories that felt like centuries ago. I lived alone in a studio apartment in a small neighborhood of New York. Everything was composed of the same color in that town, even during summer. It was the kind of dirty grey that fills up the air of overpopulated cities. There weren’t any stairs leading down into my tiny apartment. I was as far down as you can get without going under. I could barely stand up straight without touching the ceiling, but I did not mind the smallness of it. When I was young, my sister and I would zip each other into dad’s suitcases. We would drag the suitcases up and down the stairs, and all around the living room, laughing hysterically, loving every second. It’d been a long time since I felt that way; maybe I was just fed up with life. I tried not to think too much about it.

That first morning, I wrapped a dark blue scarf around my neck and turned on the heater. I accidentally tripped over the trash can on the floor on my way to the kitchen. I looked down at it accusingly, as if anyone but me could have put it there. After kicking the trash can across the room, I ever so slowly looked up, and stared at her for the first time. I didn’t know until later that she had been there for weeks. Just inches away from me as I slept. She was only an arm's reach away as I showered and dressed each morning. She would sit there with me while I overcooked my bacon and surfed through the internet for anything interesting.

The outside world that day, and every day since, was a white swirling mixture of boredom and anticipation. Set against the bright backdrop was the outline of a woman. She faded in and out with each gust of wind, like a little dandelion. But I saw her. I saw a tiny tip of one of her pink fingers poking out of a hole in her glove. Her other hand was up against her mouth which was decorated with sparkling lip gloss. When our eyes met in the dark hall, I didn't scream. I felt no adrenaline, dread, or any of those feelings when your heart beats so abnormally fast that it makes you want to throw up. Nothing like that happened. I stood completely still as if my feet were held by the carpet, as fast as she came, the mysterious woman disappeared into the endless white.

There was nothing in my room that anyone would want. My possessions were piled in and out of boxes like a mountain of garbage. I didn’t even own a real bed! I didn’t own a TV, a toaster, an oven, or even a decent pair of shoes. I decided that I would ignore the woman, since she would leave me alone once she figured out there was nothing to steal. I would go on about my day despite her frequent appearance outside my window.

This went on for an entire month, before I decided to have a proper chat with my “guest.” Holding a cup of coffee, I slowly approached the window. Like always she was there, just staring back at me, her eyes never blinked, nor did they show any emotion. “Hello, nice weather, huh” I chuckled trying to lighten up the mood. She didn’t reply. Before I could continue our little chat, someone rang the door bell. The impatient visitor started knocking on the door, but I decided to ignore it for now. I looked back towards the window; nothing was there except for my reflection. I was pulled back into reality by the sound of banging on the door.

“I’m coming!” there was a brief moment of silence. The visitor then replied with a hint of annoyance in his voice. “What took you so long? It’s freezing outside.” I smirked at my business partner, John, who was waiting and slowly opened the door for him. His eyes wandered around the room as he stated, “You should clean up sometimes you know. I don’t want my house to become dirty!” I chuckled at his comment, thinking about something clever to say in return, but then I saw him staring at the window. “Oh, you can see her too?” I asked. Wanting to take the words back as soon as they left my mouth, I wasn’t sure what to say if he asked “Who?” ‘Oh, just that woman who stares at me every day, she could even be a serial killer watching her next victim, namely me.’ I know that’s what people would think if I told them anything. John didn’t ask me who, nor did he reply to any of my comments to cover up my mistake. He just stared blankly back and forth between me and the window. When he realized I was looking back at him, his face started to become pale blue with sadness evident in his eyes. “Do you need help?” I asked, walking a little closer to the window. He just kept on shaking, harder now. I led him to my bed and he sat down, shaking endlessly. ‘What did he see through that glass?’ was the only thought running through my mind.

After what felt like an eternity, John slowly began to speak. “I used to live here with my fiancée, Juliet. She was an actor.” He tried smiling. “She would practice day and night, she was very good too.” At this point he seemed to be talking to himself. John stopped talking and stared at the floor. We sat in silence, and then my eyes went to the window. She was back.

John noticed the way I was looking at the window suddenly, and he looked too, but nothing happened. No surprised look on his face, or any comments. He didn’t see her. The woman outside walked closer to the window and cupped her hands around her face to peer inside. Then she looked sadder than she ever had. It seemed like she was shaking, she then placed her palms flat on the glass. I could see what looked like frost forming where the tips of her fingers touched the window. Then I realized in that moment, what I knew I could never say aloud. Either I was going crazy, or she was a ghost, John’s fiancé’s ghost.

“John, what happened to her? To your lover” I was hoping he would say, “She’s at work, said she’d be back around 9.” But that would mean I was going crazy, and I was sure I wasn’t crazy. Unfortunately John didn’t say that. He just looked at me with his cold eyes as if he didn’t care how I knew, or what I knew. As if I wasn’t even there. He stared into the air and his mind wandered off again. This time, it wasn’t somewhere happy at all.

“She killed herself. Right over there.” John pointed to the floor next to the window. I pictured the woman staring at us from the window, crouching on the floor, with a gun inside her mouth. My brain didn’t function properly, and my question seemed stupid as it came out of my mouth, “how?”

“Pills, she swallowed a whole bottle. I found her lying on the floor; lifeless.” He stopped and squeezed his eyes shut hard. He was seeing it again, seeing her. I looked at the window and she was squeezing her eyes shut also. “What was she like?” I tried changing the subject to end the silence that was starting to make me nervous. I stared out the window at her as he spoke.

“She was,” he paused, “loud. And yet I never knew what she was going through. In her head, she just wouldn’t tell me. She lost her job, and her friends abandoned her. My parents didn’t like her either. They said she looked like she belonged in a homeless shelter. But I loved her smile. I loved her bright smile.” He trailed off and looked down at the floor again.

“I’m sorry; I never told you this before selling the house. And yet, I can’t stop coming here. I just feel close to her here I guess. I never really got to say goodbye.” John sighed and looked around the room. Now I was sure that the woman at the window was dead; that she was John’s fiancée; that she was coming here for him. It didn’t sound surprising even though I should have been dumbfounded.

“I think she’s been coming here too.” I said, bracing myself in case he flipped out. He didn’t. John just stared at me and narrowed his eyes as if trying to read my inner soul. “Someone’s being coming to the window. I thought maybe she was homeless or just my imagination. But maybe it’s her. She’s there right now actually.” I expected her to disappear as soon as John began to turn his head, but she didn’t. She stared into his eyes. John turned back to me.

“There?” he questioned, confusion was clear in his face, pointing to the frozen window. “She’s looking at you. She seems really upset. Maybe she didn’t mean to die without telling you.” John looked at me like I was crazy, and I understood. But he didn’t get up; he didn’t punch me in my face and run out the door. Instead his face softened and he looked back at the window as he spoke. I looked back too and of course, she was gone.

“Well, can she talk?” he asked. “She’s gone now. But no, she doesn’t talk. Not to me.” John snapped his head back towards my direction. “What do you mean, she’s gone?” He got up and went to the window. He looked out of it frantically, and then he stood there with his eyes closed for a long time, just breathing.

John looked around the room one last time. “Thank you for this. For letting me know.” He was wearing a sad smile. “You’re welcome, I’m glad I could help.” I said, searching for the words to explain or describe what just took place. John turned and walked back to his car, and then he clumsily dropped his key on the floor. Suddenly to my right, from the side of the house came at first a small shadow, and then a woman. Then she stopped and looked at me, right into my eyes, for only a brief second. Yet it seemed to stretch out longer than any other few seconds of my life. I watched as she turned back and walked forward, slowly catching up with John.

“John!” I wanted to tell him that she was right there. She was right behind him. But something stopped me from yelling it out. John turned to face me. She was between us, looking right into his face, close enough to touch him. “You are welcome to come again anytime!” I said. John turned and got into the car, and I watched as his fiancé got into the passenger seat. “Thanks.” He smiled, looking back at the apartment. I knew I would never see him again. This was his last good bye.





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