Excerpt: From This Window

Lucas woke at his kitchen table to a gray sky. Slowly he became aware of the sounds of people and cars pushing their way through the busy street below. The large department store directly across was already lit, music playing for the early morning shoppers.

Last night he had enough sense to push his laptop away before resting his cheek on his notebook, which he had forgotten to close. He winced, peeling his skin from the pages of scribbled notes. There would be a mirror image on his face, he was positive.

Slowly rising, neck and back protesting from the awkward sleeping position, he shuffled to the bathroom. In the harsh, yellow light he saw the contents of his notebook stamped on one cheek. The letters were smudged, but neatly written. In the mirror, he could clearly read the words.

A man walks alone.

Lucas frowned, rubbing his cheek though the words persisted. He remembered the rest of the entry though the words had become only a smear down his face.

1:30 a.m., he stands before the large windows of the closed department store for almost twenty minutes. The display is for children’s clothes.

He could have been a drunk, entranced by the lights that stayed on all night. He could have been a father, getting off work late and remembering that it was now Christmas Eve. He could have been a vampire, wondering what it would be like to enter the store in daylight.

Lucas washed his face, turning his cheek red as he scrubbed away the words. He needed to stop falling asleep at his table. His neck would probably ache all day. He tried to massage the knot of tension that had formed during the night as he went to boil water in the kettle.

He pulled out one of three cups he owned. The only other contents of his cabinet were two plates, three forks, two spoons, and four knives. Lucas’s apartment was small, but it still looked empty. It was technically a one bedroom, but his kitchen was a small galley, leading to the two-person kitchen table that barely fit by the window. Then there was the door to his bedroom and the door to his bathroom. His bedroom was only large enough for a bed and his dresser. The bathroom was so tiny that the shower was practically above the toilet.

He knew other apartments around him were larger, even with one bedroom. He wondered if his had been a closet at some point that some landlord decided to turn into a unit.

He didn’t mind the small space. He wasn’t the type to hoard. If he didn’t use it, he threw it out. Lucas could count the possessions he owned, most of which were along the lines of dish towels, bath soap, and pillows. He didn’t have framed pictures, fridge magnets, flower vases, or knickknacks of any sort. His entire apartment was shades of beige and gray, only broken by Lucas’s collection of books and journals, scattered around the spare corners and surfaces.

He finished making his tea and went to sit by his laptop, flipping open the lid and letting it boot up. He warmed his fingers against the mug and looked out the window.

It was barely eight in the morning, but the street was already filling up with Christmas shoppers, some already carrying three or more bags. Soon there would be a man dressed as Santa ringing a bell for charity, or some carolers hired by the store to entertain out front, or sales associates dragging unsuspecting passersby inside.

There were familiar people though. The overweight businessman would come at exactly 8:35. He would stare at the products from the window, but never go inside until it was dusk on Christmas Eve, even year after year. Or there was the gaggle of teenage girls on their way to school at 8:10, always laughing and playing with their hair. The homeless man and his garbage bags would make his way to the corner at 9:00, when the shelter would close for the day. Lucas had written them all down before in his notebooks.

He had never really written before he came to this apartment, but he found himself drawn to the idea of creating lives for these perfect strangers. He watched them day after day, he might as well pretend he knew them.

The businessman was an international spy, meeting his invisible contact day after day until he could go into the store on Christmas Eve to eliminate his target. The girls were super heroes, pretending to be harmless teenagers by day, but were really keeping villains off the streets at night. The homeless man was a prince from a foreign country whose family had been overthrown. He now hid on the streets, shuffling around with garbage bags in the hope that one day he could return to reclaim his crown.

Lucas looked at his computer and the document that was already on the screen. He had chosen a vampire idea for the man from last night. He had written all those ideas into short stories or drabbles or other nonsense. He had looked at all those people for hours, wondering what sort of life they could be living.

He never showed anyone his writing.

He continued to write for a little while longer. It was easier at night, when everyone was shut inside like he was. It was quiet then. Nobody walking outside his thin apartment door or running across the street causing cars to blare their horns, or shouting, or laughing.

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