The flat window looked exactly as you imagined it. It was housed in a stocky grey building, which gave off the impression that it was more of a building hunched over than a building that stood as intended. On the second floor starting from the edge of the building, was a smaller, higher window, and then further in, a larger window, wide and spacious, looking a little too luxurious for a small block of flats in London. The kind of window one might find in a bedroom of a hotel in a location significantly sunnier and warmer than Britain. The kind of window that has white curtains that somehow always feel crisp and fresh, the kind of window that one can almost certainly see some kind of wicker chair through. It seemed a wicker chair should be compulsory.

There was, alas, no wicker chair in the vicinity. Not one in the flat in its entirety in fact. And if that had bought a curse on the flat’s inhabitant, he hadn’t noticed yet. To be truthful, if a wicker chair itself approached him currently, to try to convince him of the need to employ it to sit in his window, he quite possibly would simply have said yes to get it to stop talking and subsequently forgotten about it. 

He was busy utilising the window’s view, placing himself in between the slightly less white and crispy curtains than seemed right. He hadn’t bothered opening them, it seemed a small victory really that as soon as he stepped away from the window, the curtains would still be drawn. He had drawn those curtains and he wanted them shut, and even if the other man crossing the street below him would insist on causing havoc in his life, he could revel in the knowledge that they at least didn’t make him draw his curtains twice in one night. Which he himself would admit, if pushed, was a very very small victory.

It’s London, naturally there are street lights. You can’t escape them, can’t escape scrutiny, can’t escape being seen, not here. But that goes both ways. So he watched from the window with its only very slightly disturbed curtains, enjoying his other very small victory. That now he could see them, but they could not see him. He was struck by the thought of sticking his tongue out at him. It seemed an acceptable way to take advantage of his advantage. Anything emotive like a good old-fashioned middle finger would be too much of an admission of anger. Of frustration or confusion or disappointment. And he didn’t want that, even if the recipient admittedly couldn’t see him. He didn’t want himself to see those emotions either. So he settled on sticking his tongue out as the safest option. And then he realised that changed nothing. So he didn’t.

The other man had reached his car. It was parked on the other side of the street to the block of flats, two wheels on the pavement, looking very at peace alongside a tree and a street light whose orange glow made the tree look strangely alien. Like the leaves themselves were glowing orange. It didn’t seem like the kind of tree that should be growing unnoticed in London, one that glowed, but nobody seemed to have done anything about it yet, maybe they knew something he didn’t. 

Once he was actually in his car, the other man seemed to falter. Maybe this next action hadn’t been coded yet. Maybe whoever was controlling him in the simulation had forgotten to give him something to do next. He looked lost, he looked alone, he looked like he wasn’t sure at all what to do. Not with anything. It was a gamble as to whether he knew where to put the car keys in the first place, nobody in their right mind would ever believe he had a destination in mind if he ever did get the car moving.

He seemed to be remarkably aware of this. Aware of his limitations, the gap in his actions. The lack of a next step. So he sat. He watched the leaves of the tree above his car moving in the wind, and he decided he would like to feel it too, so he opened the window. Then he discovered it was London and it was nighttime and there was a breeze so he shut the window again. He wasn’t sure why this made him feel the way it did. He supposed he wished sometimes, when he really needed it, things would go better than expected. A balm perhaps, not that a nice warm breeze could cure him, just that it would have been, well, nice. It might have improved his mood slightly, it might have encouraged him to look at things from the outside, or it might have encouraged him to stop thinking completely and come back to it later.

But none of these happened, because life didn’t work that way, and so he continued sitting. Nothing else happened. There was no birdsong, there were no passers by down this dead-end road, not even a bird in the middle of the street eating something suspicious and probably dead. Nothing to break his thoughts, to inspire him, to distract him for the second or two he needed to be distracted so that he could force himself to drive. Get out of here, leave, go home. Turn his back. But he couldn’t sit here all night, there was no point to that, regardless of whether there was a point to anything at all. So paradoxically, the lack of distractions woke him up, the world seemed to be waiting for him. He turned the keys.

The man in the window was watching. He hadn’t been sure how long to stand and wait once he realised the other man wasn’t leaving immediately, slightly shaken by this unexpected turn and strangely embarrassed at the inaction of the pair of them. He had better things to be doing, and standing here for significantly longer than planned surely would erase all of those hard-earned small victories. But try as he could, he couldn’t think what those better things could be. Making a cup of tea? Drinking a beer? Showering? They didn’t seem appealing, they didn’t seem worthwhile, they didn’t seem worth his time or his attention. The other man did.

June 05, 2021 22:11

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