84 comments

American Contemporary Funny

OK. After the end of my 3rd marriage, I promised myself I’d never get caught up in another emotionally intimate relationship with anyone ever again. I believe that was back in 1999. So, fast-forward to 2020 while in the midst of a Coronavirus lockdown, as I returned to my desk with my microwave reheated mug of coffee, I did something I probably shouldn’t have done; I acknowledged with a nod and two other gestures the presence of a neighbor from across the street. Sure, the simple act of a nod of recognition, the lamely celebratory raising of the coffee mug I held in my right hand, and a wan wave of hello with my left, I mean, what could possibly go wrong with doing that?


She was sitting next to her window where she was either doing her Monday through Friday, 9-5 office job from home, or perhaps just communicating with other isolated family or friends, or at least so I imagined, as I had seen her do for the last 250 some days-or-so of our mandated housebound self-quarantine. She had shifted her gaze from whatever she was doing at the exact moment I had arrived at the window in front of my desk when I made my reappearance from the microwave in the other room with the hot coffee. My neighbor saw the nod, spotted my subtle caffeinated salute, the weak wave, and then responded with a slight smile in return, along with an equally washed-out wave. 


Here is where it may be best to give you some background as to what transpired prior to this windowed encounter. I thought that on several occasions I had caught this woman looking over at me via my building’s third-story window through her building’s third-story window. And I’ll admit, I had snuck a few furtive glances her way as I worked away each day by my window. For the last several months or so, from across the street, we had seen each other at our window-adjacent desks doing whatever it is we each did throughout the day. During that time neither of us had ever made the slightest effort of confirming to one another that the other one even existed.


What possessed me that fateful day maybe I’ll never know, but what’s done is done. Since then whenever we noticed each other from across the street we nod to one another, exchange a long-distance toast with whatever drink we have at hand at that time, wave, and then smile. It’s all innocent enough, isn’t it? Well, I thought so. But my, my, my…how quickly things began to progress and escalate, then go out of control.


From the looks, nods, toasts, waves, and smiles our windowed relationship blossomed. Eventually, as our shared nods and etcetera salutations progressed, we wordlessly began to move our windowed relationship up to the next level. It was still too chilly here in Hobohemia, NJ, to open our respective windows and engage in a haphazardly hollered across-the-street conversation. So, we did the next best thing. Since the onset of the virus scare, stores and restaurants had been compensating for the lost volume of on-premise business by making deliveries to the buildings in which we were shuttered. These deliveries came either in large paper bags (since plastic bags had recently been banned in Hobohemia) or cardboard boxes. Thus, everyone in town had an abundance of these delivery packages to recycle and reuse. I know I certainly did.


Now, can you guess what we did next? That’s right, one day after we had performed our mutual acknowledgment rituals, she held up a strip of what looked like torn corrugated cardboard. With what I guessed must have been a chisel-tipped green Sharpie she had written in script Good Morning! I was speechless. It took a few moments for me to regain my composure, but after a pause, I held up the index finger of my right hand in the universally understood gesture that says, ”Hey, give me a minute here!” Finding a now empty cardboard box from a recently delivered case of Zuccardi Q 2015 Valle De Uco Cabernet Sauvignon red wine I ripped off a box top flap, found a chisel tipped black Sharpie, and then in large block letters scribbled Good Morning on it. I confess that I’d added a smiley face next to the Good Morning at first, but after a bit of introspection, I determined that I was just not a smiley-symbol emoji kind of guy, so I tore off the section with that drawling from my message before returning to my window to display my sign. She gave me a thumb up, which I returned in kind, and then we both resumed doing whatever we do at the desks by our windows all day long.


In retrospect (a term I always joke about as being the 20-20 vision of a**holes), perhaps we both should’ve just stopped there and then and return to doing whatever we both were doing. But we didn’t. From that point on our handwritten missives became more extended, elongated, and elaborate. We both maintained an adequate supply of Sharpies and surplus cardboard close at hand by our windowed perches in order to communicate with one another throughout the workday.


What began with two-word morning greetings eventually evolved into sentences and paragraphs of written information traded in a question-and-answer format where we both began seizing this window of opportunity to learn things about one another. The two of us now knew each other’s first names. How our days were going. What bar and/or restaurant we would each go to when this in-shelter home prison sentence had been duly served and what we’d order upon that glorious and momentous occasion. This went on for a few weeks until, and I admit that what happened next was entirely my fault; we hit a rough patch in the relationship. 


Following what I believed was the completion of one of our many window exchanges, I looked up to see another woman from across the street in the building adjacent to my original window woman who was looking down from her fourth-story window at me and what we’d been doing. What else could be done but to nod, offer the toast, then wave and smile at that woman on the fourth floor? I know what you’re thinking, but I’ve already entered my mea culpa plea regarding that incident, so from here on out I’ll just exercise my right to remain silent in order so as to not incriminate myself any further in this matter of my admitted guilt.


After what I honestly thought was an absolutely inculpable act, and while my hand was in the air still in mid-wave at the fourth-story neighbor, I looked back over at my third-story neighbor and saw a look of hurt and pain had crossed her face. She stared at me for a bit more before staring up at the direction of, at least from her vantage point, the invisible window woman that was across the street from me on the fourth-story of the building adjacent to hers. My third-story woman then turned to face me again for a few seconds with a look so cold it probably could’ve given an icy glacier a fatal case of frostbite on a hot summer’s day. She next looked back in the direction of her fourth-floor resident rival, and then back toward me once more. Before I had the chance to process what had just happened her left hand was raised to flip me the middle finger salute while quickly lowering and closing her Venetian window blind with the right one.


From there on my third-story window woman never acknowledged my existence again. She either completely ignored me or else closed her blind to shut me out. I knew I was a man in the proverbial doghouse from which there’d be no escape. Yes, we were done—period—the window of opportunity had wordlessly closed for good. This was of course not the first time any of my failed relationships had ended in a breakup, but this was the first time any had been so thoroughly terminated without a single word ever being spoken. In the past, I’d dug the grave for most of my relationships with a choice of unwise words. This time I had been done in with a nod, a gesture, a smile, and a mere wave of my hand.  



June 07, 2021 21:50

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84 comments

Becky Katsaros
21:36 Jun 08, 2021

Quite an enjoyable read. The presentation of the story and casual, self-reflective tone worked very well.

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Stevie B
21:41 Jun 08, 2021

Becky, thank you for your kind words and glad you enjoyed reading.

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Jj Gomez
14:54 Jun 08, 2021

This was ADORABLE....until it wasn't😢

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Stevie B
14:57 Jun 08, 2021

Thank you, Jj.

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Renata Paschoal
12:56 Jun 08, 2021

I wish you get married 100 times. Your relationship stories are the best! Haha

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Stevie B
13:44 Jun 08, 2021

Sweet of you to say, Renata, but I wouldn't want to place that burden of bearing me on anyone these days...

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Cindy Calder
17:24 Jun 15, 2021

Same here. I say if I ever get married again, I'll be wearing black as I walk down the aisle to the tune of "Highway to Hell". Truth.

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Stevie B
17:35 Jun 15, 2021

Seems just about right to me, Cindy.

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Julian Race
13:46 Jun 28, 2021

An excellent story and a sad waste of good sharpie's and recyclable cardboard lol I also noticed no one ever cleaned the windows? Julian

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Stevie B
13:50 Jun 28, 2021

Well, a dirty window can be a real pane to clean... Thanks for your support, Julian,

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Julian Race
07:31 Jun 29, 2021

Thanks for liking my story also "The School Sports day ... a memoire"

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Stevie B
11:20 Jun 29, 2021

You're quite welcome and was really an enjoy tale you constructed.

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Ramona Taylor
02:27 Jun 20, 2021

This made me smile from beginning to end! Thank you :D

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Stevie B
12:14 Jun 20, 2021

Thanks and happy it put a smile on your face, Ramona.

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Jools .
00:10 Jun 20, 2021

Hi Stevie. I'ts scheduled to go up at 7pm on Tuesday. Here is the link for you, you can watch it now (I think) I hope you like it https://youtu.be/brKmxmf7uOg Jools :0) xx

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Stevie B
12:15 Jun 20, 2021

Thank you Jools - I'll be sure to check it out.

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Jools .
15:35 Jun 30, 2021

Hi Stevie, I got an email notification of your comment on my video but when I went to answer it, it wasn’t there? I am so happy you liked my video and thank you so much for the feedback. Would it be OK if I read more of your stories?

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Stevie B
16:51 Jun 30, 2021

When I have a sec I'll try to repost the comment. I'd be more than happy to share more stories for you to read and perhaps even consider airing. You may find around +/-100 of them on my blog (https://www.thestevieb.com/) where I actually posted your video today as well as getting the word out about it on my social media platforms (and off course added a call to action to followers to subscribe to your channel, or if you wish to share your email addy with me I could select/send a few of my faves. Jools, thank you again for providing more expo...

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Jools .
17:55 Jun 30, 2021

Thank you so much you are very kind. I would love you to send me your favourites. I am sticking to short ones for now but hopefully when I get more practice I could start on longer ones. Taken the email off now you have it :0) x

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Stevie B
18:01 Jun 30, 2021

Will do and will begin by sending several short-short stories. Afterward if you'd like more I'd be happy to send more..

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Bernard Amofa
12:47 Jun 18, 2021

Amazing. Am Soo glad

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Stevie B
12:50 Jun 18, 2021

Bernard, thanks!

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11:59 Jun 18, 2021

Brilliant, I like the humor, the gradual change from " I" to " We" then back to "I" . Well done.

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Stevie B
12:36 Jun 18, 2021

Vincent thank you for picking up on that subtle change of singular to plural then back to singular again!

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Alvin Fernandes
09:20 Jun 18, 2021

Loved this!! Great one

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Stevie B
11:40 Jun 18, 2021

Many thanks, Alvin!

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Julia Seaton
15:55 Jun 17, 2021

Delightful tone with the twinges of humor and entertaining plot! Lovely work!

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Stevie B
15:59 Jun 17, 2021

Thank you ever so much, Julia!

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Jennifer Mutter
15:04 Jun 17, 2021

Wow your relationship store is the best and I love it

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Stevie B
15:09 Jun 17, 2021

Jennifer, Oh and how they've left me with stories to tell...

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J Sagar
14:15 Jun 16, 2021

"...with a look so cold it probably could’ve given an icy glacier a fatal case of frostbite on a hot summer’s day." 🤣 That was great!

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Stevie B
15:46 Jun 16, 2021

J, thank you and happy you enjoyed that.

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Natania Kurien
02:43 Jun 16, 2021

This was really great! I love your take on the prompt, such an interesting way to frame the story given the current pandemic. I really like the narrative voice here - it brings in this sense of light-heartedness and humor that was so enjoyable to read especially as you're setting this story in the time of countless weeks of quarantine. I also love how you brought in the characters' window of opportunity to get to know each other as a metaphorical window to complement the literal windows they were looking out of - so brilliant! Great job!

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Stevie B
11:06 Jun 16, 2021

Natania, you made my day! Thank you ever so much for your thoughtful and insightful comment. Yes, this lockdown has been like a blackhole for many, and as physicists have theorized the only way to escape a blackhole is, like a window, you must go all the way through to make it out to the other side.

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Natania Kurien
16:51 Jun 17, 2021

Oof, I completely agree. And looking forward to reading more of your work!

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Stevie B
16:54 Jun 17, 2021

Glad that you agree and happy you'll keep reading, Natania.

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Jools .
23:14 Jun 15, 2021

I loved this. I read short stories on my youtube channel and would love to read this if you will let me? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWvGegwlXm4&list=PLlJJPEBM8Rsl-VjdnbpMBxMcsViZmdip3

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Stevie B
23:27 Jun 15, 2021

Jools, I'd be honored and if possible please mention my weekly blog: https://www.thestevieb.com/ Thank you!

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Jools .
02:16 Jun 16, 2021

Thank you so much and I certainly will include that information :0) I will let you know as soon as I have done it :0) xx

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Stevie B
11:08 Jun 16, 2021

Thank you, Jools, it'll be exciting to view it.

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Jools .
18:15 Jun 17, 2021

Thank you :0)

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Stevie B
18:17 Jun 17, 2021

Your welcome.

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Kendi Karimi
20:38 Jun 15, 2021

Enjoyed reading this story ❤️

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Stevie B
20:38 Jun 15, 2021

Thank you. Kendi.

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Cindy Calder
12:22 Jun 15, 2021

Oh my goodness, what a delightful surprise! Thank you so much for this clever story that kept me laughing all the way through it. Splendid job well done, my friend!

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Stevie B
13:35 Jun 15, 2021

Thank you, Cindy, and so happy it made you laugh.

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Cindy Calder
17:06 Jun 15, 2021

Stevie B - How did you see my newest story "Unexpected Joy" before it's been approved? I am more than curious. I see that you liked it.

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Stevie B
17:37 Jun 15, 2021

It appeared with the over 1100 other entries on the prompt thread.

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Cindy Calder
18:47 Jun 15, 2021

Oh! My understanding was that it did not appear until after it had been approved. I guess I was mistaken. Thanks for the clarification.

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Stevie B
18:53 Jun 15, 2021

I guess Reedsy works in mysterious ways... From the email you received about this prompt click on the "contest page" link to see all submissions awaiting approval.

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Cindy Calder
18:47 Jun 15, 2021

Oh! My understanding was that it did not appear until after it had been approved. I guess I was mistaken. Thanks for the clarification.

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Stevie B
18:50 Jun 15, 2021

Cindy, guess Reedsy works in mysterious ways. If you still have their email about the prompt then all you need do is click on the "contest page" link to see all the submissions awaiting approval.

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Rachel Moreira
02:00 Jun 15, 2021

Very entertaining and adorable story, thanks for sharing!

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Stevie B
11:22 Jun 15, 2021

Rachel, thank you for reading and commenting.

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Echo Sundar
15:28 Jun 14, 2021

This story was really enjoyable to read! I loved the premise of the plot and how if not for the pandemic the events of this story would cease to exist! Wonderfull story!

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Stevie B
16:06 Jun 14, 2021

Thank you, Echo.

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Kanika G
13:58 Jun 14, 2021

Hi Stevie, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The usage of the prompt was impressive. "My third-story woman then turned to face me again for a few seconds with a look so cold it probably could’ve given an icy glacier a fatal case of frostbite on a hot summer’s day." Loved this! "In retrospect (a term I always joke about as being the 20-20 vision of a**holes)..." This was funny too. The story was relatable and funny. The narrative was conversational, which made the protagonist pop. Great work!

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Stevie B
14:17 Jun 14, 2021

Thank you, Kanika, I really enjoy reading your work too.

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Tina Laing
13:23 Jun 14, 2021

Nice story, I enjoy reading it. Keep up the good work. It was a wonderful story.

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Stevie B
13:33 Jun 14, 2021

Tina, thank you and glad you enjoyed it.

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