Archive for May, 2008

2008/05/15

The Open Window

by mdjb

The boy lay bathed in sweat on his bed, awake. Water covered every inch of his body, and as he lay there in only his briefs there was nothing to absorb the flood of perspiration. His hair was matted and soaked. The sheet was sticking to his back every time he moved.
His eyes were red and swollen. In desperate need of sleep, he closed them a few times and tried to rest, but he was too uncomfortable. Something was making his brain itch. Something would not let him sleep.
He was alone in the apartment, but he had been alone many times before. Nothing so simple as being by himself should irritate him. It shouldn’t. He tried to think of something else.

People were passing in the street below and adding to the din of Harbor Avenue. It was late, but quite a few were out and about, but as he heard them milling below, it reminded him of his being alone and he had to turn to something else. He picked up a paperback book and began reading a dog-earred page, but soon he remembered it was a murder mystery. That would never do. He tossed it on the bureau.

God! He was sweating buckets! He knew he should open a window or two, but it was his wont to keep every one closed and locked. The doors were locked also. He dabbed at his neck and face with a damp handkerchief. It didn’t do much good so he took a clean one from one of the drawers in the bureau. Hundred and thirty-nine dollars that bureau had cost on a Labor Day sale. It looked like crap. He was sweating and the wood felt sticky.

Still searching for something to do, he picked up a comic magazine. It was light-hearted enough, but when he finished with it, he realized there were no more lying around.
He lay down again on the sweat-soaked sheet and closed his eyes, but it was useless. He could not sleep. Something would not let him. He did not, as a rule, suffer from insomnia, and could find no rationale for this perverse sleeplessness. He could say it was too hot and there was little air circulating in the room, but he had fallen asleep under these conditions many times before. He could say he was overtired, and the room was not dark enough, and there was the din in the street, but these things also he had hitherto conquered.
He sat up again and turned on the radio on the night table. Out came a song he had heard many, many times before. Listlessly, he lay there and let the words drone through his head:
Ahm gonna give ya mah love, girl,
Gonna let it fly in through yer window.
Ahm gonna make love to you…

Suddenly, it came to him. He had certainly locked the doors as soon as his folks went out, front door and back, and shut the windows, but he was not quite sure about the window in the kitchen, at the other end of the apartment. True, he could not feel any breeze blowing through the apartment, but it did not settle his mind. He was afraid to leave his room to check on it, but he knew he would not be able to fall asleep until he did. Well, then, he thought, he would just stay awake until the folks came home. When Mama and Frank got in they would open most of the windows, but that would be all right because the three of them would all be there in case anyone ever tried to break in or something.
No! He couldn’t stay awake until that late. Besides, they might be tipsy. He should be asleep when they came in.
Why should he be so paranoid about an open window? That was silly, right? To prove to himself how silly he was being torturing himself in this dreadful heat, he opened his bedroom window a few inches, opened it a crack as Frank would sometimes say.
He could hear noises from the pier and sounds of people below on Harbor Avenue more clearly.

Then he thought, sure, this is fine. There’s nothing outside this window but the street. There was a fire escape leading up to the one in the kitchen, and it came up from a dark back yard.
He must get up and close it or he would never fall asleep. He was afraid. Afraid enough to feel a chill, a chill which, even in this heat, was not welcome. All he had to do was go out and close it quickly, twist the lock and go back to bed. That was all. Then he could even open his bedroom window all the way. That was safe enough. There was no fire escape out there.

Slowly, he crept through his doorway to the sitting room, and from there, slowly, ever so slowly, through three more rooms to the doorway of the kitchen.
He stood there looking across the room at the window. It was wide open. The short cafe curtains were fluttering in the slight breeze, which he could now feel hitting his bare chest, making the short hairs of puberty stand on end. He felt a sickening sensation inside that adolescent chest.

Breath held fast, he strode across the room and stood before the window, ramshackle window, cheap curtains, slightly soiled and billowing carelessly.
Why had he felt so frightened? God! He felt like such a wimp!
Oh, well, might as well get it over with. It was best to play it safe anyway. He was not afraid anymore, but he thought, with a fire escape outside, this one window should be kept closed, and yes, maybe locked also.

He reached up, put both hands on the window to bring it down, and then it happened. A man stepped out of the darkness where he had been standing and stared open-eyed into the boy’s face.
Slowly, the boy’s fingers lost all their feeling and his legs wouldn’t hold him up. His vision blackened and he fainted dead away, crumpling in a heap on the floor in front of the window.

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