Auburn

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

I looked out my window, which made me uncomfortable because I was showering and if I saw anyone they could see me and, well I preferred to shower privately. When I moved into this apartment four months ago I hadn't even really looked at the shower, and I hadn't noticed the window above the shower until the second month and by then it was far too late to go back. I'd made a commitment to the apartment, shower window and all. The thin, pale, red curtain that normally covered the window had been taken down by Samantha, who claimed it was covered in spider web, but I hadn't seen any spiders or their web. I gazed through the pane and across the rooftop and into the apartment adjacent mine.

Darkness. Which makes sense, not everyone is awake at 3am. I finished my uncomfortable shower and toweled off. I slid my gym shorts on and then my t-shirt. I put some toothpaste on my toothbrush, wet it, then began brushing my teeth. I looked around the bathroom. The middle of the three lights above the mirror had died sometime last week and I hadn’t gotten around to replacing it. Something tugged at the edge of my peripheral and I glanced back out the window. A light shone through the window in the opposite apartment.

I gave my reflect a sideways glance of confusion then looked back out the window. The single pane semicircle above the shower held my gaze. Transfixed I stepped back into the shower and looked through. I saw a swish of auburn hair and then just light. A moment later it cut off and there was only darkness. Samantha knocked on the door, disrupting my focus. I shrugged my shoulders over the accusations of trying to please myself before she gets a chance to. I smiled and walked out of the bathroom.

Samantha had come into my life before the apartment. I wouldn’t necessarily say I was dating her, but there was something between us. If I had to choose a word to describe it, I would choose the word exclusive. There was a level of comfort with her that I didn’t have with anyone else. So when I got the apartment I let her move in. She lay next to me, asleep. I thought about the auburn hair.

Samantha brushed her hair. Long dirty blonde locks poured over her shoulders. I straightened my tie in the other half of the mirror and smiled at her reflection. She smiled back, brushed a little bit more hair and kissed me on the check. She asked if I needed anything and I declined. She left the bathroom and I reached in the medicine cabinet behind the mirror. I pulled out a bottle of cologne and sprayed some on my chest. I sighed and continued fiddling with my tie. I looked out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of auburn hair, but it had been a month since I’d seen her. I gazed longingly at the window of the far apartment. No sign of life. Samantha called out for me and I left the bathroom.

“Do you think we’ll get married?” Samantha asked casually. “I mean, like, eventually.”

“No.” I responded. I listened to the sound of the tires rolling over the asphalt; Samantha had turned off the radio before she asked me. She didn’t seem shaken up by my answer nor did she seem surprised.

“Why not?”

“Same reason as the last time you asked and the time before that.”

“What if I said that I don’t want kids?”

“Well first you’d be lying, and second you know that’s not the only reason.”

“Ok.” She said and I grabbed her hand.

I shoveled another spoonful of off brand cereal in my mouth. The television was on, but no one was watching it. I ate another bite and stared at the fridge. I had always hated the fridge. I hated it when I looked at the apartment. It squeaked when it opened, hummed a little too loudly and had a tendency to leak. To top it off the ice maker didn’t function, so I had spent an extra five dollars on ice every week. I finished up my cereal and cleaned my bowl. Samantha walked into the kitchen. She opened the fridge and hung on the door. I glanced at the clock on the microwave. 11:31 PM. I decided it was time to shower. Something crossed my mind though.

“Do you know who lives in the apartment across the street?”

Samantha looked up from the refrigerator. “I don’t know. Why?”

I thought of the Auburn hair that I hadn’t seen in three months, but that still frequented my dreams. “Just curious is all.”

The hot water ran over my body, the window was still bare. After three months I’d gotten used to it and I often looked out the window trying to catch a glimpse of her. I rinsed out my hair, looked and there she was. Just like that. Her face was gorgeous, and was framed perfectly by her hair. She looked up and waved. My hair was pressed down onto my forehead by the water and I was painfully aware of how goofy I looked. I waved back though and she giggled and covered her mouth with her hand. Then she disappeared from the window and the light went off. I stared for a few moments longer and then finished my shower.

Samantha was far too drunk. I wasn’t far behind her, but I was fairly cognitive. Three wine bottles stood on the kitchen counter, all three empty.

“I wish you loved me.” She said.

“I do”

“You just say that you do, I know you don’t really.”

“That I don’t what really?”

“Really love me.”

My mind was spinning; I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what she was saying.

“But I do love you.”

“Not like you used to.”

“Well no… It’s different now.”

“Different?”

“Yeah.” Maybe different wasn’t the best word. She sighed and it got quite.

“I’m going to bed; this wine is getting to me.” I said. She nodded in agreement and followed me to the bedroom.

The next morning, or afternoon at this point, started with two fried eggs, a glass of grapefruit juice and a slice of toast. Samantha shuffled into the kitchen and yawned. Her little feet pigeon toed slightly and I always found that cute. She waved at me and went to the fridge. I watched her from behind my toast. She grabbed a yogurt out of the fridge and a spoon out of the drawer, and plopped down in the chair next to me. Her hair was disheveled and her eyes were only half open. She lazily spooned the vanilla yogurt into her mouth and swallowed. I cleaned up my dishes and sat back down, only this time in the chair across from her so I could look straight on. She looked at me and her mouth slanted a bit.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“How long has it been ‘different’?”

I should have expected this. “A while now I guess, I don’t know, it’s not like it just happened one day.”

“How is it different?”

“I just don’t love you romantically anymore.” I looked down at my hands, which had just become foreign and very interesting. “I still love you, but it feels more like a friendship.”

“Oh so sex isn’t romantic to you anymore?”

I looked back at her. “That’s not what I meant.”

“What did you mean?”

“I mean I love you it’s just not like it used to be ok?”

“So what am I to you?”

“A friend, and a casual lover.” I paused for a second and collected myself. “You’re my friend first though, sex is just a bonus.”

“Do you want me to leave?”

“No.” I lied, both to her and to myself.

When I bought the apartment I had intended to live her by myself. Samantha and I had been apart at that time. We had been on and off for years now after we had dated for all of high school. Then in college is when we had split for the first time. Now we were off again, and I was finally living as I had originally intended. We had gotten back together this most recent time much like the last few times. The day after I moved in she came over to see the new place and one thing had led to another and we ended up in the bedroom again. After that she had slowly started to move in. Now though, all of her things were gone. The shower looked empty with just my shampoo and body wash. She had forgotten, or just neglected to pack, a small plastic cup that she used to get water in the middle of the night. She kept it on the counter next to the sink and there it remained. I wasn’t concerned about us. We had split up plenty of times before for much the same reason. She would either come back or she wouldn’t. I was never one to sit around and wait on her.

I had had a couple of flings, nothing serious, with a couple of different girls between my stints with Samantha. I didn’t talk to them much anymore if at all, most had ended by me just not talking to them. I didn’t think this one would be any different, if it panned out at all. I didn’t even know the girl, but she was definitely attractive and at least I knew where she lived.

I stood outside the apartment door. It looked exactly like mine, except the paint was chipped in different places. I opened the door and walked into the foyer. I didn't really have a plan, aside from knocking on the door. After I accomplished that I didn't really know. I couldn't exactly tell her the truth. Imagine the look she would give me if I open by telling her I saw her through the bathroom window, and oh by the way how about some coffee. To be fair though she did wave to me, maybe she'd remember. I took the stairs slowly. I thought about bringing flowers, but that seemed over the top. I walked down the hall counting the doors. She should be the fourth on the left, if I had counted the windows correctly. It had been a while since I had been this type of nervous, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. I got to the door and composed myself. I raised my hand and knocked.

At first I was convinced that I was at the wrong apartment and was midway through a stumbling apology when her jaw went slack. The look on her face cut me off and she raised her hand up and stroked my cheek.

“I’m sorry ma’am,” I started again, “I’m at the wrong apartment.”

“You’re the boy.”

“I’m what?”

“You’re the boy in the window.”

The tea was perfectly warm, and not too sweet. The apartment was cozy and warm, books filled shelves that lined the walls. Rugs covered most of the floor and there were tables and couches and chairs on top of those. We sat opposite each other in her living room. There had been silence, but it wasn’t awkward. It was a mutual patience and respect. She set down her cup and addressed me.

“I’ve lived in this same apartment for almost fifty eight years. When I moved her I was young and foolish, but I had a job which is more than most my age and in my situation at the time could say. I was a receptionist at an office building on Sixth and Murphy, which got torn down a few years ago.” She took a sip of her tea and continued. “When I moved into this apartment the whole block was failing, and they were taking in anyone and everyone and rent was cheap. I got this apartment for forty five dollars a month and my contract states that for as long as I stayed the price would never go up.” My eyes went wide and I let out a low whistle. I had thought I was getting a deal at $675 a month. She grinned at my reaction. “That right I still only pay forty five dollars a month for this apartment, it’s part of the reason I’ve never moved out.” She shuffled some books on the table around. “I almost got married a few years after I moved in. He was an up and coming lawyer in one of the firms that was in the office building.” I asked what happened. “He got a job offer off in California. He promised that once he got settled in and made enough money he would move me out to join him, but we feel out of touch and he married someone else.”

“I’m really sorry to hear that.”

“Oh, that was decades ago, I’ve made it this far.” She smiled a soft smile. By this point I still had my doubts, I mean she was nice for sure, but she could just have severe dementia and think I’m some lost grandchild. Her eyes were sharp though and her demeanor seemed too strong. Her hair was soft and white, no longer auburn if it was in fact at one point. Her eyes were a sharp green. Then as if she had heard my thoughts she said.

“My hair began to lose its color about twenty years ago. I’m sure you remember it when it was much more beautiful.”

“I remember.”

Then she really convinced me. “Are you still with the blonde girl?”

“No. We’re apart right now.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t be, I’ll be ok.”

“She was with you the second time I saw you, and I have to admit I was a little heart broken. You were kissing her in that shower of yours. It was right after I had found out that Jim was getting married and I had been hoping that you would come over and take me out, if only to get my mind off things. Who knew it’d take over fifty years.”

“I don’t understand. I’ve only lived in that apartment for eight months, and I haven’t even lived half of fifty years, how could you have seen me?”

“There are many things in life that we don’t understand, maybe it was God, or a slip of nature, or something even more unexplainable.”

We both conceded to the impossibility of what had occurred.

I chuckled under my breath. “I guess we each have a window in time.”

She died a few months later. I continued to visit her until the end. I found her in the chair she had sat in the first time I visited. The doctor had said old age is what took her, and it had been painless. I had her cremated and spread her ashes in the ocean. She had left everything to me. I donated all of her books to the local library, and the furniture I gave to an orphanage. I kept her tea cups and her kettle. I never used them, but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them.


I saw her once more after she passed. I was brushing my teeth and happened to glance over. I saw her brushing her hair I smiled at her with my toothbrush still in my mouth. It slipped out of my mouth and fell onto the floor. I bent down grabbed it and tossed it into the sink. I waved at her, but she didn’t see me. I watched her brush her hair for fifteen minutes; it was as auburn as ever. Finally satisfied she put her brush down and left her bathroom. The light in her bathroom went off and she was gone. I picked up my toothbrush and began to clean it off. A bright flash and soft pop made me jump. I looked up. Another light bulb had burst.