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The Window

The Window

Monday, 07.00 A.M., the alarm clock goes off. I open my eyes to complete darkness. Its not the kind of morning darkness that you get when your blinds are drawn. Its not even the darkness of the night. In my room there is virtually no light; the thick darkness of a coffin six feet under. I reach out for the switch and neon light shines softly from the ceiling. It could have well been any other time of the day morning, noon, evening, midnight they all seem the same to me in my room. The black rectangular digits on the clock are the only indication of the daybreak outside. Not that I care. If it werent for work, Id probably throw the stupid clock away. But I wouldnt complain about it as my work is a piece of cake. I need very little money. Thus, I can afford to be a poorly paid librarian. It is a quiet easy job, especially in this small city. I have only myself to look after. My rent is pretty low as nobody else would want to live here anyway; I live alone in only one room with a separate bathroom. Neither the room, nor the bathroom has any windows. What good are windows anyway? Windows are too revealing. Doors are different. Doors keep you safe. They are almost like walls, yet they are more convenient when it comes to going in or out. I dont need windows. To tell the truth, I hate them.

I get up and I go to the bathroom. The reflection of my face tries to attract my attention but I ignore it skilfully while I do my usual washing up. The face of a forty-seven-year-old loner is a sight worth missing. It does not matter what I look like anymore. Nobody knows me here. The ones who knew me are far away now and I have no intention of seeing them again. My social activity can be reduced to the formal communication with my landlord, the clients at the library and occasionally the shop-assistants. In order to avoid being noticeable for my extremely neglected appearance, I sacrifice myself and put some effort in trying to look at least normal. I wear plain one-colour clothes in dark blue, grey or black. They make me look like a helplessly dull person. Nobody takes interest in me. I stay invisible to society.

In my room I have a microwave oven. This room is situated on the second floor of a cheap boarding house. I went to some trouble to hire it as it wasnt for rent in the first place. It was planned to serve as a storage room. Theyve never used it anyway. I dressed up in my most serious clothes and I went for it. I was polite and I spoke slowly and quietly. After I had explained to the administration that I would like to live there permanently they agreed to let me hire it and I paid to have the laundry section of the very room turned into a little bathroom. I must have made a really good impression. What difference does one librarian make? Moreover, I always pay the rent on time. I wouldnt like to be bothered with reminders that Im on the way to missing the deadline. The other tenants come and go so they usually dont have the time to cause any trouble to a middle-aged man who looks like the boring person I am. In fact, I wouldnt dare to claim that Im ugly. I admit that Im not womens favourite sight but yet Im more plain than ugly. Of course, if I wanted, I could always make myself look somewhat attractive, but Im afraid this would be the exact opposite of my preference.

Concentrate. My microwave oven. I take my only cup, pour water and dip in a cheap teabag. I close the door of the oven and wait for the water to boil. In the meantime I put on a white long-sleeved shirt and a pair of ordinary dark-blue trousers. I replace the cup in the oven with a semi-cooked breakfast from the freezer. I like the taste of frozen junk food. Thats why I got the microwave oven. It makes me feel like an astronaut. Im closed up in my dark room-spaceship and I travel beyond this reality... to a place somewhere far away free from notions of time and space. Artificial things make me feel comfortable. Nature scares me away. Its got its own ways, its alive. I cant grasp the meaning of it. Plastic things are dead. Frozen food is dead. They are no threat to me. They have been created with a purpose without any hidden sides or meanings.

Its already half past seven. I eat my breakfast, put on my black shoes, take my wallet and keys. I go out and lock the door. I have no phone number. I dont need to call anybody, nobody needs to call me. My only portal to this world is the door of my room-spaceship. The outside world is just an obligation. Whenever I go out, I always hurry back to my shelter. I lock the portal, I lie on the bed and let my mind travel undisturbed by time and space. Until the alarm clock goes off again. The bare walls of my room protect me. The outer world cannot reach me. My door is locked and I have no windows.

In fact Im dead to the world. I died in the past. I dont know if it was yesterday or long ago. Its the same to me, simply the past. Now that Im dead, time doesnt matter to me anymore. My soul is dead. My body seems to be a little bit stubborn, but its slowly giving up, I can feel it. I live automatically now. As if Im in a waiting room queuing up to die once again, physically.

Concentrate. Youre not in your spaceship now. Concentrate and youll come back faster. I pass by the lines of doors on my left and right towards the staircase. Save for some distant light noises its quiet. I go down the stairs and greet the porter on my way out. He waves back, smiling. I head for the library.

I can feel a little tension in the air. Its sunny, just a few clouds are scattered over the sky. It might rain in the afternoon. Theres a light wind blowing and it gives me the unpleasant feeling of an expectation. I feel as if Im expecting something to happen but what Im waiting for keeps running late. I try to isolate myself from the world. I gather my thoughts like Id gather dirty socks in a washing machine; I switch it on and spin them in my head till they become so mixed-up that I cant tell them apart anymore. The next time I look around Im already in front of the library.

I walk up the few stairs on my way to the open entrance. Im not late, but apparently somebody else is early. I take no interest in my colleagues; I keep quiet about myself and theyve gotten used to my secrecy. I work on the second floor. Im in charge of the Art Department. It is situated in a separate room and consists of the more expensive books about art. Books on the lives of great painters, musicians and sculptors watch over my monotonous life from the shelves. There are lines of albums in which paintings lurk silently between the covers and never disturb my eyes with the beauties of nature or people. CDs with great masterpieces of classical composers lie low in the back of the room and never make a sound. Human soul has captured so much emotion in these works with the ambition to touch another persons feelings. The door of my heart is closed. In order to lock it forever, I had to brick up the windows first. Otherwise I wouldnt have had the courage to lock the door, being able to still see the outer world. Not many people come to my department. When they do, they are usually students who need information for a report or something. The books from my department are not to be borrowed and they have to copy the information. They either use the copy machine or just sit down in front of one of the few desks in the room and copy it in writing. I unlock the door and get in. Everything is just as I left it yesterday. I sit down behind the bureau and stare in the empty space before my eyes.

Maybe you wonder what I do so many hours at work as I have to deal with few people. Sometimes I have to do some work related to the library such as making an inventory of new books, numbering them and such things. But most of the times I just think. I like to think about my life and myself. Now that Im dead I can think about my life from a different perspective. I have eliminated my thoughts about the future. I have only my past to consider. Everything that was to happen to me has already happened. It is a bit like reading a book. You can follow the story and be nervous about the events in it but it has already been written. Everything has been decided on. Somebody has already done the decision part for you. Convenient, isnt it? You cannot interfere and all thats left to you is to try to find pleasure in rereading it and trying to find new meanings of the old words. Thats what I do. For many long hours I sit behind my bureau trying to understand the meaning of everything that has happened to me. I think and think and I get lost in my thoughts and I feel tired, but I just close my eyes for a moment and start over. Could I have changed anything? Was I the author of my book or was I simply a reader?

Its already past noon and outside it has started to rain heavily. It isnt cloudy, though. The spring shower is bathing in the sun - sudden, wild and short-lived. Spontaneous like the rain, a school-boy rushes in. He must have already been in the library when the rain had started as he doesnt have an umbrella, yet he isnt wet. He doesnt look too confident about what he is doing, but he doesnt seem shy either. I havent seen him so far, this might be his first time in the library. He strides towards my bureau.

How can I help you? I save him from his wondering how to address me.

Downstairs They told me you have a book about Beethoven here. He has a small frayed school-bag. His shoes are dirty. His hair is a mess. He is aware of his appearance. I need it for a report It must be a book about his life.

These are called biographies. I rise and head for the bookshelves opposite my bureau. You are not allowed to borrow it; these are the rules of this department. If you want to copy any parts you can either use the copy machine or rewrite the passages you need to use.

I dont know yet which parts I need I think it would be better to write down the report here using the book. I hope you dont mind.

No, I dont. The desks over there are at your disposal. I handed him the book and returned to my bureau.

I couldnt see the desks from where I was sitting. I tried to imagine that Im alone in the room, but occasional sounds of leafing through a book reminded me of the childs presence. He must be 11 or 12 At least thats what he looks like. Can I remember myself being at this age? It feels as if I have never been younger. My past, back when I was still alive seems so distant to me now. I cant relate to the person I used to be. Maybe Im not the same person anymore. Being dead makes a huge difference, of course, but I still have my body to remind me about the past. I leaf through the pages of my life. Indeed, I see a little boy there - laughing, jumping, all dirty and happy and never thinking too much about the future. Troubles come and go. Children have a natural protection against the woes and sorrows of the world. They travel on auto-pilot beyond reality in a spaceship of their own.

The rain has stopped. Outside the sun is shining. Its getting warmer in the room. We have air-conditioning, but it doesnt seem to be working now. I dont know why. I dont care, anyway.

Sir? I hear the boys voice from where the desks are. I stood up and paced towards him.

Whats the matter? I ask as Im turning around the corner of bookshelves. His face is all red.

Its really hot here. Could you open the window, sir? I tried, but the handle is too high for me. Could you open it, sir?

I just stand there. Chaos takes over my mind. Could you open the window, sir? Thats what he asked. I feel my heartbeat going faster. My thoughts are racing. It feels as if Ive been standing there silent for a whole minute rather than a few seconds. I panic. He doesnt know that I cant open the window. He doesnt know about anything. Hes just a child. How could he know In my soul I am soundlessly screaming I cant do it! I cant open that window! I can never open a window again! If I hadnt left the window open that night she would have been still alive. I would have been alive. If only On the outside I am probably a mystery to the boy. I see his eyes open wider in perplexity.

Sir? Are you feeling alright? The boy asks. His question breaks my trance.

Yes, yes, of course I am. Dont worry about me. Im trying to sound calm and normal, but my voice trembles a bit.

Then could you open the window for me?

I gulp. The boys voice has switched an auto-pilot on. I cant think about anything anymore. I am so full of emotions that I cant tell them apart. Theyre all mixed-up and spinning like the dirty socks in the washing machine. I step towards the window. The boy is watching me. Each step feels like eternity. In his eyes Im probably moving slowly with ease. My hands are shaking as I reach for the handle. My heart is beating so fast that I wish it would burst and put an end to this torture. Why am I doing this? Is it because of the boy? Which boy? Is it the one in the room or the one on the pages of my book? I wrap my fingers around the handle. I cant do this. Im tightening my grip. I feel the muscles of my arm tense. This is not happening. I close my eyes and I hold my breath. I clench my teeth and push the handle down. What am I doing? I inhale and quickly move my arm backwards. Still holding the handle, this opens the window. I feel a blast of fresh air. My eyes are still closed. I cant believe I have done this. I open my eyes. The first thing I see outside is a rainbow in the sky. My hand is still shaking a little.

Somewhere on the pages of my book, a mother says to a little boy A rainbow, son, is the laughter of the sun. It proves that the sun can smile even when the sky is crying. Remember that however bad the times may be, you must always find the strength to smile. Otherwise you wouldnt see the rainbow afterwards.

* * *

I have the feeling that I will never return to my spaceship. This time Im staying right here, in this world. When your soul is free to fly, windows are actually doors.

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