some fall in love. i shatter.

The Baltimore (#34)

In Stories Volume 2 on December 17, 2012 at 11:50 am

The Baltimore. Eight floors of modern brick exterior. A city block. Sixteen apartments per floor. Four apartments with eastward facing windows. Nineteen windows total facing eastward across Samson St, from the Baltimore to the Hamilton. 

The Hamilton. Eight floors of pre-war brick exterior. A city corner. Five apartments per floor. Two apartments with westward facing windows. Ten windows total facing westward across Samson St, from the Hamilton to the Baltimore.



Annabelle Wethers stepped into apartment 51 of the Baltimore as the clock on the microwave ticked over from 9:17pm to 9:18pm. Her dirty blonde hair and white dress, which she thought better suited for someone ten years younger, stood in stark contrast to the long black coat that had shielded her from the cold and the wind just minutes earlier. An extra glass of wine at dinner caused her fingers to brush past the light switch that operated the lamp in the corner of the living room and she continued forward into relative darkness. The thin slats of the wooden blinds were up and allowed in the stray ambient light of the city. Annabelle dropped her black purse onto the cream colored couch and slid her feet out of the dark green ballet flats that were on the very edge of giving her a tiny blister on the inside edge of her right foot, just behind the big toe.

One hand on the nylon cord knotted around a hook to keep the blinds up on one of the living room windows, she paused, her gaze arrested upon an apartment across the way. The Hamilton. Apartment 5B, though Annabelle didn’t know that. All she knew was that the apartment was lit up like a spotlight, the curtains still pulled tall near to the ceiling on all five windows. And a man stood in the one to the far right. He held something in his hands, something that held his attention and arrested his movement, but Annabelle couldn’t be certain. He stood in the center of the window, offering a three-quarters profile through the pane of glass. There was nothing particular about him that she could have explained if commanded to in the moment, and yet she couldn’t pull herself away.

He looked like maybe any other guy in his late twenties or early thirties. Average height, short but floppy brown hair, neither over- nor under-weight. There was no particular sparkle to his smile – he wasn’t smiling at all – and there was nothing special on the walls of the apartment that caught her eye: just a mirror, two shelves, a few framed photos that Annabelle couldn’t make out, and the lamp that shone like a spotlight. And yet she leaned against her own dark window, forehead and right palm against the glass; stability in her falling reverie.

As he lingered in that far right windowpane, Annabelle began losing herself in the projecting light. In a blink, that light bulb became the sun, casting it’s light down through the trailing branches of a weeping birch. She looked down to see her tanned and bare feet scrunching up bits of grass and dirt. A childish giggle; Annabelle looked forward to see Stephen, the son she had only imagined having, walking toward her. He had on little brown pants and a little green t-shirt and his feet were bare. His hands were raised high above the small mop of brown curls atop his head. Holding the sweaty grip of each hand, for she knew well how clammy that grip could become, was the man she had met from across the street. He was bent over to hold each hand, wrinkling up the front of his khakis and white linen shirt. Strands of hair fell into his eyes and his feet stepped cautiously behind their son. Laughter came from both of them as they jerkily stepped their way towards Annabelle, picking up speed and momentum on the little slope. Smiles were everywhere, blinding her. She glanced away and in her peripheral vision saw a patio, a picnic table, and a “Happy 1st Birthday” banner in green and white. A gray cloud encroached upon the sun, darkening her domestic vision.

But it wasn’t a cloud, or course not, because she was still back in her apartment and her mysterious ‘he’ was in his own apartment. He’d just drifted from one window to the next and the column of brick had intruded as the gray cloud. As he stabilized in that second pane of glass, Annabelle tried to find that vision again but her eyes caught upon a candle flame on the table in front of her. She recognized before even blinking the interior decor of Le Gigot. The dark wood of the walls, the heavy chairs with the pinned maroon leather, the lingering scent of pipe smoke even though her favorite French bistro had been smoke-free for years. Across the table from her was her husband, who she’d met from across the street so many years ago.  A bottle of Bordeaux from Médoc sat nearly empty in the center of the table, between the two candles, where they now leaned forward just an inch or two to hear the other over the restaurant noise. His right hand reached across the table and held her left. His grip was strong; he looked older; he looked happier. She felt the same way.

The candle blew out on a gust of wind. Another passage behind the walls. Another window. Another splash of bright light. Annabelle grasped for a moment before recognizing the café area of the Literary Feast bookstore. She’d gazed up into one of the overhead track lights while lingering on the first bit of foam off the large cappuccino nested in her lean and so slightly wrinkled fingers. She set the mug back down on the wrought iron table, next to the ballet and cello magazines she’d purchased when they first came in, careful not to spill anything. She came with a purpose; her husband’s purpose was to have no purpose. He wandered through the aisles, Annabelle could just make him out now, waiting to find whatever inspired him. His tall and lean frame, relaxed in jeans and a white t-shirt, moved higher in the fiction writer alphabet. Two books were already tucked under his left arm while his right index finger glided through the air, tracing the spines of books and using it as a pointer to direct his easily distracted eyes. Annabelle watched him roam as if he’d never been in the store before returning to her drink and the ballet. He’d be by soon enough, five books purchased and a headache on the horizon because he’s chosen to look for books before first ordering a coffee.

Annabelle felt a hand on her back. Her husband had slipped quietly into the apartment after stopping at the front desk to pick up a package.

“What are you doing in the dark?” he asked.

“Nothing. Just looking out the window.” She leaned back to kiss him on the cheek.

“You mind if I turn on the light?”

“No, no; go ahead.”

Annabelle now heard his footsteps clearly against the floorboards and after two seconds, the room exploded like a starburst. Her pupils dilated and after squeezing them shut and reopening them, she saw that her man at the Hamilton had become aware of his presence upon the stage. She continued to stare as with one hand he pulled down one window’s curtain, then the second, the third, and the fourth. As he stood in the fifth window, he hesitated, just for a moment, before giving her a short wave and then letting down the last curtain. She waved back but he and the waking dream were already gone.



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