Nebraska Center for Writers

by Tyrone Jaeger

MY NEIGHBOR, who like me rented a garden level apartment, had the delightful and yet disturbing habit of napping completely naked in front of her window. One evening I walked by, the yellow fog rubbing its back up against the lamp lit window, and there she was. I stopped and stared as I often did, imagining her soft skin, her rose scented breath, my lips against her neck. She lay on the sofa with the back of her forearm across her forehead, as if she were a distressed damsel and had fainted. It was then that I saw the television remote hanging from her fingers, the shifting blue light on her skin.

I unlocked my series of locks, but was restless and wanting, so I went and pawed at her door, thinking she would answer, I would explain the days of watching and needing, and we would spill on the floor. The fog stretched between every building, car, and street sign.

She opened the door, wearing a loose kimono. We eyed each other suspiciously, and I asked if I could come in. She made tea and offered cakes. We sat at the table, eating and sipping, me in shirtsleeves (just having finished a day’s work), and she in the kimono, which slipped from her shoulders. We ate the lemon cakes in silence, sipping our hot tea.

"What do you do for work?" I said.
"I've seen you," she said, ignoring my question. "I've seen you looking in the mirror, with a handheld mirror, searching your head for baldness. The evenings when you are alone, how fast you eat your suppers. The bed you share with a photograph."
"You’ve been watching me?" I said, feeling a bit violated and lonelier than I remembered.
"You leave the curtains open," she said, and offered more tea.

I explained to her how all of it was true, but had she heard me singing my made-up operas in the shower? She said that, in fact, she hadn't. I asked her if she would like to hear a song. I stood on my chair and belted out a tune I had no name for. "Keep singing," she said, and disappeared for a moment.

Sitting and then smiling up at me, she leaned over and pulled on the loveliest pair of blue socks. She began to skate around on the kitchen tile with long and smooth strokes, and I continued singing a song I had never heard before. Outside, the fog left wet kisses on everything it touched.

Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2006
by Tyrone Jaeger

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