Her plates were made of a clear brown glass and there were white lace curtains hanging from a bar above the kitchen window. There were always white lace curtains, even in the movies, he thought to himself. She stood over the sink and offered him a glass of water, which he declined. It’s too cold, he said, and my fingers aren’t working right. He wanted coffee again, though he didn’t tell her that, knowing that if he did, she’d feel obliged to stop what she was doing and fix him a cup. He laughed quietly just then, thinking that he should have brought lighter gloves. Something for inside. He laughed again and winked away her curious glance. She smiled, turned, and walked into the next room to do laundry. In a few moments, he would smell the scent of detergent over that of baking cheese, but not just yet. He waited for her to return, counting change, stacking coins, wondering what the train fare would be from the city to the place whose name he couldn’t remember. He didn’t know what it would take, but she would know how to make it happen. And that was such a strange thought for him, something he wasn’t used to anymore. He’d learned to count on himself. It was a lonely confidence. Setting down the last coin, he turned to stare through a gap in the curtains. His eyes took him across the roofs of the neighborhood, past the television tower, and toward the old mountain which sat like a lump of stone in the distance. He saw clouds wrapped around its shoulders, cold clouds made of countless snowflakes. He shivered somewhere inside of himself. Cold was something he knew. Looking back, he saw the fabric of the curtain sway as she returned to the kitchen and shut the hallway door behind her. Her chair squawked across the parquet floor. You’ll need a better jacket, she said as she took her seat across the table from him. She nodded sympathetically and he heard what she wanted to say next. Without the right jacket, you’ll never be warm here.
There had been a long list of things in his mind just a few minutes before. Lovely things. Promising things. Those unlikely November figs clinging to their branches, green yet unripened, partly-hidden behind yellowing leaves. That lone blackberry vine reaching up the farther than he thought it should. An unsteady red from the chimney of the foundry beside the railroad tracks. A cup of steaming broth with the white flesh of a sliced matsutake floating just beneath the surface. It had felt vivid, rich, clear for a moment. And yet, the list had lost meaning. When he got back home, he laid down on his bed and stared out the window toward the west. The cloudy sky which he could see was just veering toward the gloom of evening. It had been a dry day, but he wished it would have rained. He told himself that would have provided some excuse for feeling so unproductive. Nothing had happened. A dried-out old Christmas tree sat in the yard and waited to be burned. By the drive, trimmed brush stayed in a pile which wanted to be taken apart and dragged away. Now, his pad of lined paper laid on his quilt with no words magically appearing. As if anything had ever magically appeared. He felt suddenly low, defeated, creatively dysfunctional. Nothing was happening. He rolled a yellow pencil stub between his fingers. He could feet the indentations, the marks from someone’s teeth, random impressions marring a smooth surface. It must have been another writer’s pencil at some point in the past. It must have been. If he knew anything about himself, he knew that he’d never chewed a pencil.
He wants you to know that he stood long by that window and looked out across the concrete toward the green rise with all the children walking toward some sort of white structure. To see them, he had to overlook the glare on the wings of the things which would carry him along his way homeward. He wants you to know that he stood there and tried to empty his mind and not think about what would come, about what wouldn’t come. He was overcome by confusion in the midst of what had once been so clear. There were voices making announcements over speakers down a long hall full of strangers. He thought, just then, that he never wished you to become lost among all those other faceless forms which passed him by on their way into the distance. And yet there you were, somehow, all the way down that anonymous hall, so very far behind already, lost among strangers. He didn’t know what to do when it came time to say good-bye. He simply stood, thinking that the glass, no matter what it seemed to reveal, was an empty thing. He wants you to know he stood there, looking out, looking back, holding his phone in his hand, until leaving was the only thing left to do.