Editor's Note: For the first time in the history of the San Mateo County Fair, a 300-page anthology has been published that includes more than 100 stories, poems and essays from writers who submitted award-winning work for the fair's literary contest. The idea was the brainchild of Bardi Rosman Koodrin, a San Bruno resident who runs the fair's literary contest, and the anthology, titled "Carry the Light," features work from many Peninsula writers.
"The Boy in the Window" tells the story of a melancholy young woman who can't stop reliving a painful event from her past.
From p. 19, "The Boy in the Window"
THE SECOND BOY
He was the kind of boy who would curl up in your lap like a kitten if given a chance, but I didn’t know that then. First he was just a tan smudge in the middle of the big rectangular pane. Approaching along the opposite sidewalk I made out that he was a person, and little, and the smudge was his hair. Before him was a square object, which I took at first for a computer or TV until I got close enough to see that it was a kind of play house centered in front of the window. He stood behind it, absorbed in animating tiny figures, flying them here and there with his hands.
That first day I simply walked by. I had passed the house a dozen times but not recently and it was different now, painted the color of wheat in the pictures of Midwestern farms. In the semicircular garden at the corner someone had planted flowers that matched the house and contrasted with the purple wisteria overflowing the fence hiding the side yard. Even after I passed, the image of the boy stayed with me, his tawny head in the dark glass reflecting the cloudy morning, framed by the wheat-colored house.
That night he appeared in my dreams. I had the feeling he had been flown there by an invisible hand, one that might play with us humans as the boy had played with the tiny figures. There were things I needed to ask but in the dream he stood silent. Although his eyes turned toward me I felt he looked through me, as if, no matter where his body seemed to be, he was somewhere else. I came close, questions surging in my throat and just as quickly ebbing away. He merely looked at me. He was more than half my height and I guessed his age at six or seven. It didn’t strike me in the dream but I wondered when I woke why a boy that age would have been playing with figures and a toy house instead of Legos, trading cards, marbles. As I dreamed myself close enough to see the individual strands of hair falling across his forehead the boy sat down slowly, crossing his legs, cupping his chin, and gazing at the ground in perfect imitation of Statue of a Boy Sitting and Contemplating the Ground.
THE FIRST BOY
There had been another boy, once, and another window. That earlier boy had looked down from a window mirrored by the glare of a New Hampshire winter day. Like Bo (as I began calling this new boy, after I found the phone number), he had viewed the world from a window that seemed more metaphor than window, a glass membrane demarcating his world. Unlike Bo, he waited for me. Daily, faithful as a dog, he anticipated my return by bus and the path of my feet along Bean Road. Like a dog, he told time with his body. He didn’t understand the slide of liquid numerals on the face of the digital clock but he understood 4 p.m., Nonni said. No matter where he was or what he was doing, if she were feeding him his snack or trying to show him a book or rocking him after one of his fits, he would rush to the living room window for his afternoon appointment.
Oh, how the tables were turned, then. How for granted I took his adoration. Shading my eyes as I sought his form behind the sparkle, an impossibility in the reflected light, I waved out of faith that he could see me before I mounted the fourteen flagstone steps at the side of the house. On the landing I would pause a for moment during which I could feel his anticipation mounting like an atmospheric disturbance on the other side of the door.
“Thith! Thith! Thith!” he always greeted me, throwing his body at my legs, bouncing off, airplaning around the living room dangerously close to the picture window he had just been looking through. Nonni stayed back in the kitchen doorway, letting us have our moment, leaning on her cane.
THE SECOND BOY
What I told myself was, I just want to see him up close. I just want to talk to him, once. That’s all. I’m no weirdo stalker. I kept walking past the house, mornings and afternoons, to and from the café. Sometimes I saw him in the window, sometimes I didn’t. The times I didn’t made me sad for how I hadn’t appreciated having a boy wait for me in the window when I had one.
For a while it was enough to have the possibility of calling. Like a prescription for sleeping pills that helps you sleep just because you keep it folded up in your wallet. But the weeks went on and on without change. At first I had rocked easily in the boat of my new life. I liked my job at the café because it meant walking onstage every morning without thinking about anything except the part I was playing. Keeping half my hair dyed a color between purple and red, looking for just the right studs to fill the seven holes in my left ear, the silver hoop in my eyebrow and the diamond—yes, a real diamond—in my nose. When the businessmen came in for their morning fix I could see them checking out my ass as I turned away, wondering why the ass at home didn’t excite them in the same way anymore.
All the while, if they only could have known the object of my affections—how surprised they would have been to see a little blond boy, forgetting that they had been little blond boys too, once.
Excerpted from "Carry the Light" with the permission of Sand Hill Review Press, the publisher. The book is available for purchase for $12 on Amazon.com.
Audrey Kalman has been writing professionally for more than 30 years and offers writing and editing services as a consultant. After joining the California Writers Club in 2011, she was inspired to pursue a non-traditional publishing path for her novel Dance of Souls, which is available for Amazon’s Kindle and in paperback. Her short stories and poems have appeared in the anthologies Fault Zone: Stepping Up to the Edge and Carry the Light. Her blog about writing appears at audreykalman.wordpress.com. She lives in San Mateo and is at work on another novel.