Edith stood by the window in the motel room, peeking out to the parking lot, rustling the thick curtains as she scanned.
“Mrs. Kravitz,” I said. “Come back to bed.”
“Shhh! There’s something going on out there, and I don’t like it.” She stared at me in the dark room. “And I’m not Mrs. Kravitz.” She went back to spying.
I wanted to roll over, but the sight of her holding down the world was too good to miss. Edith wore her housecoat as she moved left and right for the best view. Vacations always brought out her curiosity. She called them her soap operas. Once she was in a story, and she was going to make the best of it.
I got up, made coffee in the little bathroom machine, brought her a cup. “Okay, Edith, what’s going on out there?” I put my hand on her shoulder.
She took the coffee without looking. “It’s the strangest thing, Pete. I heard the next door neighbor close his door really, really softly, like he was afraid of being heard.” She jerked her head to me: “I know, I know, it’s 5 o’clock in the morning, but still, there was something suspicious about the way he left.”
“Where did he go?”
“That’s what I can’t figure out! I looked away for one second, and he was gone. Disappeared into the night. He’s got to be out there, somewhere.” She took another look, then slumped. “I’m sorry. I woke you up. There’s nothing going on out there. We should go back to bed.”
Edith moved toward the bed. “You coming?”
“In a minute. I got your coffee. I’m just gonna sit up for a while.”
“Suit yourself,” she said, and gave me a kiss on my forehead. It’s what old people do.
Soon she was back in bed, and soon after that she was breathing deeply, asleep. It was quiet. The curtains blocked out most of the night-light outside the door, except for a thin side-slit Edith had left open. The coffee was warm. Things seemed peaceful. Edith was out, and I was alone. I could hear my heartbeat. I remembered when that used to bother me.
A shadow passed by the slit. It startled me, and then I chuckled. I stood up to look. There was a man. I watched him until he got to the stairs. When he turned to go up, I caught his profile: baseball hat, hoodie, basketball shorts. An athlete. Young.
Was I once young?
He flew up the stairs.
He turned to ascend the second half of the stairs, and I lost sight of him.
“Hmm.” I found my coffee and took a sip. That’s when I saw him go out onto the deck on the second floor. It was an old motel. They just built a deck over some one-story rooms. I’m sure the people underneath appreciated people walking out there. The sky was still black , but there was moonlight and the stars, and he stood looking out into the distance until I thought he was frozen.
“What the heck is he doing out there? It’s 5 o’clock in the morning, for God’s sake.” I didn’t realize I was talking out-loud. I listened to Edith. She was still sleeping. I turned back to the deck and kept watching. He was motionless, and I thought this was stupid, me watching a statue, so I put down the coffee and reached up to close the curtains.
That’s when I saw his head turn left, then right, like he was on the look-out. “Who would be out there at 5 AM?” I said.
Drugs, probably. I forgot my coffee.
When I looked out the window again, he was staring straight at me. I jumped to the side, to the wall. I thought he saw me. But then, what if he did? I wasn’t the one doing drugs. And I couldn’t see myself, it was so dark. I looked again, this time more careful. He was scanning the floors, both of them. Then, satisfied, he pulled down the hood of his sweatshirt and returned to the moon and the stars. His hair was long and black under his cap. I knew he wanted to be left alone, and I thought I should get back to bed. But something wouldn’t let me.
He stood completely still against the moonlight. There was something majestic in the way he stood. I wondered if he was praying. I wondered what he was saying. He was still, but an honorable kind of still. Relaxed.
Then I noticed the slightest shift, so slight I thought it was me. I looked at the table, then out the window again. There it was. A tremor, a tiny wave rippling across his sweatshirt. His arms seemed no longer at his sides, but in front, ever so slightly, shoulders one more inch toward the edge of the deck, something like that.
I peered harder. The wave became stronger, more vital, real. A tide. He shuddered, leaned forward, held still.
After a time, his hands went back to his sides. He seemed to breathe again. He remembered the moon, and went back to worshipping it. He stood there silently, breathing deep until he was not, until he was peaceful. Placid.
“What’re you watching, Pete?”
The voice of my wife startled me. She was standing behind me. I jumped.
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing,” I lied. I was suddenly glad it was dark. I was glad it was dark and that my wife couldn’t see me.
“You startled me. That’s all.”
She went to peer through the curtains. She saw the man.
“That’s who I was talking about! Our next door neighbor! What’s he doing up there?”
“Just watching the moon, I guess.” I looked at my wife. We’d been married a long time. I was glad she was there. Right then, I brought her close. She felt me.
“Pete! What’s all this about?” She smiled in darkness. I could feel her smiling. “Is this why you got up?” She laughed.
“You want to?” I asked.
“Pete!” She reached up towards the curtains. “Pete,” she said softly.
I stopped her hand. “Just this once, leave them. Just a bit.”
“Pete,” she said shyly.
Back to Stories.