I Spy

Jennifer Long


I sit perched on the ledge of the large picture window of our room. My stocking feet rest on the cozy warmth of the radiator, old and thick with creamy paint. My cheek brushes against the clear smooth pane of glass, and I can feel the icy freshness of the air outside. It is dusk, and the huge sky is fading deeper into the gray-blue masses of clouds. The large oak waves at me gently, its crooked branches making black spiderwebs against the sky. I light a candle in the dark room and a warm, earthy smell arises with the smoke from the match - a good wooden match, square, that I roll between my fingertips. The wax around the dancing flame has not yet liquefied; it is soft and warm, giving way to the pressure of my touch like flesh. Remembering it is Tuesday night, I glance at the glowing, blue digital clock on the microwave. It reads 5:26. I wait.

Two floors above the ground, my view looms over the straight-shooting concrete sidewalk that leads to McGaw Hall. I love sitting here. I could perch above this world for hours, just watching. People constantly rush by, different shapes and colors, everyone so fresh and unusual. There are the eclectic college students, backpacked and Birkenstocked; then the navy-blue suited commuters, briefcases in hand rushing from work; the sporty thirty-something couple with their golden retriever and glossy white smiles; and the occasional ragged bag lady, layered in every piece of clothing she owns as her plastic grocery bag swings sadly by her side. They do not see me. I observe without being observed. I am free to be alone and contemplate my thoughts and worries of the day while watching the waves of people going by. Tonight, I think about the virtues of Diet Coke. I reach over for the 20 ounce white Styrofoam cup with lipstick smudges on the rim, and take a sip.

Again, I look to the digital numbers peering at me in the darkness. 5:38. I gaze outside, and a light rain starts to fall, rivulets running crookedly down the glass panes. My eyes become attentive to the occasional students walking by. I can see their shadows approaching before they come into sight. The street light casts their long gaunt shadows on the wet ground. I am looking for one in particular. At 5:43 I see his head come bobbing along. He wears an army-green wool coat and a black stocking hat. He walks alone, shoulders hunched, listening to his Walkman. He does not look up, does not know I am here, as I make sure he gets safely across my sidewalk on the way to his Art History night class. I sigh and gush to myself once more as he fades from sight under the gathering dark. I blow out the melting candle and get up to make dinner.


© Jennifer Long


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