Here is a first draft of an old story, the Girl in the Window. Writing this was very fun and easy. I think this turned out pretty well. I’m going to revise over the next week, Comments would be appreicated.
“The Girl in the Window”
By Jason Andrew
Peter wiped the fake wooden counter for almost an hour desperately hoping for inspiration. In the slow hours during the day, he liked to jot down poetry. Sometimes he would post it on-line, but he had given up any pretenses of getting published years ago.
Life as a barista wasn’t so bad, he often told himself. There was free espresso, decent tips, and in general people were always happy to see him. The Apropos café smelled of jasmine, roasted beans, and chocolate. The manager, a wrinkled, grey-haired retired hippy with a slight crush on him, always let Peter pick the music.
There was one additional bonus, which was why he was trying to come up with yet another love poem. Frustrated, he fell back to the classics and started cribbing a makeshift poem that should do the job.
The café was spacious enough for the customers to have their own sense of space, and yet decorated with enough local art and flavor that it felt familiar and intimate. The owner had been an aspirating screenwriter and so filled the massive wooden shelves with hundreds of old screenplays. Customers would often pluck a favorite movie off the shelf and spend hours sipping their espressos reading in the plush, comfortable chairs or lounging upon the pillows upon the colossal window sills. At night, Peter would raise the blinds so that the customers could enjoy the view of downtown Seattle.
In an hour, the evening rush would descend upon the café like locusts. The yuppies and computer nerds would overrun the college students and desperately take their evening dose of relaxation and to forget about the work day. While it wasn’t the most profitable shift, he enjoyed the quiet. It was the hour that Peter felt most alive.
“Pete!” a short, stocky bald man wearing glasses cried as soon as he entered the café.
“How’s it going, Brandon?” Peter asked.
“Not too bad at all. That coworker I told you about asked me out to the movies. I snuck out early to show and feed my cats,” Brandon answered cheerfully.
Peter smiled. “I’m glad for you.”
Brandon snickered. “Hey now, Pete! We can’t all look like Greek gods. Look at that chiseled jaw and perfect teeth. Long blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. Hell, if you had tits, I’d fuck you.”
Peter held up his hands in protest. “I get by.”
Brandon rolled his eyes. “I’ve seen you swoop in on the unexpecting co-eds, remember? You’ve been more ass than a proctologist.”
Peter’s smile twisted into a smirk and his shrugged his shoulders. “It’ll do for now. Until, I get my book contract.”
Brandon sighed. “I told you that you need to go back to school. You’re almost thirty and still no sale. Don’t you think you should have a backup plan? You can’t screw college girls the rest of your life by feeding them crappy poetry.”
“College produces professors, Brandon.” He said pretentiously. “Life begets poets.”
“Peter, you have talent. You could work at it, if you wanted. You could make something of yourself.”
“I’m waiting for my muse,” Peter informed him
“What are you going to do until then?”
Peter looked past Brandon and nodded. Brandon followed Peter’s gaze until he found a young college girl that matched Peter’s usual targeted audience. She had short brown hair and wore black rimmed glasses. Brandon liked women that had hips, but he knew Peter liked women that were slender and lithe like a ballerina. “Dancer?” Brandon asked.
“Sociology major,” Peter replied.
“Byron or Shelly?” Brandon quizzed.
“I think she’s a Wordsworth girl, myself,” Peter answered earnestly.
“Don’t you think you are too old to be a vulture like this? Brandon asked.
Peter replied by flapping his arms as although he were an airborne predator swooping in on his prey. “Bonus time,” He muttered.
As it turned out, her name was Sara and she was indeed a Wordsworth girl.
* * * *
Sara lasted three weeks before Peter dumped her via voice mail. “At least this one lasted three weeks,” Brandon said wistfully.
“I have pictures to remember her by,” Peter added.
“Yeah, speaking of which, you can’t send those kind of pictures to my work e-mail address. I almost shit a brick when I checked my mail,” Brandon admonished him.
“I told you that she was a freak,” Peter replied, very satisfied.
Frustrated, Brandon slipped his glasses off his face and wiped them with his shirt. “Why’d you break up with this one? I figured if she lasted longer than a week she had to have something special.”
“I liked her hot tub. Her little sister’s taking a romantic poets course. Little bitch caught me. Besides, her mom already gave it up. I was almost done anyway.”
“Jesus Christ! Pete, Sara was nice. She adored you!” Brandon shrieked.
“So did her mom. Now calm down, you’re going to scare the customers.”
“You have to grow up sometime, Pete.” Brandon protested.
“I’m just waiting for my muse to take me away from all of this.”
* * * *
Peter liked to pick his women slowly. Sometimes, he would watch them for days before making up his mind enjoying the diversion from brewing espresso.
One woman he found appealing was a lanky Asian girl with wavy braided hair. All that he had been able to find out about her was that she was an exchange student and she didn’t speak English fluently. He was considering possible scenarios when caught unaware by Sara.
“How could you?” Sara bellowed. “My own mother!”
“She pinched my ass first,” Peter protested.
“You said I special.”
“And you are…special. We just don’t work together. I need the time to work on my writing,” Peter countered.
Sara grunted with frustration. “Those poems you said you wrote for me were written by someone else. Did you think I was stupid and wouldn’t find out?”
“I do write. Quite a bit. I’m working on a novel. I just use poetry to smooth over social situations. Come on, I didn’t hurt anyone,” Peter insisted.
Sara shrieked. The few patrons in the café turned their heads towards them. “Peter, I was a virgin. I was saving myself. And you told me it was true love. The love of the ages. I gave myself to you. I did things. . .”
Peter had already been warned against more public scenes at the café. “Sara,” He whispered. “You are going to get me fired. I need this job. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. Let me make it up to you after my shift.”
Sara had been determined Peter wouldn’t smile his way out of this fight. In the moment, it didn’t seem as important. “Well, I’m not going to just get over this,” She protested.
“I’ll make it up to you I promise,” Peter said, patting her on the shoulder. “I’m always so self-destructive. Maybe you can help me?”
Sara’s expression softened. “I’ll try.”
She kissed him on the cheek before leaving. As soon as the door closed, Peter rolled his eyes. “I hate it when that happens,” he muttered.
Peter scanned the café discovering that his new target had retreated. Most of the customers had returned to their coffee and conversations. It was then that he noticed the girl in the window.
Peter couldn’t see her clearly due to the sunshine, but her dark silhouette was amazing. She was sitting on the window sill, leaning against the wall. The girl was writing in a small notebook that she was balancing on her knees.
Fascinated, Peter hopped around the counter and started wiping tables closer to her. Her shoulder-length, curly auburn hair was sexy, he decided. It was “the just got out of bed after having the best sex of my life” look women pay salons hundreds of dollars to imitate. Her eyes were blue or light green. It was difficult to tell from a distance. She wore black thick rimmed glasses. Peter normally hated girls that wore glasses, but this pair framed her pale face perfectly.
Feeling his heart pulse, Peter plotted first contact scenarios. Peter tried to guess her age, but couldn’t decide. She had that youthful look that could be early twenties, but her confidence and manner suggested a woman in her early thirties. He knew he would have to watch his approach as any errors could spook her. Her clothing didn’t give any additional clues. She wore loose fitting, hip-hugging faded jeans and a white blouse. She could be another student, a poet, or some a woman on vacation. He tried to think of a good line to catch her attention. Frustrated, he decided to once again return to the classics.
Peter stepped closer to the girl in the window and slightly bowed. “O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede of marble men and maidens overwrought,” He recited.
The girl in the window ignored the spontaneous ode and continued to carefully writer in her notebook. Stunned, Peter didn’t know how to react. Once she was finished her thought, the girl in the window deigned to glance at him. “I much prefer the ‘Lady of Shalott’ to ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn,’” the girl coldly informed him.
“But, the way you were sitting reminded me of the maiden resting on the urn waiting for her lover,” Peter countered.
“Do I?” the girl replied with amusement.
She returned her attention to her notebook before Peter could think of a response. Despondent, he slinked back behind his counter and filled orders. He watched her for the rest of his shift. She sat on the window sill, wrote in her notebook, and occasionally bought another cup of coffee. Shortly before the end of his shift, she was gone.
That night he met with Sara and quickly wooed away her concerns. Their sex was passionate and felt no more pleasurable to him than push-ups. Afterwards, she left his apartment in tears without saying a word. Peter never saw Sara again, but didn’t care.
He waited weeks for the girl in the window to return. He tried to think of over women, but every time he made the attempt she would creep into his mind contemptuously. Peter accepted more and more shifts hoping that the she would return.
“Pete, man, you need to get out more. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you need to relax a little. I know saving money is important, but you have to have fun too or you’ll burn out,” Brandon warned him.
“I’m not working more shifts just make more money,” Peter explained.
Brandon laughed. “Not this story about the hot girl in the window. I’m starting to think that you’ve made her up.”
“I wish I did,” Peter said earnestly. “I wish I did. She’s burning me out, Brandon. I can’t think of anything else. I tried picking up hookers. I’ve tried movies. I’ve tried writing. All I can think of is her.”
“You don’t look so good, Pete!” Brandon exclaimed.
“You’ve got bags under your eyes. You’ve lost weight. You haven’t shaved, and that’s not a good look for you. Hell, did you shower today?”
“I can’t remember,” the barista muttered without interest.
It was several more weeks before Peter saw the girl in the window. During that time, he screwed up the cash register three times and he had to offer himself sexually to the manager to avoid being fired. Like with Sara, it contained no pleasure except when he pretended he was with the Her.
Between making a caramel macchiato and a grande latte, Peter found her again. She was sitting on the window wearing a white dress sill writing in her notebook as though she had never left. Enraptured, he burned his hand on the steamer and yelped. The girl in the window looked up from her work dispassionately and glanced at him and then returned to what she was doing.
The manager let Peter take a quick break to wash his burn. It wasn’t quite bad enough to drive to the hospital, but it did need ice. Peter barely seemed to notice. He refused to go to the bathroom because he didn’t want to lose her again. Cradling the ice pack on his arm, he went to her.
She ignored him for almost a minute while she continued to scribble in the notebook. When she was finished, she glanced up at Peter over her glasses. “Is there a reason you are looming over me?”
“I can’t get you out of my mind.”
She returned to her work. “Have we met?”
“I’m the Ode to a Grecian Urn guy,” Peter said desperately. “You told me you liked the Lady of Shellot better.”
“Do you know why?” She asked.
“I’d love to know,” Peter replied.
The girl in the window sighed. “’Ode to a Grecian Urn’ is a poem about an old pot. Keats saw the figures on this urn as immortal figures of joy existing forever in a moment of living passion and turbulent action. That’s a childish fantasy. Nothing good last forever. ‘The Lady of Shalott’ is about a woman loves one man, even though she knows he does not return that love. She dies alone, but inspires poetry, music, and the arts. Legends are the only thing that survives the ages.”
“That’s beautiful,” Peter mumbled. “Just like you.”
The girl in the window ignored him. Frustrated, Peter tried to sneak a look at the notebook, but didn’t recognize some of the letters. “Is that Greek?” He asked.
“Homework?” Peter probed.
Peter tore at his hair. “Come on, throw me a bone here,” Peter said.
“Are you a dog?” the girl asked.
“Look, I’m really into you. Can we maybe go somewhere for coffee or something?” Peter asked, frantic.
She looked around the apropos café dramatically and then raised her eyebrow. “Or something I take it?”
She smirked. It was the closest thing to a smile Peter had managed to elicit from her. “You want to be my lover.”
Peter dropped the ice pack. He tried to lie to her, but couldn’t. “Yes.”
The girl in the window returned to her work. “It wouldn’t satisfy you. It’s better to not try.”
“Not satisfy me?” Peter cried. “I love you. I haven’t thought of anything else since I first saw you sitting here in the window.”
“Sara wasn’t satisfied with you.”
“Do you know Sara?” Peter asked. “Are you friends with her?”
“I know her,” She answered. “I am not her friend.”
“We have a lot in common, please give me a chance,” Peter begged.
“We’re both writers. I love poetry. Can’t you feel it? There’s synchronicity in our meeting, like it was meant to be,” He said.
The girl in the window looked up from her notebook again, but for the first time seemed interested in Peter. “Do you believe in synchronicity?”
Surprised at her interest, Peter sat next to her ignoring the pain in his arm. “Yeah.”
“Do you believe in archetypes?”
“I’ve read a lot of Jung’s work. The semester I went to school, we dissected a lot of movies using Jungian archetypes,” Peter explained, glad to have something to talk about.
“If this were a story, what archetype would you be?” She asked.
Peter hoped this wasn’t some sort of verbal trap. “The callow youth,” He answered.
“Aren’t you a little old for that?” She replied coyly.
“Age is a state of mind,” Peter protested.
“I quite agree. Very well, tonight. After your shift. You may take me home,” the girl told him. “But only if you leave me alone until then. I have work to do.”
“Yes, yes,” Peter agreed. “Anything you want. And free coffee. What’s your name?”
“That’s a beautiful name,” Peter said, almost from rote.
The girl in the window ignored his reply. She was already writing once again.
The rest of Peter’s shift passed very slowly. Peter snuck as many glimpses as he could get away with at Calliope, but she did not acknowledge his existence again. Afterwards, he cleaned himself up as best he could and returned to her side. She put a cap on her pen and slipped it and her notebook into her purse and then greeted him.
They ate dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant where Calliope told the waiter a joke in Russian. Later, they strolled down Broadway Avenue admiring the shops and talking about life, poetry, and love. That night, they made love on his waterbed. Afterwards, she sang him to sleep.
In the morning, she was gone. Peter returned to work refreshed and vibrant. Between orders, he jotted down three short poems and a haiku. By the afternoon, the feeling began to fade. By the evening, he was drained.
* * * *
It took three months for Peter to loose his job. The manager tried to cover for him, but Peter’s apathy ensured his termination. Peter spent his days wondering from coffee shop to café to bars looking for Calliope and hastily scribbling down poems or stories.
When his unemployment ran out eight months later, he lived with Brandon and continued his search. Peter lost interest in eating began to loose weight. Six months later, Brandon checked Peter into the hospital for malnutrition. Tied down to a bed and receiving nourishment from a tube, Peter continued to write and sketch crude pictures of Calliope.
“Pete! You gotta get this girl out of your head. She’s gone. You need to eat,” Brandon exclaimed.
Peter didn’t reply. He rarely spoke. Once the doctors released him, Peter took to wondering the streets visiting potential places he thought Calliope might visit. He begged on the street corners for paper and pen. Each day, he walked his route looking for the girl in the window. Over the years, Peter became notorious as a local celebrity and was even on the local news twice. As Peter’s legend grew, local cafes fed him for the publicity and yuppies wanting local color would buy his poems pieced together on dirty bar napkins. The legend of the girl in the window and her poet grew to a national scale.
Artists in New York painted the fabled girl in the window. Photographers captured Peter’s route. A screenwriter in California bought the rights to Peter’s story and wrote a screenplay. The movie made a fortune and swept every possible cinema award.
Peter continued his route each day stopping only to write, to sketch, and occasionally eat. Ten years later, Peter and the girl in the window were mostly forgotten except as an urban legend.
It was then that Peter found her. She was sitting in the same window sill, writing in a new notebook, acting as though she had left. At first, Peter thought he might be hallucinating. Calliope has not aged. She had been frozen in time like the lovers on the Grecian Urn.
Peter had not faired as well. His hair, what remained, had turned gray. His teeth yellowed and his wrinkled skin was pocked with scars, moles, and liver spots. Over the years, his health had declined and he knew that he would be lucky to last another Seattle winter on the streets. He spoke for the first time in three years.
“Is that you, Calliope?
Surprised to hear her name, the girl in the window looked up from her new notebook. “Do I know you?” She asked.
His arms were numb. It was difficult for him to wipe the sweat him his forehead. He took several deep breaths. “Peter. My name is Peter.”
It took a moment for Calliope to remember. “Oh yes, I remember you. I trust you are well.”
There was a sharp pain in his chest. “Well? Well? I’ve spent the last twenty years look for you. I gave up everything. I’m wasting away like that poem. And here you are, young and fresh. You burned my mind. When I sleep, I dream only of you and that I can’t have you. No other woman would do. I’ve tried drugs. Hell, the doctors used shock therapy on me and you were still there. Why? I deserve to know. Why? Who are you?”
Calliope put the cap on her pen, and then put it and her notebook in her purse. “Very well. Long ago, my sisters departed the world to that undreamed country from which no traveler returns and I have waited for the one who can bring them back. Diogynes with her lamp looking for the one poet who can make a difference. And you who had the potential squandered the gift.”
With great effort, he forced himself to keep breathing. He stumbled onto the window sill next to her. Keeping his eyes open was a Herculean task. ”What did you do to me?” Peter asked with his last heartbeat
“Scientists say that world is made of atoms and particles and quarks. You and I know that this is untrue. The universe is made of stories, of archetypes, and of legends. You had the gift and yet you were afraid. You were lazy and you wanted the glory without the work,” the girl in the window told him. “I granted your wish. Now, you are legend.”