Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Bicycle

by Julia Carlson


This morning when I awoke I felt like looking outside to the street. It had been a long time, six weeks since he left me. I had closed myself in staying in bed wrapped in the white sheets day in day out. Today is the first time I had any desire to see what was going on outside of these walls. I saw a man leaning his bicycle against the wall opposite my front window. I had never seen him before. Since when I wondered had he been parking his bicycle on my street?  Who was he?  I pressed my body against the window. My breasts felt cold from the contact with the glass.

Two days have passed and now there is no more bicycle. I worry. I like seeing this rusty bicycle propped against the wall. How come he has stopped coming here -  maybe he had a fight with his mistress. Perhaps he is tired of her. I have learned her name - Audrey.

Today the bicycle was there. As soon as I got up, I went to my window. I pulled the curtains. In the street the man was looking at my window, trying to see if I was there. After a moment I pulled out of his view because I was conscious of my nudity.

Today it was cold and he wore a grey checked cap. It made his ears look comical. He had a loaf of bread and a little brown paper bag, probably breakfast for himself and his lover. Sometimes when I am out walking, I see the woman, small, very pretty, with clear eyes. I don’t think she knows who I am. Yesterday we were both at the laundry and she acted as if she had never seen me. When she left for a minute to get some air, I stole one of her sheets; I wanted to know his smell.

Now when he comes in the morning, if I am at the window, he bows to me. He doffs his cap, and bows like an old gentleman. Sometimes he throws me kisses. Three days ago, I dreamt he brought me bread. I ate it quickly, I was afraid someone would take it away from me.

He is a maniac. Obsessed with habits. He arrives at exactly the same time and always comes from the same direction. I suppose he comes from work, but can he never vary his route?  This makes me angry, as though he may be dull or without curiosity. He always has the loaf of bread and the little paper bag. His clothes all look the same, yet he does not wear a uniform. Probably he buys his shirts and trousers by sixes instead of ones. He parks his bicycle, looks for the key in her letterbox and then he turns. At this moment he bows to me. Then he goes upstairs to HER.

Today he arrived the same as usual. He leaned his bicycle against the wall and then he began to walk to my house. I was afraid and went quickly to the back room and hid. My heart was beating loud, like rain against a metal roof.

I am not sleeping well. I toss and turn in every direction. My bed seems too small. I am looking for something warm to lie against. I wake up earlier and earlier. I know which day and at exactly what time he will arrive. When the time gets closer, the clock’s constant steady ticking vibrates in my head.

Today I motioned for him to come. When he was just at the other side of the window, I pressed my mouth against the glass and kissed him through the transparency. The glass was wet from my lips.

Two days passed, then three. On the fourth day he came. He walked straight to me without any invitation. I pulled the curtains away from the window and pressed my naked torso against the glass. He ran his hands over the glass, caressing my shoulders, my breasts, my stomach. I closed the curtains then. An imprint of my body remained.

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This morning I rode my bicycle to Audrey’s, as usual, it’s Wednesday and I finish when the sun comes up. I stopped for bread and got Audrey a raisin tart; she likes those. We’ve been fighting again, mostly because of that woman across the way. She is strange, that’s all. Audrey doesn’t understand she means no harm. I fool around with her, but it doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s a game. Today Audrey didn’t leave her key. There was another key in the letterbox in its place. I understood at once. Damn that Audrey. It serves her right. So I went to the other’s house.