Outside My Window

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I've spent days staring out the window. It's at least a little less depressing than looking at my other surroundings.

"It's just a room," I tell myself. "A stopping point, a way station on the route to home." There's moments where I almost believe it. The room itself is fine; it's actually better than some I've been in. The walls are a shade I think would be called peach, if you saw it in the Home Depot catalogue. They're clean, uncracked. There's a giant square mirror, a pair of generically pretty prints. Matching little desk in the corner, dresser under the mirror and entertainment center. King size bed in the middle, with a clean and well-mended green couch beside it.

It's not home, but it's homey. Still, it feels rather sad. It carries the reek of people trying to do better than life wants to let them, struggling to make something nice grow in acidic, toxic soil.

The window, though. That's life. Just perhaps not the life I ever wanted.

It takes up almost the entire front wall. Seven feet tall, ten feet wide, draped with grey suede and a thin white sheet if you wanted to let the light in but keep at least a little privacy. The view wasn't much. Just a steep angle down into the parking lot, which was cracked and littered with pigeon shit and cigarette butts that danced with each other in the frequent gusts of wind.

But the people. They were what brought it to life, made it so fascinating. Between the motel's desk and the little market that dominated the parking lot, folks were always coming and going. The bus stop across the street brought even more, and if you craned your neck to see around the corner of the windowpane, you could see the sidestreet beside the strip, and even more people were cutting across in that direction.

They reminded me of birds, gathering on telephone wires, hopping back and forth. Jockeying for position, all of them trying to be in the best spot possible when it came time to dive on some morsel or crumb that had been discarded. Ravens, maybe. I liked that idea. Maybe just because when they met in a group I could think of them as an unkindness. Though, to be fair, I saw little in the way of unkindness below; just a sort of stoic sorrow that festered and occasionally blossomed into deadly nightshade.

I saw an elderly Cuban man wearing an ancient but perfectly-maintained zoot suit, walking with a bamboo cane that gave him an air of gentle authority and smiling beneath his heavy sunglasses and wide-brimmed straw hat. I wondered if he was someone's visiting grandfather, or maybe a widower looking for a fling before he hung up the cane and hat in favor of a harp and halo. I wondered that until I made one of my own trips down to the market, and he approached me while I was trying to pick the cellophane off a stubborn pack of menthols. I smiled, said hello.

He asked me if I had any heroin.

I shook my head, tucked down into my shoulders, and returned to my room. I wasn't sure how to feel about it. Sad? Amused? A little of both. The man had style, though, I'll give him that. Maybe more of a robin than a raven.

I saw a spontaneous dance party, as a couple from one of the lower level rooms argued in the parking lot and a beautifully kept Toyota came flying through the lot, screeching to a stop in front of the store. Four young men of multiple colors, ages and manners of dress practically flew out. From the opened doors the heavy bass of something I didn't recognize but could classify as techno poured out, along with a generous quantity of smoke that reeked of sage and skunk. The arguing couple turned to watch, and the young men started dancing as they walked into the store. When they came out, they were still dancing, but they saw the couple. Cocking their heads like inquisitive sparrows, they froze for a moment before resuming their rhythmic movement.

"C'mon, guys! Dance! Live a little!" I think that's what they said. Hard to make out over the music and the insulation of the glass. That's what they said in my head, anyway.

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