This post is standalone, but if you’d like to read earlier installments, please see links at the end of this post.
There was the darkened window at night, always the darkened window. It was an eye that harbored all manner of beings – creatures of the night, madmen on the prowl, imaginary beings that belonged to Jaime’s nightmares. Between the window and the wall of her bedroom she felt safety in the purring of Mr. Mittens on her bed as she fell asleep at night.
What price imagination? When she was young Jaime had read all the classic childhood stories, starting with Perrault’s fairy tale book, and on through the womens’ tales of the 1800s, Alcotts’s Little Women and Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Those lush narratives enfolded her like a pool of dark rich chocolate after Christmas dinner. But her favorites, like tiny confections, were the little books of magical adventure. Edward Eager’s Half Magic. C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. The Wizard of Oz.
When did a child’s love of imaginary magic – there was magic in the word imagination if you looked closely and didn’t spell well – when did a love of imaginary magic become a paralyzing fear of the dark? Jaime thought about the layers of darkness that had seeped into her marriage and into her soul. The jealous accusations, the frenzied interrogations, the claustrophobia-inducing closeness of the dreary apartment they’d lived in. It must have been the bleak empty-eyed windows at street level in that apartment, in that heart-sick place off Fremont – that’s where it started. Any manner of creature might look in on them at any time. Even drawing the cheap muslin curtains across the slash of glass at sidewalk level gave no solace. She could still feel imagined eyes flicking at her, stabbing through the curtains and into the small room. The small room flickered with TV light; her husband had loved ESPN. Cable cost almost more than food, she sometimes thought, but she did not say it.
And now Mr. Mittens was Jaime’s proof against terrible faces, the gruesome expressions of imagined monsters.
Mr. Mittens was no monster. He was the anti-monster, Jaime thought. Patting his soft white feet, especially, calmed Jaime. Feet that pattered along the hardwood floor without a sound. Feet that leaped his body up to the window seat in the front room where he watched for Jaime to come home from work every afternoon. The fur on a cat’s feet is short, muscly, and to the point.
Almost the first thing she’d done when she moved into this apartment was to put up colorful curtains across the bedroom window. Bright paisley panels that she found at Pier One imports on sale. She put them up in the daytime, when it felt safe to stand in front of the window.
She was sure they kept out the eyes – the curtains and Mr. Mittens.
Do you ever get spooked by the darkness of a window at night? I’m especially good at imagining all sorts of strange faces at a window, at night, especially a window on the ground floor. Brrr!