The Window by Kevin Richard White
“The windows need to be washed.”
“Brody,” he said.
“Okay,” he said. He smiled, but it looked as if he was trying to hold in a shit.
But I couldn’t let it go. “All it takes is just a few minutes, to clean and dry them. It’s no big deal.” I pointed. Full of splotches and chips and scars and blemishes.
“So that’s all that’s on your mind? Just the windows? Or something else?”
I took a minute. It hurt to breathe, to sit. The whole thing, from start to finish, really fucking hurt.
“A couple of months now,” I said.
“That’s right,” he said, like he was talking to a pet hamster.
I looked back at my therapist. He was a nice man. He didn’t have to be wasting his time with me, but here he was, trapped in the same room yet again, as we circle each other, in constant predator mode. None of it will change.
“She died pretty young,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to really say.
He opened up his mouth to say something, but stopped.
“Nothing,” he said.
“It wasn’t my fault.”
“No one ever said it was, Brody.”
“Well...I was the only one home…”
I didn’t want to get into it again. I bet he didn’t want to hear it again. I needed to stop making these useless appointments. It’s funny – people bitch about needing the healthcare and benefits so they can go see doctors and what not, and then when they do, they can’t wait to leave the office and never return again. It’s funny to want. It’s even funnier to yearn.
“I wish I gave her a different name,” I said.
“Yeah. It must suck to have died with a name like Ashley.”
“Brody, that’s a terrible thing to say. That’s not healthy to think…”
“Well. Nothing is healthy. The cigarettes I smoke. The drinks we drink. The fact that I was downstairs while she was...up there…” I looked down at my feet. I needed new shoes. I needed new skin. I needed power to move mountains in my head and I needed more help than this man sitting across from me. But it was like I had chalk on my tongue, slime on my hands. I couldn’t grab a thing. I held out my hands, palms up, and I wasn’t sure why.
“Brody, the death of your daughter is...obviously a tough thing to overcome, but…”
I looked up at him. Past him, at the window, was a man with a sponge and a spray bottle. I smirked.
“See, right there. That’s what I’m talking about. Progress.”
The therapist turned and looked, then gazed back at me, confused. “Let’s not change the subject. Let’s try to focus on this. There’s grief here. Let’s…”
“Grief,” I said. “What a word.”
I made up my mind to leave right then, but when I stood up, I couldn’t move. I froze. I watched the man spray the window. I wondered if he had a daughter with a dumb name.
“Doctor,” I said, “what’s your kid’s name?”
“I don’t have any,” he said.
“Good,” I said, “they’re expensive.”
“Brody, seriously, let’s talk. This attitude is not good.”
He started to ramble. I knew he was getting at. Humans make mistakes and that we’re fragile. That we’re prone to this and that, how we sink, how we react to tragedy is what makes us stronger, and all of that crap. I tuned him out and looked past him.
I saw the cleaner on the other side of the glass. I don’t think he saw me. He worked slowly, like he was untangling a knot on his shoelaces. His lips were pursed and his eyes were narrow, peering to uncover some kind of secret. He dipped his sponge into the bucket and started to wipe. Immediately, there was a difference. I saw my daughter and him at the same time and I reached my hand out. On the other side there was some water, some skin, no warmth. It gleamed. I didn’t.
Kevin Richard White’s fiction has appeared in Hobart, Rejection Letters, X-R-A-Y and Hypertext among other places. He is a Flash Fiction Associate Editor at Barren Magazine. He lives in Philadelphia. His Twitter is @misterkrw