The Window

He got off work at sometimes three o’clock in the morning. He was never the type of person to just go home and go to sleep like a normal upstanding citizen. When others – like myself – said, “Okay, I’ve had enough. Time for bed” he would get baffled, almost angry. He did not understand the concept of “I’ve had enough.” I was always saying, at two in the morning, while we were at some random pool hall, “All right, I’ve had enough. I’m going home”, and he would look at me as though he did not understand me. Home? I’m sorry. I don’t speak that language.

He and I had our own rules.

Which brings me to the window.

It’s very important to have at least one season of focused frivolity. Focused frivolity is not necessarily about being irresponsible or reckless, although that can come into it. For me, focused frivolity meant saying “yes”. To everything, but most of all to the comedic potential in life. Have an adventure. Recognize hilarity as the gift that it is. Do things just because they are funny. Do things to “have a laugh”. Because some day you might not feel like it anymore. People do get tired, you know. And I am tired now. But I wasn’t then. And dammit, I wanted only funny people in my life. Funny people are often the most deep, the most thoughtful. They understand the human heart the best. And so anyone who seemed too literal, or who had a tin ear for jokes, or who thought it was time to grow up and get serious … well, I cut those boys loose. I did not want a relationship. Or not one of those grown-up responsible relationships. I did not want it. Thank God I crossed paths with the man I am about to describe. Because it was, like so few things in life, perfect.

He and I lived a couple of blocks away from each other off of Southport, in Chicago. My apartment was on Wayne Street, and I lived on the first floor. The living room windows faced the street, and my bedroom window (as well as my roommate Mitchell’s bedroom window) faced a narrow alley that led to our backyard.

One night, during the height of my Season of Frivolity, he got off work. He was a bartender. It was 3 a.m. He needed to see me. He needed to kiss me and roll around with me. Regardless of the hour, and regardless of the fact that I was obviously fast asleep. It was a moral imperative infused with frivolity.

He got it into his head that he would sneak into the alley and knock on my window. In this way he hoped that he wouldn’t wake up my roommates and he would only scare me half out of my mind. He would never have rung on the doorbell at 3 a.m. But skulking around beneath my window like a cat burglar seemed fine to him.

My street was silent, empty. He couldn’t wait to see me. He tiptoed through the alley until he was beneath what he believed to be my window. He knocked on the window. No response. He waited and then knocked again on my window, a little louder.

Still no response.

He accepted that I was asleep, and so he gave up. Dejected. He skulked out of the alley, and as he hit the front yard, the porch light came on. His heart leapt. I am describing his emotions in such detail, by the way, because he eventually described them to me in a blow-by-blow 25-minute monologue that had me in tears of laughter. He stood on the front lawn, grinning up at the front door, expecting to see me come out at any moment, bleary-eyed and pissed off. Instead he saw a nervous hand pull back the curtain, and a small face peek out. A small terrified face. It was not my face. It was also not the face of either of my two roommates. It was another face altogether, a stranger.

The realization dawned on him: He had gone to the wrong house. He went to the house next door to mine. Which meant that he had just knocked on a stranger’s window at three o’clock in the morning, and then waited for that person on the front lawn. He was horrified at ALL of this and ran to his car. Daunted yes, but not deterred.

The next week he decided to try again, only this time he didn’t go to the wrong house. He had learned his lesson.

He pulled up on my street and parked. He chose the correct alley, and tiptoed through it, making his way to my window. As an aside, I feel I must mention, because it will be relevant later: He always wore a jacket that he loved which he called a “banana picker’s jacket” and I never knew what that meant, except that obviously people wore it once upon a time to pick bananas. He wore the thing until it was in rags. It had different colors on it, and the fourth time he started telling me about how cool his “banana picker’s jacket” was, I finally had to say, “Dude. I got it. You love the jacket. Please stop talking about it. You’re driving me crazy.”

He, in his banana picker’s jacket, had made the decision that the knocking thing was actually not good because it was too potentially scary. He decided that what would be less scary to the person inside would be for him to open the screen window and hoist himself into the house. Yes. He thought that that would be a less scary option. I wasn’t the only one committed to frivolity in those days. He knew it would have more comedic potential if he actually broke into the house. He understood me very well, and his was an intuitive understanding. I never had to explain anything to him. I never had to fill him in. He had a sixth sense about me. At that time, not a lot of people did.

He reached up on tiptoe, and quietly opened the screen. He knew he could be arrested at any moment, or stopped in the night by my shrieks of alarm from within, but he couldn’t stop himself. He also couldn’t wait to see my reaction to him crawling through my window.

He hoisted himself up onto the sill, and started to struggle through the window.

Only to find that he had broken into Mitchell’s room and not mine. He got the wrong window. Again.

Mitchell woke up in the darkness and heard the sounds of someone climbing into his room from outside, so he turned on the light, ready to scream, only to see who it was. My man hung half in Mitchell’s window, half out, looking up with an apologetic look on his face.

Mitchell flipped out. “You are the biggest asshole I have ever met! You just scared the shit out of me!”

“I am so sorry … I was looking for Sheila …”

Mitchell hissed at him, “She’s in the next room!!” Mitchell then caught a glimpse of the dad-blasted multicolored banana picker’s jacket and couldn’t stop himself. He said, “Go, go, go, Joseph … to the other window.”

“Joseph” disappeared into the night.

I slept soundly through the whole drama and woke up to see a dark figure climbing through my open window.

I almost pissed my pajama pants. I opened my mouth to scream and he blurted into the void, still struggling at the window, “It’s me! It’s me!”

I got out of bed, and pulled him inside roughly, yelling at him in a whisper, “Do you have any idea what it feels like… to wake up and see a dark figure … are you out of your mind?”

“I know. I didn’t want to wake anyone up.”


“Then I would wake up your whole house.”

“You’re a lunatic.”

But then he told me the whole saga of going to the wrong window twice, and it was so hilarious that I couldn’t stand it. He wanted to see me. But he kept going to the wrong window.

It became a routine during that blazing frivolous season. We never said, “See ya at my window!” I just knew the nights he worked, and I knew he probably would want to see me on his way home. We lived so close to each other. Our thing was lackadaisical, satisfying, humorous. And yet also, somehow, intense, blazingly so. How did we manage it? It’s a combo you don’t find every day. He’d touch me and I’d feel it for days. And yet, at the same time, we’d just lie around watching monster movies, not talking for hours. No big deal. So our window ritual was emblematic of our dynamic. I would fall asleep at 11 p.m., thinking, “I bet he’ll stop by tonight.” And lo and behold, at 3 a.m., I’d hear a little tap-tap-tap that would call me out of slumber. I even got used to waking up and seeing a dark figure climbing into my room, which is rather alarming if you think about the possible repercussions of being casual over such a moment. “Hi there, how was work?” “Huh? Lady, I’m here to rob your house.” “Wha … Ahhhhhhhh!” I’d be asleep, feel a subterranean commotion in my REM, and wake up to see a crazy-haired man in a banana picker’s jacket hoisting his way over my sill. “Hey, how are you?” “What’s up?”

One horrifying time, the clambering through the window didn’t wake me, but what did wake me was him crawling into bed with me. Hauling myself up from deep oblivion, I found a dark figure getting under the covers with me. Disoriented, I opened my mouth to scream, and the dark figure put his hand over my mouth. Before I could properly flip out, he hissed in my face, “It’s me! It’s me!” I then had to beat him about the head and neck for making me think he was some sort of gentle rapist. He took the beating, laughing hysterically, saying, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

One night, after I heard the tap-tap-tap, I got out of bed to tell him I had an audition early the next morning, and “now was not a good time.”

I don’t know why I remember this early morning meeting between us so vividly, it was so long ago, years and selves ago, but I do. Perhaps it was that I sensed, even then, that the frivolous season would someday end. Not abruptly, perhaps, but it couldn’t go on forever. Although it was five o’clock in the morning, there was no light in the sky yet, but the air trembled with greyness and softness. I went to open up the screen window to say hi to him. He stood in my alley, his hair black and messy, smiling up at me. The air was cool and piercingly sweet.

I whispered, “I really have to keep on sleeping. I have to get up early.”

He said, good-natured, “Oh. Okay.”

I was above him, he was below me. I don’t believe Romeo wore a multi-colored banana picker’s jacket, and I am pretty certain that Juliet did not have bedhead or wear glasses, but there was something poignant and beautiful about our balcony scene. I was inside the scene, and yet looking on as well.

I said, completely in love with his face, I even loved the banana picker’s jacket: “How was work?” I couldn’t resist. I always had to talk to him.

He told me some stories from work, standing in my alley, in the dark that wasn’t quite dark anymore. It felt like we were the only two people awake in Chicago.

I said, “I would love to talk more. But I have to go to sleep.”

He stood on tiptoe, and I knew what he wanted. I leaned out of my window, down to meet him, and we kissed, his hands reaching up to touch my face.

That was always what it was like with him. We had our own dynamic, and it resisted classification. I would never tolerate such Frivolity now. I guard my sleep like a tiger, first of all. I haven’t lost my sense of humor, but being committed to the unpredictable and humorous life has gone by the wayside, like so many other bizarre and precious things. There were those who heard the story of him climbing through my window at all hours of the night and said to me, “Why would you put up with that?”

I can’t describe it any better than I already have. He crawled through my window at three o’clock in the morning (after going to the wrong window twice) because he needed to kiss me. He needed to talk to me. He needed to sleep next to me. He crawled through my window at three o’clock in the morning most of all because he knew it would make me laugh, and, for one season only, that was reason enough to do anything.

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19 Responses to The Window

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Window | The Sheila Variations --

  2. Phil 1.0 says:

    “go, go joseph to the other window”… LMAO!

  3. sheila says:

    Phil – to this day, that is one of Mitchell’s funniest comebacks.

  4. Linda says:

    Hilarious story and very touching. Thanks.

  5. Kate P says:

    I remember seeing you refer to this before and always wondered what the story was–well told. I enjoyed every line!

  6. sheila says:

    Kate P – thank you! You wouldn’t think repeated scary breakins while you are in your pajamas would be romantic, but this was!

  7. tracey says:

    I love you two — Romeo and Juliet. Window Boy has a special place in my heart and I didn’t even know him.

    /and, for that season only, it was reason enough to do anything./

    Ah, that gets me.

    There are so many moments I wish I could dip in amber to remember or relive exactly as they happened. Those “seasons.”

  8. sheila says:

    Tracey – I think it was LM Montgomery who described such memories as “gold beads” on a necklace. I am glad I had them, to remember them.

    And small moment of humor, to show that nothing has changed: The man in question read the piece yesterday and emailed me with a brief one-line statement. What was the statement?

    “That coat was awesome.”


  9. tracey says:

    He still loves that freakin’ coat! Hahahahahaha!

  10. tracey says:

    Oops! I posted but I wasn’t done!

    The coat, the COAT is his comment here. Hahahah.

  11. sheila says:

    Tracey – exactly! He is still sticking up for the coat. Ah, it made my day.

  12. //There were those who heard the story of him climbing through my window at all hours of the night and said to me, “Why would you put up with that?”//

    It surely says something about me that #1) That question never occurred to me; and #2) That it seems weird to me that anyone else would ask it (I mean, isn’t the answer obvious?). =))

    Love this post. So. Much. <3

    • sheila says:

      Deborah –

      Ha! I know – it was weird to me too. I have very good friends – many of whom also found the whole thing hilarious and recognized how good this whole thing was for me. But there were others who just didn’t “get it.” Like, their values were: “He should be taking you out to dinner. Why haven’t any of us met him? What exactly are his intentions?” Maybe they thought I was being “used” – but of course I wasn’t at all. Not every relationship looks like the same!

      We were kindred spirits. And this thing between us went on for years – although in various and different forms. He was the best!! My very own Cato. :)

      Thanks for reading!

  13. James says:

    I’ve just fallen in love with your writing. What a beautiful and joyous story!

    • sheila says:

      Thank you so much, James! I appreciate it. I wrote a lot about this relationship because I still find it so entertaining and profound in this really unique way, and we were just kids really – at the beginning of it anyway – so I am not sure how we managed it. But I’m grateful.

      Thank you again for reading and commenting!

  14. Krissie says:

    I had a “bridge” once, also…except the bridge safely carried me over the turbulent waters left by the wake of my “window boy”
    He got me from point A to point B
    I wasn’t in love, but I loved how he healed me
    Light, casual, yet intensely passionate
    Each kiss was like glue, slowly mending a shattered heart
    When I was safely across, I ended things with my bridge. Perhaps he no longer served a purpose. Perhaps my conscience took the reigns.

  15. Julian Self says:

    That’s a beautiful story. It’s almost sad that it’s over, because I think it reminds me of my own youth – when life was free of responsibilities and every action was impassioned – but it warmed me to read it. Thank-you.

    • sheila says:

      Julian – thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comment.

      It’s nice to have something to look back on with fondness (as opposed to regret), knowing it impacted your life in a super positive way and he – as wild as he was – was like that. and I was like that for him too. You don’t always get that!!

      again – thank you.

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