a prose triptych by Raymond Gibson

The walls held a silence—even the lights were white—and everything reflected it. To be sure, the room was acridly clean; the landlord had seen to it. No books on the shelves, the desk bare of its typewriter, and the poems that had lined the walls: peeled free. Yes, the absence of the man healed to emptiness, and all trace of him vanished as wrinkles in bedlinen.
     The rest was practically untouched. I know it looks small, but if you moved the furniture it could easily fit a queen-sized, said the man with the key-ring opening the door further. Single tenant? the lady said. Beg pardon? Was it just one tenant before? It hardly looks as if a twin could fit there now. Yeah, he had a single mattress right there in the corner. No frame. Why is that window black? She pointed, and her arm crossed the threshold.
     And there it lay like ink that did not shine, with a certain softness to the eyes like mildew.
     Don’t know. Must have painted it. Hasn’t got much of a view though, just the alley. The light went off, and the woman turned away. He swung the door shut; the key tried the hole, and turned with a sound like a knock.

Two things lay undisturbed below the bookcase: a journal and a manuscript of poems.
     Poems are poems. They rarely interest anyone except poets, and usually only their authors. She read them out of idleness and vague curiosity, glad for the privacy the window afforded, relieved not to be as exposed as the author.
     The journal merely recorded the composition and occasion of each poem throughout, that is until the final three entries midway through the book. I predicted this would happen last night in a dream. I woke today to the window gone starkly black, this was the first day. And then several days later he said of a rat, I fed it bits of my dried blood and cake. I sent it into the window. It did not come back. In the final entry, he stabbed a wall with a pen, and upon twisting it the surface wrinkled like skin; he nailed poems to the walls; reading one in particular elicited a faint sound like breathing from near the window.
     Exposed and mad, she thought.
     Nevertheless, she took to sleeping on the couch with the light on.
After chiseling, soaking, and scrubbing, she gave up on the window. Perhaps it was painted from the outside, but no matter; it would not open.
     It was purely accidental that she held a poem up to the window's darkness. It turned transparent where it overlapped the blackness. But, the window turned so too, and as she held the page she could see the alley—outside—through the paper.
It was night. She could faintly make out the street below and the building across from her.
     It wasn’t a matter of walls, but the window should be tended to, she realized—then she could have natural light.
     Gathering the rest of the manuscript, she leaned against the window with a palm over the pages to hold them in place. Her arm fell through; the pages scattered in air and on impact rolled down the alley, like newspaper. The window was open, as it had been the whole time. She slept almost flush by the wall under it.
     The next morning she woke rested to the warm light from it. She sat up and lay her elbows on its frame. All the windows on the adjacent building were black.