This story may be unsettling for some readers and contains suggestions of sexual violence.
Every morning she cycled past my house at the same time. Every day, I watched her pass while I, standing in my driveway in my cheap suit and scuffed shoes, unlocked my 2006 Toyota Camry and slid into the faded fabric interior.
Her blonde hair was always pulled into a long ponytail. It streamed behind her as she cycled, like the tail of a kite free on the wind. She was a pristine statue, or a fragile rose, or a… there was no good way to describe it. She was on the wind, and I, in my tightly knit schedule of a life, was in a box. A scarf in a box. And alone.
Oh, what I would do to join her up there in the skies.
Or, to show her a glimpse of the box. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were two of us in it. Then it would be cozy.
She wore acid-washed jeans on the day when I was running late for work. My toast burned, because I bumped the temperature dial. Because it was burnt, I had to put in two new pieces. So, I was running late. By the time I got out to my car, she was already gone. Not even a glimpse of that golden ponytail.
How did I know what she wore that day, then?
My entire day was ruined because of the toast. I sat through meetings and pondered her profile. How did she look this morning? Did she notice something off about her routine? Did she see I wasn’t there, my head turning to notice her? I agonized over it all day, grinding my car keys under my fingernails.
I had to see her. The knitting was unraveling. How had the wind pushed back her hair today? What if she’d worn her hair down for once? I wouldn’t know unless I found her.
Bravery, like the movies, I told myself, puffing out my chest as I exited the eighties-build office under the late afternoon sun.
As I drove home, I imagined the path she took back. She returned home every day before I did, I surmised, because I never saw her coming back. I turned into my driveway and pulled the park brake. Deep breath. She lived five houses up the street. I knew that, because I’d walked through the neighbourhood every evening for weeks, until finally spotting an open garage door with her yellow bicycle inside. I didn’t approach her that time, but this was my chance.
The short walk past the suburban houses was agonizing, and by the time I was climbing her porch steps, my hands were balled into nervous fists.
Knock, knock, knock.
A small dog started barking immediately. I jumped back a bit in surprise. I’d never seen her take a dog for a walk. Was she watching it for someone? Did she have a roommate? The door swung open before I could retreat: a white-sneakered foot holding back the Pomeranian. Then, a dark-haired, unfamiliar woman appeared at the door. Her hair was unnaturally curled into tight ringlets. “Oh,” she faltered, staring me up and down. I suddenly became very aware of the cheap suit and the scuffed shoes. The mismatched belt. “Hello. Can I help you?”
I opened my mouth. “Erm, yes.” Cleared my throat. “Hi. I’m a neighbour, just down the block.” A few jilted hand gestures of nervousness. “Do—do you live here?”
“Oh,” the woman said again, “no, I don’t. I was just heading out, actually. JANEY! SOMEONE’S HERE TO SEE YOU!” She called. The four-legged fluff was still barking. “SHUT UP, RUSTY!” She produced a black leash in her hands and clipped it to the dog’s collar. I noticed she was wearing a sky-blue jacket. “SEE YOU!” She called back into the house, then gave me a friendly nod and she and the dog disappeared.
I watched them for a moment, then turned back with a jump when her voice, the voice I expected would be perfect and absolutely was, came. “Hello,” said Janey.
She wore tight, acid-wash jeans and a large gray hoodie that hid her small form. Her hair was in that ponytail, and suddenly, all I could see were my hands in that golden hair, and my lips on her face. “Hello,” I said, shaking out my hands which, I now realized, were still balled into fists. “I’m Gerard. I live a few houses down.”
“Right,” she said with a friendly smile, “I thought you looked familiar. Is something wrong?”
“Ah,” Shit. I hadn’t thought this through, “ah, no, nothing’s wrong. Only, I thought it would be nice—I mean, I see you a lot—I thought we could share a—a box.”
“A box?” Her face scrunched. It was a movie screen.
I tried to give her a charming smile. “Why don’t we get to know each other?”
“Um,” her voice was sweet and pitchy, and she gave a disagreeable look. She cast her eyes out behind me, and the distance between us. That distance was so small. Infinitesimal. I could reach out a hand and I’d be touching her. “Yeah, maybe, sometime,” she said nicely.
“Are you busy?” I asked, glancing over her shoulder into her empty home.
She stirred. “Oh, yes, I was actually just starting on supper, see…”
“What are you making?”
“Pizza,” she said too quickly.
“I love pizza,” I offered, throwing out a thumb. “I could go grab a few soft drinks from my place and bring them over. Or beer. Whatever you like. We could have pizza together.” Together. I loved the sound of that. There was chemistry here.
So why was she skeptical? “Gerard, was it?” She was acting nervous. Didn’t she feel the connection I felt? That quivering, sensual electricity that passes from one person to another. “Listen, I don’t mean to be rude, but I really just…”
Something came over me. I couldn’t describe the rush, but it wasn’t something to refuse. It was overpowering.
My hands were already up around her face. I pushed my lips forcefully into hers and we stumbled back through the doorway together. My one hand slipped into her hair and tightened around the base of her neck, right beneath her ponytail. My other hand pressed her into me. Dully, I felt fists on my back and her legs were moving. Resistant. I wanted her hands in my hair, but now they were at my chest, pushing at it.
She felt it too. That connection. It wasn’t just physical. We had each other, finally. This was love. I knew, then, that she watched me too, every morning on that bicycle. She went past because she knew I would look, and she wanted me to look.
I threw her back. The passion between us was raw and aggressive. Just like the movies, I thought, my breath now ragged. I slammed the door with a foot, and the whole house shook.
The sea-foam curtains muffled the screams.
That’s the thing about kites. They’re a temporary enjoyment.
Eventually, the wind ceases, or the storm comes.
And a storm doesn’t see what it destroys. A storm owns everything in its path. Then, when the clouds dissipate and the rains clear, a new kite eventually appears in those blue skies. A different kite, but still an object.