As he stared at the girl, his vision of her wavered in and out of his mind, seeing her in reality in one moment and the next in his imagination.
But is either vision real? he wondered. Is she really there?
He sat on the wooden bench on his front porch, eyeing the tall, blond haired girl as she walked down the cracked, grey street in her violet sundress.
Talk to her, he thought, but remained seated.
And the girl passed by, disappearing from his vision behind a green-leafed tree. Then he saw her standing on his front porch with a smile; the wind blew hard, followed by a loud clatter.
He jerked upright to see a shattered clay pot, its orange pieces in a mound of black dirt on the porch, and a few fallen chrysanthemums next to it. Then he looked up where he saw the girl before, only to find her gone; but of course, she was never there in the first place.
They never were.
A screen door behind him creaked open. “Dreim,” his mother’s old, weary voice hung in the air one moment before departing. “Oh my! We’re supposed to get a bad storm. Could you be a dear and bring the pots in the house so they all don’t fall over?”
He turned to see her wrinkled, white face, her faded blue eyes and fading blond hair. He simply nodded, and she returned back inside the house with a thank you.
As he brought the pots in, another girl, a brunette wearing a lime-green sundress, passed him by.
They always passed by.
Once in the house, he retreated upstairs to his room, and looked out through the windowpane, where an empty neighborhood park was now hidden in the shadows of trees and dark clouds.
He pulled the thick, grey curtains across the window and laid in his bed. Dreim thought of the blond girl, then of the brunette girl, his mind competing for their attention, then fell asleep.
When he awoke, he felt refreshed, and, standing before the grey curtains, pulled them open, letting the golden sun’s light fill his room.
Dreim looked down at the park, where girls and boys always gathered. He thought he saw the blond girl and brunette who passed him by yesterday, and they were conversing with a boy of their own.
In his mind, Dreim had both girls to imagine for himself; but in reality, they were both taken, or about to be taken, not his.
About to close the curtains, he then saw Bridgette, a red haired, freckle-faced girl at the park. Then he saw himself there, pushing her on the swing, as her sweet voice giggled in the warm air. That was when he never had to think about girls; when he was always in the moment, held firmly in reality by her gentle touch, her soft lips, her light voice, anything that she did kept him there and firmly in place in the realm of reality and happiness! She made him into a thing of effectiveness; something that did instead of was done to! Or, at least, he thought.
Back then, there was only one world, and that was life. Until she left him, cutting him off from the bridge to life, and offering it instead to the other boy, Acton. Who is Dreim to question her righteousness! Along with her magnificent power that only a beautiful girl could hold?
Since then, he lost all power, and felt so ineffectual and out of place in his everyday tasks.
Watching Bridgette talk to Acton as they walked through the park, Dreim pulled his hand away from the windowpane, leaving a smudged handprint there.
Furiously, he pulled the curtains closed, and almost ripped one off the beam. What a bad thing it would be, he thought, if he had to stare at that park with all the couples, just because he didn’t have any curtains for his window. That’s why he asked his mother for them, so it gave him a sense of power over what he could see: the sight was there when he deemed it to be, and he could make it disappear. Ah, what power! But the sight was always there even if he couldn’t see it. It was best to just try and ignore it.
The next day, Dreim saw through his window a girl whom he never had seen before. She was alone on the swing, looking depressed with her head down and the swing rocking slowly forward and back.
Dreim decided he would act and, along his way down the porch, removed a chrysanthemum from one of the pots, and took it with him down to the park.
Standing in front of the girl, he introduced himself with the flower extended.
She looked up and smiled, momentarily, and seeing that he made something happen outwardly, he smiled too.
She took the purple-petaled flower from him, and stared at it with her blue eyes, pushing back the brown hair from her face so she could give it a better look.
“Thank you,” she said.
They spoke briefly and, her saying that she had to leave early, agreed to meet him here again tomorrow at noon.
Dreim was delighted, and walked back to his house feeling light and strong.
Most of the rest of that day, he smiled. Every now and then, he stared through his bedroom window, looking at the park, and imagined himself there with the girl.
When the next day came, he woke early to sit at one of the swings to wait for her. Noon came, and he still waited, anticipating her arrival.
He watched the sun descend the light blue sky, and she still hadn’t come. A few boys and girls came to the playground, that blond and brunette girl he saw passing the street that one day, and Bridgette came along with Acton.
He wearily stood from the swing, his butt aching, and walked awkwardly back up the hill as they descended onto the playground like royalty walking back to their castle.
Bridgette did not look at Dreim once, but he looked at her. He thought he should say something, anything. But he didn’t, and just walked back home.
On his bed in his dark room, with a heavy chest, hungry stomach, and weary body, he wondered why the girl didn’t show. It seemed that he knew girls would pull away from him at some point, or didn’t want to be acted on by him.
He heard his mother’s voice, calling him down to eat dinner. As she walked to the table, she held a lighter to a thin, white cigarette between her lips.
She yelped, dropping the lit lighter into the dry pot of flowers, and they were sent ablaze. His mother screamed, but Dreim simply poured his glass of water into the pot, making the flames retreat into nothingness.
“Oh, thank you, Dreim,” she said with a hand on her bosom. “Quick thinking.”
“Yep,” he said wearily. He thought of the flower he gave the girl, and wished it burned in front of her eyes.
Or for the park to catch fire, so he would never have to see all those happy couples there again.
And that idea held fast to him, as he watched flames encase the playground with their red and yellow light, burning it all into nothingness or ash.
Realizing that his mother forgot the lighter in the vase in her moment of panic, he quickly retrieved it and pocketed it.
Now he was debating, deciding whether to put forth his idea into action. No, he thought, he must do it, he must make the dream a reality. Just so he could make something happen. Yes!—Take the vision, distort it, and shape it to his will, and his will alone.
Yes, they would try to change it and make it their own, in their own little way—rebuild the park perhaps, or build a garden—but it was he who would make them work on his vision, it was he who would make them think they were acting on him when in reality he was acting on them!
Visions would intertwine, and his would be the one in sight.
If that girl was lonely, he suddenly thought, and if he was lonely, why couldn’t they fix that together?
What are her visions and dreams?
Dreim could have always just kept the curtains closed, not have looked at that park, but that wasn’t enough for him.
So when his mother was asleep, Dreim littered the park with gasoline, and set it to fire with the lighter, setting his dream—and reality—into motion.
After the firefighters put the fire out, the site of the playground was of ruin and destruction; the park’s architecture collapsed, the wooden fences and posts charred burnt black, and the ground where the grass used to be now nothing but black ash. Thick black clouds of smoke still hung in the night air.
Yes, Dreim thought, I have done it, I now have power over these people, over one of my visions! Yes—no one can take this away from me! And now they will see what I see!
The effectiveness—oh yes, he could feel the effectiveness.
He happily laid in his bed, and fell asleep with a sigh, wondering what would now happen to that piece of land visible through his window.
The next day, he didn’t need to open his curtains to look through the window, for he had left them open the previous night.
The park was gone, it having looked the same as yesterday, and there were some onlookers from afar staring at it, such as the couples who usually go there.
Throughout the week, there were workers removing the destroyed architecture, exactly what Dreim wanted. And most importantly, there was no one playing down there, and no couples in sight.
For the longest time, the park—or what used to be able to be called a park—stayed black ashen, as if no one had the money to invest in it, nor really cared.
His mother announced that they were moving, into a two-bedroom home just like their current one, as she had found a better and more lucrative job.
When Dreim walked into his room and gazed out his new window, there was flat grassland as far as the horizon.
One day, there were construction workers in that patch of land, building something.
“I wonder what they are building,” his mother always said to him.
Dreim wondered too—everyone did.
When he woke on one summer day and looked out through his curtain-less window, his mouth dropped and his heart quickened as a thought raced through his mind—a park!
And oh look—couples!
No, he thought, no no no no no!
“Ma!” he shouted, “I need the curtains for my room again! Uh, the sun is awfully bright.”
And together, they installed the curtains over his one bedroom window.
When he went to bed every night, girls invaded his thoughts, Dreim being unable to stop their apparitions, seeing their beauty and their magical power sending him into a deep sleep.
During the day, the things he saw—the girls and the park—made him realize that he’d never be able to make his dreams a permanent reality; so he fantasized about things, shaping what he could to what he wanted.
To help him fall asleep, he pretended he had a girlfriend, a girl to meet in his thoughts every night, and he pretended the park wasn’t there, never once opening the curtains ever again.
Dreim felt defeated, as he lie in his bed, having been unable to change his surroundings permanently. Each time he saw that park, it opened old wounds in his chest, and from those wounds, out poured all kinds of overwhelming emotions. He felt anger, a rage that consumed him as he went through his day each time he saw couples; he was angry at the life he couldn’t live, the one he could only dream up. He felt sad, being excluded and confined to his room, his visions unable to be nothing more than its walls and the fake reality he creates in his imagination; the things he thought about weren’t real, he desperately wanted them to be so, but his own visions began to extinguish all hope. Most of all, he felt depressed, the life drained from him: He wanted to give up, let his spirit be taken away.
Now his visions were dying, because all he saw and wanted was blackness.
He began to lie all day in his bed like a dead carcass, the spark within him fading until his chest was ashen and destroyed like the park he set on fire. Did he do this to himself? Dreim wondered. Did he somehow create a reality around him that led to his demise?
But how could he? Reality and people aren’t under his control. His imagination is the only thing under his control, or so he thought.
He slept more than he intended. He’d wake up, spend some of the day helping his mother around the house. He’d rest on the couch or bed, and having no motivation to do anything else, was taken into the sleeping world where there was neither reality nor imagination. Sometimes there was nothingness, blackness, and Dreim was happy with that, there being nothing to focus on. Sometimes he had dreams about his window, his opening the curtains, his face pressed against the glass while tears streamed down his face; other times, he had this weird dream where he continued opening and closing the curtains, back and forth, almost obsessively, perhaps hoping for a different result, but it always being the same each and every time. He would awake, then wonder where his life was going, what it all meant. There had to be more to life than being shut up in his room and house, trying his best to seclude his views about the different aspects to life, and creating realities in his head that he could never live. That was the worst part, wondering if what he thought about in his head could come true some day, or any day. After spending the day doing what felt like nothing, he went back to sleep, either to blackness or dreams about the window.
There was so much more to life than this, he felt, and was missing out somehow. It wasn’t his fault, he thought. He wanted change, he wanted something new to happen. Anything. He couldn’t live through the same monotony of each day much longer.
His mother asked Dreim to pick up groceries from the nearby store, and the shortest way there was to walk straight through the new park that he dreaded seeing. This made him anxious, sweat forming profusely on his palms and the soles of his feet.
He left his house and walked over the short bridge that went over the creek and to the dark green grassy area that led to the park.
Crossing that bridge was like journeying between distant worlds. The park was a world he didn’t belong to. There was laughter and smiles from everyone else in the park. Boys were pushing girls on the swings. Boys and girls were chasing each other down and up the slides and around the play sets. Dreim felt so alone, so out of place, like he should have tried to find a different route to the market, no matter how long. His chest ached, being in pain.
He bought groceries and carried the plastic bags across the park. Being tired, he reluctantly sat on a black plastic bench in front of a swing set.
He briefly thought about setting fire to this park, but knew it was useless and would get caught this time. He had enjoyed making the other couples from the previous park miserable, at least for a short time, by not giving them a park to go to. Here, at this park, everyone seems so happy and lively. This made him think that he didn’t mind being only a mere observer of reality; perhaps he was just supposed to watch, and nothing more.
He stood up and began carrying the bags across the park. Before he reached the bridge, a girl with brown hair and green eyes carrying colored pencils and paper stopped him.
“Hi!” she said to him in a burst of excitement, her eyes lit up from her smile. She wore a pink t-shirt and blue jeans.
Dreim just looked at her, his face expressionless. “Hi,” he said flatly.
“Want to see my drawings?” she asked of him.
“Drawings?” he mumbled. “Um, sure. I can’t look long though, I need to be getting home.”
“Okay. What’s your favorites?”
Dreim gently set the plastic bags onto the pavement, took the papers, and leafed through them. She is pretty good, he instantly thought. One picture was of the park, the lines and features so detailed that it brought it out into a life of its own, like a real-life duplicate of the park he was already seeing. He flipped to another page, one of a boy and girl who sat alone on swings next to each other, their swings still and their faces drenched of life and replaced with shadow. This stirred emotions in his chest. “Hmm, I like this one.”
“Thanks!” she said enthusiastically. “I drew it after seeing those two alone at the park together. They didn’t talk, and they were both sad. It was kind of depressing.”
“Yeah,” Dreim mumbled. He flipped to another picture, one of a pink heart where the park bridge broke it into two, and a boy and girl stood on either side. “Wow, you are very…” Dreim tried to think of the right words, “very intense. You capture the emotions so well. I feel like I’m looking through a…” and when Dreim thought of the word, he swallowed, having become fearful of it in his dreams, and whispered, “a window. A window into another life.”
The girl smiled, leaning over his shoulder and pushing her bangs from her eyes. “Well, that’s what I like to do, see into other people’s lives. I’m real nebby like that.” She laughed. “Oh! Speaking of window, I think I have a picture of one in there somewhere.”
“Hmm?” Dreim began flipping through the pages. “A window…”
“Yes,” the girl said, then construed her face into a frown, with a finger on her dimple, as if thinking. “He felt so many things while looking out that window. I knew I had to draw him as soon as I saw it. It was just so perfect…”
Dreim moved the drawings behind each other rapidly, his heart beating faster, anticipating what he knew already. After moving another drawing behind another, he saw it and froze in time: It was a picture of a window with the face of a gaunt boy behind it, heavy shadows and tears down the face, a hand pressing tightly against the glass, and the other hand tugging at the curtain. And then he realized: That boy is him; the window was the frame, and he was the portrait.
“Ah!” he shrieked, dropping all of the drawings to the ground.
“Hey!” the girl shouted, bending down to pick the drawings up. “You’re getting them all dirty.” “Uh, uh I’m sorry.” He stooped down and grabbed the plastic bags. “I—I need to go. I’m going to be late.” The girl turned her face up in a frown. “What’s wrong, don’t you like it?”
“Uh, no,” he said nervously. “Good. They’re good, I mean.” He snatched the picture of him from her hands and began walking to the bridge.
“Hey, that’s mine!” she shouted from behind him.
“No, it’s mine,” Dreim raised his voice, glancing back at her, “that doesn’t belong to you.” He quickly crossed the bridge without looking back. Stupid, he thought, should have kept those blinds closed, never opened them. Then he wondered how often he was at his window. Was it a dream of crying at the window, or was it a reality? Or did that girl just see his sadness? He couldn’t tell.
When he got home, he dropped the bags in the kitchen.
“Hi, Dreim,” his mother said. “How was the walk? I hope you enjoyed your way there. I think the fresh air did you good…”
“Fine,” Dreim almost shouted, holding back tears. From his pocket he grabbed the change and put it on the table, then stalked to his room.
He shut his door louder than he intended, and thrust himself onto his bed. Why was he so upset? Was it because she saw something that he wanted no one to see? Was it because she saw his raw sadness and captured it so perfectly? Or was it because the gaunt boy was alien, someone else he didn’t know, even though he knew it could be no one else but him?
He felt his soul pour out his tears and pain.
And as he laid there, facing his reality by staring at the picture that was drawn from that girl’s imagination, he slowly closed his eyes, and fell asleep.
He dreamt of that girl. He was sitting on the bench, as she sat on the pavement, drawing him. It was the picture of the heart with a bridge breaking it in the middle, him looking gaunt on one side and her looking lonely drawing pictures on the other. Then, he decided to cross the bridge to her. She looked up at him, smiling. They began talking and listening, and he felt happy.
When blackness appeared and he opened his eyes, Dreim felt refreshed, as if the dream somehow healed all the wounds he felt in his chest from the day before. Perhaps he was happy being observed and cared for with so much detail, or he was just happy talking to her and connecting with someone for a change, and so his happiness had carried over from the dream world and into reality.
Then he thought about her pictures, all of them seeming to deal with a disconnect between people, about a boy and a girl, about love, or the lack of.
When he stood up, he took a deep breath. How long had he slept? He spread the curtains apart, and light poured into the room. He shaded his eyes a moment from the golden sun, then stared out at the park. He squinted his eyes, looking around at each person—girl on the swing, girl on the bench, girl walking around—then he saw her under a tree, looking around innocently before pushing her thick brown hair behind her ear and becoming immersed in her drawing. Her face was sad, not happy. Maybe she’s trying to get away from the world like I do, Dreim thought. Maybe that’s her window, the curtains she can’t keep closed, and she’s just trying to deal with all of the things she sees.
Dreim quickly closed the curtains before she saw him. He now admired her, in some way. Cared for her. Thought about her. What connected them was what occupied their minds: Reality and imagination, loneliness and sadness, love and disconnect.
But there was also more to it than that.
This time, when he went throughout his day, something strange happened. His thoughts centered on her. He couldn’t get rid of them. Her face was fixated in his mind’s eye.
Before and after he slept, he was thinking about her, not about any other girls. He didn’t understand it, couldn’t get rid of it, and was confused when he started developing feelings for her.
As the days went on, he saw that girl in the park, alone, drawing, always at a certain time. And when he closed the curtains and looked away from the window, he still saw her.
It’s as if his imagination was a window, and instead of it looking out to the park was instead her, but the curtains were removed, and so that’s all he could see, was her, as if he couldn’t move from that spot and see anything else.
He felt such an affinity for her, seeing her in that dreary state, that he ached for her with a powerful longing and caring. He decided he liked her, really liked her. And he wondered if his sight was creating a false reality that gave him false feelings, or if his intuition was telling him that what he felt was real.
But he still wasn’t sure why he suddenly liked her. He felt as if he knew her. Was she like another girl he knew? Was there just a connection? Or had he already spent lifetimes with her in his imagination?
When he thought about her, he saw his window, and he saw the park, and he was there with the girl, and they spent their time being happy there together. This vision was so powerful and so alluring and so vivid and so moved his emotions, that he wanted to make it a reality.
He decided he would.
His passivity from thinking about her so much made him act, and the next day he found himself walking to the park to go find her.
She wasn’t there.
The next day Dreim went there, she wasn’t there again. Where is she? he wondered. He saw himself down on the park bench with his head down, feeling the depression starting to weigh him in place. He wondered if he’d be able to move from that spot now.
Reluctantly, he laid down on the bench and stared at the grey cloudy sky. He knew better than to believe the fantasies he had in his mind about these women could come true. Everything he imagined doing with them never happened and only disappointed him.
Is his imagination his enemy? He saw himself giving back the drawing of him staring in anguish out the window, in the prison of his room and reality. She would smile, and he would admire her other drawings, and then they would talk, and he would finally have a friend to be with, if not a girlfriend. He had to admit that his social life didn’t exist; it only existed in his mind, with fake apparitions and fake experiences that never came to fruition. His desire for intimacy and companionship overwhelmed him above all else, and thinking about that brought water to his eyes.
The real scene before him was always of only emptiness and heartache and loneliness. Anything he did never seemed to make a difference. Learned helplessness, he thought. Life had taught him that this is the only side of life there is.
He went back home and laid in his bed. Every single day he imagined that girl being there at the park, but she was never there. That his imagination couldn’t become reality brought waves of frustration within him.
When he looked out the window toward the park, it brought to him all the emotions he felt when looking out the window from his old house at the park that used to exist. He felt sadness because of his loneliness. Seeing everyone at the park have company and companionship brought envy and subsequently anger to his soul.
It’s a continuous cycle, he thought. Nothing’s ever going to change. I’ve been dealt the bullshit side of life and I’m stuck in it.
He didn’t think his actions could ever change that.
Dreim placed the girl’s picture of him on his desk, mounting it in front of a blank picture frame, his now only photo in his room
But eventually, a girl did find him, and he somehow got into a decent relationship. Whether he was completely happy or not, he didn’t know. But it was companionship.
His visions became no more. He enjoyed the sight of his girlfriend each day. When she invited him to the park, he was more than happy to go, to cross that bridge and enter that world he so longed for.
As she pushed him on the swing, Dreim’s gaze was drawn to the window of a nearby house, where he saw a boy, watching.
I used to be that boy, he thought.
But whether Dreim was happy, whether he saw himself looking through an invisible window at couples who were truly happy, truly in love and content, he didn’t know.
Guess there’s always something to see and not see, he thought. Just need to decide on what you want to see and what you don’t want to see. And there’s a lot of things I don’t want to see.
When Dreim and his girlfriend switched places and he started pushing her on the swing, the girl who drew a picture of him came up to him. He felt a longing for her.
They talked, and she handed him a picture, a picture of him. And he didn’t like what he sees.