In the Space Between Us
Lee L. Krecklow
Thomas had just set his book on the arm of his chair and started rubbing his eyes, grinding his palms into his sockets, when the track on the stereo changed and the sound of the Moonlight Sonata lamented him. He stood and closed his eyes and swayed with the sounds of the first movement, rocking back and forth, allowing it to carry him where it might, through his apartment, and when he opened his eyes, he found himself before the great window, the wall of glass.
Outside, next to his building and in full view, was another building, much like his, tall and glassy, but newer. He often stood this way, hidden in the darkness, looking out into the night, looking into the homes of those next to him. While most people kept their shades closed, there were a few who seemed to welcome an audience, masquerading before their windows without shame or conscience. Thomas needed nothing to justify his activities to himself, but if he had, it would have been those few people who so obviously needed him to watch.
As he stood there watching now, something shifted inside him. Something sank low and heavy and he was weakened by it. With his mind and body both listing, he placed his hands on the glass to steady himself. Maybe, he thought, it was brought on by his tiredness or his incessant paranoia or the weight of a lifetime of failed interactions. The sad poetry of Ludwig van still surrounded him and moved him, and it intensified what he was feeling, running over him and through him, thick and melancholy. It made it hard to breathe. The movements of those people he saw, those people moving about their homes in monotonous ways, eating and talking and sleeping, took on an unusual and overwhelming significance, as if it should be the last of it for any of them. Everything on his side of the glass became worthless, and everything on their side was less, and the music playing now seemed as though it should have been written for some tired and worn figure roaming dark and empty streets alone hundreds of years ago, broken, looking for nothing because he had the knowledge that nothing was worth finding, and Thomas felt that very figure inside himself.
It was then, while his thoughts were at their most sullen, that he saw her. In one of the apartments across from him, a woman, much younger than he, sat alone before her piano, playing slowly and with so much emotion. To Thomas it was as if she was playing the sadness that droned in his ears. Her fingers moved in perfect sync with the sounds in his home and in his head and in his heart, and at that moment, he felt no disconnect between them. At that moment, he knew her. It was her that was playing his music. It was her that was stirring him. It was her that was making him feel dispirited and desolate and isolated. He was gripped by a sort of hypnosis and his vision began to tunnel. He was leaving his own body and was watching the pianist from inside her apartment, sitting beside her, unable to speak or communicate, and with her completely unaware that he existed. He saw that her head hung, and he sensed that she felt the same sadness that he did, and he was momentarily happy for that. She, too, knew the dark, searching figure, as if he was a father to both of them.
He’d seen her before, and he began to wonder why he’d never been drawn to her music like this. Then, almost immediately he knew that it was because he’d never heard her before. It was with that thought that the illusion began to crumble.
The first movement of the Sonata was over, and in the momentary silence between tracks on Thomas’ CD, the woman continued to play. She played, Thomas heard nothing, and he was driven from her apartment and back into his own, becoming aware, once again, of the panes of glass and the expanse of space between them. The second movement started, skipping into the room like a frolicking sprite, a far less pensive piece, a tactless joke. He stomped toward the stereo and slapped at the buttons, searching for that first movement, for that connection, for the oneness, but it was too late. He was home again. He was alone again. And he knew they could never return to what they’d shared.
Lee L. Krecklow in his native habitat. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife and children. He’s recently completed a novel. You can visit his website: www.leelkrecklow.com.