The Window | Pushing the Wave

The Window

Opinion, 18 August 2023
by L.A. Davenport
The Window by LA Davenport
The window
This week, I put an extract from my collection No Way Home on here.

The White Room — Part I is the first section from the second piece in that book. It is set in an institution for people with mental illnesses, and it started out as a script for a short film that I worked on with a friend.

When I adapted it into a short story, I tried to retain as much as possible of the imagery of advertising for clean, white products that had inspired the idea in the first place.

I had initially thought of perfect, white sheets billowing against a soft, hazy background, much like those I once saw in an advert, in which a smiling woman crawled up towards the camera under the bed clothes.

I wondered how that concept could be used in an entirely different way, with an entirely different meaning, and the result took me to some very interesting places.

Getting it together to present it here, and seeing it outside of the pages of my book for the first time in years, showed me the story in a new light, and I saw things in it that I had not seen before, at least not consciously.
That sense of revisiting thoughts and ideas from many years ago can become infectious, and I soon found myself trawling through my archives in the subsequent days, reading through old notes and stories I had worked on over the last 10 years.

I came across something that piqued my interest; a short story that I had written while sitting at my window in a flatshare in Greenwich, where I lived with two other people.

It was an extremely difficult period for me, and I faced numerous personal and professional challenges that, at one stage, threatened to tip be over the edge.

It was during this period, as I recount in the memoir My Life as a Dog, that my dachshund Kevin, ever the boon and source of stability, gently nudged me out of the trough of depression I was sinking into and into the world beyond my room.

But before that important renaissance, I wallowed for several weeks in the mire.

I remember clearly looking up from my computer and out of my dirty bedroom window late one afternoon. I felt imprisoned by my life, with no way out.

I quickly jotted down some notes, and took a picture of my view with a film camera (see above), and then left it at that.

This week, I reread what I had written, finding the germ of something in there. So I rewrote and rewrote it, paring it back to the bone and then rebuilding it, and here is the result.

I hope you enjoy it.

The window

I look up from my screen and stare at the smudges and dried flecks of dust that cover the window of my lonely room.

Shadows creep across the yard beyond. Darkness reaches down to join them, obliterating all light and melting the dirt on the glass into the encroaching oblivion.

It must be the end of the day, although I have no idea of the time. I don’t even know where I am, or why I am here.

On the windowsill there is a plant, shrivelled and pitiful. One stubborn branch, with one stubborn bud that cannot decide whether or not to flower.

Yet I keep watering it.

Over several days, the little pool is slowly sucked up out of the chipped stoneware dish. I suspect most of it is taken by the white clouds of fungus that billow over the surface of the soil.

The faded and cracked pot looks damp and bare, but I know the black earth within teems with life.

At least that means I am not alone.

Unseen, a crow caws. It calls out every evening, just as the shadows darken enough to blot out the corners of the yard. I have come to cherish its early evening calls as much as any human contact. It helps dispel the creeping sense of fear and dread that plagues me every night.

~

Did you know they put bars on my window? It was a few weeks ago. I don't think they suspect me of wanting to escape, but they must have been afraid of something.

I find it hard to take, for some reason, even though it has been years since I left my room.

I don't need the bars. I told them that.

Just look past them, they said.

I try, but it’s not easy. You see, the view is the same, but it has been sliced up, divided. I cannot track the flight of a bird of prey, the hopping of the crows nor the night-time prowling of the wolves with the same ease anymore.

The clouds pass, but stutteringly. Sunlight shines, but there is no square of light anymore. Instead, bars of dark shadow, mirroring of those over the window, trace across the floor, trying to catch me in their black arms.

I am sure the plant is dying because of them. It flourished in the relative warmth by the small heater. I need hardly explain that it is cold there, by the thin, plain glass. You can only imagine what that change like that would do to a sensitive plant.

I don’t know what I will do if it dies.

~

It is odd how I have almost forgotten my former life, and the privileges I enjoyed. I wouldn’t say I ever feel happiness here, but there are fleeting moments of joy, when I forget where I am and slip into a reverie.

It does not last long. Once I open my eyes, and I look around my room, and see the dust and the decay, and the bars on the window, I realise that I am like the plant.

Shrivelled and pitiful, and bare on the outside, but somewhere within, I am stubborn, and I teem with life.
© L.A. Davenport 2017-2024.

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The Window | Pushing the Wave