The Frosted Glass Pane
There was a man, I believe at least, who would stand on the other side of the pane of frosted glass, that which occupied most of the upper half of the door to the garden.
I knew that he was not light or a stone or shrubbery for he shifted at times, as a person left waiting will; and he quavered at times, as a person taken by shiver will.
The stippled silhouette privileged the transient times of the day, appeared noticeably in the blue minutes; the blackening blue of a dusk and the glass frail blue in the hard beginning at morning. It is not to say that he could not appear at other times, for he certainly did; but an hour at which he might appear must be a quiet hour. Daylight and sun were not impediment, so long as an afternoon was silent enough in its white gold or in lunchtime rain that it might be imagined all others living in the street were not there, disappeared farther than their work or schools so that they are gone entirely from present permanence and may not be properly remembered. Into such quiets he could visit, and did, unbothered and perhaps welcomed when there was a flat placeable sound of rain on the pavement and rain slipping out of the gutter, or the brush of midsummer leaves dried dead by a year’s early heat scattered into gardens and fallen into thick birdbaths.
At times he would juggle the area of his shoulders a little, as a person at the bus stop in the winter will. At times he would budge in place, as a person wiping their shoes on the doormat will.
A major part of the time he would stand without great movement, as a person will not usually do, unless they are rather dejected and quite hopeless.
It becomes quite an anxious business: entering the room of your home where there is a frosted glass window that you know will have a silent figure stood at and frostily visible through, or entering this room when you are not sure if that figure will be there. I grew avoidant of the room. I evaded its occupation as much as I feasibly could. It is quite a difficult business when the terrible room is the kitchen. I bought a miniature fridge and plugged it in in the living room. I used the toaster on the coffee table. I drank the water from the bathroom sink. The coffee table became cratered and stained. I brought through cereals and biscuits and instant soups and crockery and cutlery and stored them in the cabinet that held the television. I washed the plates in the bathroom sink. I filled the kettle at the bathroom sink. I did not view the option of hot meals with preference.
Did I once open the door?
I did open the door. It was a testing thing to do, for the pulling down of the door handle when there is somebody in silent silhouette still or shifting on the other side is to pit the action of the body against all reasonable function of the brain. Of course, by the time that battle is done, and won, and the door tremblingly pushed out open to the winter, I would see that nothing stood there waiting to be let in or to bring me out with it on silent errand. Neither was there footprint or disturbance, nor noticeable sign of previous presence.
I had at times gone into the cold garden and the wind had closed the door.
I had seen the man on the other side of the frosted glass, which is to say that I saw him standing inside of my house.
I saw nothing when I went through into the house.
It became a more trying thing to be inside, though when I was inside, the silent silhouette man was outside.
I believe at least.
The garden became untended.
It was a trying way to live.
After some time of living this way, the garden grown over and my sad slight attempts at vegetable raising gone to mash at the mouths of the slugs and snails, I found a man in the telephone book and called him to come and replace the frosted glass pane in the door to the garden.
The man from the telephone book came at the beginning of the following week, bringing with him through the house and into the kitchen the carefully packaged and precisely measured piece of glass which was to replace my frosted pane in the door. I had not looked at a catalogue, for I had wanted it to be simple, and done quickly.
I had asked for the clearest, simplest glass the man had.
The man carefully unwrapped the glass, which I saw would warp or ball no light, and would interfere only minimally with the image on its other side.
He finished replacing the window within two or three hours. He made no remark on the state of the living room, perhaps finding it undesirable to prompt further strangeness. I brought cup and saucer out to him from near the television.
When the man was gone, the afternoon became eveningish and was cornered into blues. It was springtime colour in the winter, the cast of bluebell and foxglove but in the air and the speckled rain instead of in the flowers at morning. The afternoon was also quiet in a way untenable, not appropriate for the time of workers returning or children being returned.
Entering the kitchen was an anxious thing to do. I had seen the new window at the moment of its installation, but I had not gone into that room since the man who had installed it had departed. The man with the window had taken the frosted glass pane away with him, for safe disposal or resale. Perhaps he had brought away the man on the other side of the window too.
I sat in the living room with a beginner’s botany book, looking at a single page without ingestion.
Had I wanted a screen blind put in as well, to draw down over the window? I had been asked.
Not presently, I had said.
I wondered at going into the kitchen, and my new clear glass that framed the frost beyond. I stood at the kitchen threshold but did not turn the corner to where I would be able to see. My body and its tracts became very full of nervous activity. I returned to my book. I turned on the television.
I sat not going into the kitchen. I built out of it quite a thing.
I worked myself into such helplessness that I picked up the telephone and called a friend. Would he come over? I was feeling quite frantic and unwell.
Of course he would.
My friend came calmly but concerned. Was I all right? Yes. Oh yes. I’ve just gotten myself a bit frantic is all. But would you be able to go into the kitchen briefly, and take a look at my new window. In the door.
Of course he would. Was anything the matter?
I’m just not quite sure if it’s been put in right. I’ve gotten myself a bit frantic and anxious. In fact, I admitted, I was not sure if I had seen something on the other side of the window in the door.
Of course, my friend said. You just sit there. Be kind to yourself. It happens to the best of us, and it happens to me, and goodness knows you are far better than I.
He went into the kitchen then, and I sat and looked at a photograph of bluebell, which was of its shade with the evening outside.
My friend returned within half a minute.
He went to the front door.
Come on, he said.
He had picked up my coat.
He opened the door and went out and I followed. I closed the door.
He walked to his car.
You’ll stay with me, he said.
We got into his car. There was a chill to the seats in it.
You’ll sell this place. I’ll help you to.
He spoke no more as we drove the lavender evening. He asked me nothing as though to prompt no further strangeness. Neither did I say a word to him.
There was a chill, but we drove with the windows down.
J. F. Gleeson lives in England. His work has appeared, or is soon to appear, in Crow & Cross Keys, Lamplit Underground, Sublunary Review, ergot., Mandrake, Déraciné, Bureau of Complaint, Overheard, Spartan, Weird Horror, the Dark Lane anthology series, and other places. He has a website.
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