Across the street the windows are open – it is going to be a warm day – and there is a man in a green cap leaning out to the fire escape, making to grab for the silvery scarf that is caught on the stair. His arms are short and he is still losing his holiday weight. He is glad the wind is not blowing, for he would not like to lose his favorite cap. His fingers almost catch hold of the scarf. The woman watches the affair with a humorless face. She spoke to the man, once, in an exchange on the street, and he had laughed nervously then. Many times since she has seen him through the open window – she knows he is a luckless man.
At this hour the sun is lazy still and outside the light the woman’s skin is blue. She sits on a blue chair auctioned off in the hotel lobby one afternoon last spring. She had thought it looked glamorous and therefore sad, and had asked her husband for it. Sitting on it, she is alone in her thoughts and there are buttons sewn into the plush, and the blueness of the room is striking. In fifteen minutes the piano instructor will tap on the door and will want some tea. He is so old, the woman supposes him blind, and if she does not dress for the occasion, it will not matter – she has on small brown acceptable shoes and these will be enough. It is only eleven o’clock and the instructor will want to hear Moonlight Sonata, over tea; the woman will let her fingers fall politely on the keys and think of Beethoven in his grave.
Meanwhile, she stares ahead into the space between the buildings, which is a box. There is a simple window garden across the way. In college when her hair was short, the woman studied literature and dreamed of traveling the world. Now in the room the days are long and the books are new with yellow covers. Tonight she will attend a party downstairs in a similar room, and she will mingle with the neighbors, who will remark on how delightfully things are coming along. She will nod in reply and sit down by the ladies, who will be chatting in groups and tossing their hair, picking the sequins off ravishing gowns.