“Oh man, I can’t believe this.” I ran my fingers through my hair and waited as the campus housing secretary behind the counter pounded the keys on her computer.

“Sorry, there’s nothing,” she sat back and tilted her head to one side making her look like the bland office drone that she was. The blue cat-eye glasses on the chain around her neck gave her that ‘I’m only here because they wouldn’t hire me at the DMV’ look.

Sympathy didn’t exactly pour off her. I wanted to hate her, but she wasn’t the cause of the problem, only the messenger.

“Look, you guys are the ones who lost my housing request that I put in, as requested by you, last spring. I tapped my finger on the date on my receipt; you have to do something. Off campus housing is full. Anything I could get now would be thirty miles away.”

She pounded away for a couple of minutes, then gave me a quick smile. “The old psychology building is slated for renovation into student housing next summer. The suitable rooms have already been rented out. There’s one left. The good news is that it’s available, the bad news is that it has a one way mirror in it, and there’s no outside window. You have complete privacy as long as you don’t open the drapes over the mirror. I’ll rent it to you for half price because of the inconvenience. Is that acceptable?”

I wanted to leap the counter and kiss her pasty face, but there had to be a Student Housing Office rule against it.

“I’ll take it.”

A week later I strode up the sidewalk toting my steamer trunk. The building had the sad grandeur of an aged Victorian mansion that had been renovated at least a half dozen times in its hundred year existence. The wooden stair creaked as I climbed to the second floor holding onto the massive oak banister. My room sat across from the ornate bathroom. I liked that.

Except for a lingering old house aroma, the house gave off a warm, friendly vibe. My room was spacious despite lacking an exterior window. I had hoped for a garret. As I writer, I needed a window to stare out as I contemplated the state of the world. But then I would have to smoke cigarettes to complete the stereotype and clack away on a portable Smith-Carona typewriter. On second thought, a nice room on the second floor where I could tap away on a lap top with pristine lungs sounded pretty good.

The curtained window on the long wall of the room dominated everything else. I drew the heavy gray drapes back and saw nothing but the back side of heavy gray drapes on the other side of the pane. The window stretched from my knees to over my head, and had to be at least ten feet wide. I imagined psychology classes crowding around the window to view experiments in process.

Smack in the center of the window I could make out a piece of paper taped to the glass.


There were several ways to respond, I chose humor.

I grabbed a piece of note book paper and a laundry marker.


I closed the drapes and unpacked. It didn’t take long. Four pairs of pants, a dozen shirts, plus socks and underwear doesn’t take long to put away. I was living the dream as a grad student. After that I explored the first floor, found the stairs to the laundry room in the basement, the kitchen, and the mailboxes. I could live here. This place was an island of calm in a sea of change.

I took dinner that evening at a ‘burrito big as your head’ restaurant a couple blocks away. When I returned home, I tugged the drapes open to see if there was a message.


I cupped my hands around my eyes and peered into a small gap in the drapes on the other side of the glass. I detected the flicker of a TV. The chances were good that someone was in the room.

The nearest thing I could find was a piece of paper off my printer.


I taped it to the pane, rapped on the window, and did not pull the drapes. Instead I left the room in darkness and waited.

It didn’t take long. The drapes on the other side parted and the sign on the other side disappeared to be replaced by: TURN ON LIGHTS. I WANT TO SEE YOU AND YOUR ROOM.

With a flick of my finger, I illuminated the room. I could see a woman with her hands cupped around her eyes trying to discern my room. After I scrambled to my feet, I bowed with a flourish realizing the best I could do was paint a grin on my face and wait for the next scrawled message.


I shook my head, and raised my hands in the universal ‘why are you asking’ gesture.


The message I taped to the window said: I HAVE NO TASTE

I heard muffled laughter.

I yanked the paper off the mirror to write another message and took a bit of the film that made it a one way mirror. I picked at the ragged edge of the film with my fingernail, and then used my pocket knife to grab a long strand of it and peel back the entire sheet.

An attractive woman appeared in front of me as I peeled the film off. Things were definitely looking better.

“Wow,” I mouthed.

She repaid me with a smile.

She was tall. I’m over six feet and we nearly looked at each other eye to eye. She was a little bit on the chunky side, but I’m not a specimen either with or without my receding hair line so why would I complain? She had that perfect oval face with apple cheeks and long auburn hair that cascaded over her shoulders. She wore short shorts and a tank top because the house was warmer than it needed to be.

I grabbed a marker and a sheet of paper.


She wandered off and came back a moment later to hold up: LISA

Before I could write anything else, she looked off to the door then scrawled: BOYFRIEND.

She closed the drapes and I closed mine.

I crawled beneath the covers that night and spent hours trying to fall asleep in my new setting. Every time I drifted even close to sleep a pop, or a rustle, or a creak awoke me. The following morning I would have sworn that I had gotten no sleep at all although I wasn’t nearly as exhausted as I thought I would be if that was indeed the case.

At the bathroom, I discovered that there were three other male roomers beside myself competing for one bathroom. With one sink, one toilet and one shower between us we quickly decided on an open door policy. If you needed take a leak in the morning it was okay even if the sink and the shower were in use.

Mike, an engineering student from down the hall, padded in to shower as I shaved at the sink.

“I know there’s rooms for women in this building, but I never see them.” I threw that out for something to say.

Mike nodded as he slipped off his robe and adjusted the water in the shower. “They have a separate entrance at the back of the building. I think the only point where you can cross from their side to ours is through the kitchen.”

“I guess that was to insure observers and subjects never saw each other when this was a psychology lab.” He never heard me as he stepped into the shower and pulled the drapes.

My classes went smoothly. When you’re a grad student in journalism you resign yourself to writing. No surprise there. My editing seminar assignment was to spend a semester as an editor of the campus newspaper. I got a little money for the long hours and credits for that class which was nice. The heavy class was my creative writing seminar. That class would keep me chained to my laptop until the wee hours of the morning for most of the semester.

After my ramen noodle dinner I settled down to pound out a slice of life story between a garbage collector and a socialite for my ‘social synergy’ assignment. Along about eight in the evening, Lisa rapped on the window.

I opened the drapes to find Lisa standing there with a sign in her hand showing her phone number. Because it was so warm on the second floor, she was wearing a tank top and short shorts again, and looked good. The tank top showed a little cleavage, and those legs looked longer every time I saw them.

I entered her number and sent her a message: You look lovely tonight.

She mugged astonishment while looking down at her clothes then typed: Now I know for a fact that you’re blind.

I typed: You’re a rose among dandelions, a bluebird amid starlings.

When she read it she looked up at me, shook her head and typed: What are you, a poet or a bullshit major?

I chuckled as I wrote: Worse, I’m a journalist.

She looked up with a smile then wrote: I’m a mathematician and I find very little rigor in your comparisons.

I quickly punched in: Then I probably shouldn’t tell you that your visit is the highlight of my evening?

She rolled her eyes and shook her head: I have a boyfriend.

I grinned and shot back: Not looking for a girlfriend. I’m too poor to afford one, but flirting never hurt anyone. If it makes you uncomfortable, I will stop.

She gave me a sidelong look, and punched in: Keep going, I kind of like it.

Then she sent: What are you working on tonight?

I pointed at my laptop and typed: A short story that will never get published about a rich lady and a garbage collector who are trapped in an elevator and forced to communicate with each other.

She thought for a moment: Still sounds better than exploring polygon properties in n-dimensional space.

I shot back: If you turn up missing, what dimension should I direct the police to?

Her response: Ha ha ha.

We texted a little longer than shut the curtains so we could both get back to what we were doing.

I dragged myself back to the keyboard and I stared for a long time at the absolute garbage I had written, realized I had nothing to say, and deleted all ten pages. Instead I began a fresh story about a journalist and a mathematician who could only communicate through a window by text. The story flew off my fingers onto the screen and an hour later I finished a darn good story if I do say so.

I hate slice of life stories where the author spends an hour of your time and nothing happens to any of the characters. It’s like a bus that picks you up, drives you around the city for and hour, and drops you off where you started. So when my characters parted, the journalist went away understanding that without emotion, life is not worth living, and the mathematician learned that even in a hard world there are good people. It was a little saccharine, but schmaltz sells stories. Also, I do not care what the current trends in literary fiction are. When I read that stuff I want to start cutting myself.

Two weeks passed and the green trees of August faded into the chrome yellow trees of September. I talked with Lisa for a few minutes every night, and found myself attracted to her. She was smart, witty and laughed at my jokes.

Her boyfriend was a dick, however. She was too classy to diss him, but she made comments that hinted he was a controlling bastard. One time she had bruises on her arm that looked like it was from someone grabbing her arm too hard. She refused to tell me how she got them. I never snooped, but I would hear shouting from time to time when he came over. I know I’m supposed to hate the boyfriend of the girl I’ve fallen for, but this slime ball made it so easy.

She got in the habit of seeking me out after the asshole had gone. It was as if she needed a dose of how girl/guy relations should be. His name was Darryl, and she and I were both happier without Darryl around.

The chrome yellow trees of September had begun shedding their leaves onto the wet sidewalks of October when I took the paper I had gotten back from my creative writing seminar and taped each of the pages to the window in the proper order, then I closed my drapes and waited for the text. It came an hour later.

You wrote about us? She texted.

I opened the drapes and grinned like an idiot. Then I texted: It’s going to be published in the campus literary magazine.

She texted a heart and a hug emogi and then wrote: You described me much prettier than what I am.

I shook my head and pointed at her while texting: I spent no time on the sweetness of your disposition or how the world was brighter with you in it. Gritty realism sells.

She texted: I have several girlfriends who could use a guy like you. Let me fix you up.

I shook my head and typed: No money, no prospects.

She frowned at me and typed: You’re such a dope. You don’t need money to make a girl feel wonderful. You have to be sensitive and gentle.

I texted back: I’m too busy right now, but I may take you up on that later.

I didn’t tell her that she already had my heart. Stuff like that can ruin a budding relationship. Now that I think about it, I was a hopeless romantic during that period, and perfectly happy to live a life of unrequited love as long as I could write sad stories.

Things changed a week later. I was hunched over my word processor when I heard shouting through the window. You had to be screaming pretty loud to get sound through it. Then I heard a hard thump against the window.

I drew the drapes back to see Lisa laying on the floor with the curtain spread about her. She had been slapped or pushed into the window and she had slid to the floor dragging the drapes with her. Underwear clad Darryl loomed over her with his shoulders hunched and his hands doubled into fists.

I rapped on the window to get the rat bastard’s attention then I pointed at my phone and signaled 9, 1,1. He got the message. He glared at me, gave me the finger and snarled something at Lisa before dressing and storming out of the room.

Lisa lay amid the curtains in her panties and nothing else. A little blood seeped from the corner of her mouth.

I texted her: Are you all right?

She got up and grabbed her phone off her desk, looked up at me and texted: I’m okay. Sorry you had to see that.

Do I need to call the police? I wrote next.

She shook her head and dabbed at the blood on her lip before punching into her phone : Please don’t. I’m not hurt, just embarrassed.

I typed: You can spend the night here if you need a place where he can’t find you.

She walked over to the door and threw the dead bolt. She texted: I’m okay, the door is sturdy and has a good lock.

She looked down frowned at her near nudity. She used her arm to cover her breasts,but gave up so she could text: I have a girlfriend I can call. In the meantime, I need to get dressed. Thank you for being there.

I texted back: Call me if you need me.

At that point, she seemed more embarrassed than anything else, so I closed the drapes since she couldn’t close hers.

Several times throughout the night I woke up and peeped through the curtains to make sure she was all right. I could make out her shape on her bed. She was safe, that was all I cared about.

The next evening after I got in I got a text: Did you watch me in my sleep last night?

I texted back: I did a couple of times to make sure you were okay.

I walked to the window and pulled the drapes open. It was no surprise that she was standing there waiting for me.

Her next text said: That creeps me out a little.

I shrugged. “I won’t do it anymore. I worried about you last night. My intentions were pure.

She shook her head. “Still you saw me almost naked last night. You have the advantage on me. I demand parity.

I laughed: You want to see me naked?

She nodded: Seems fair.

What about boyfriend? I texted.

Darryl’s gone. I filled out a complaint with the campus police this morning. If he approaches me, I can have him arrested,

When a beautiful lady asks you to disrobe, you disrobe. Mama didn’t raise a fool. I slid out of my jeans and unbuttoned my shirt. I shucked off my tee shirt and stood there in my tighty-whities. I bowed and did a slow turn.

Her message: Very nice, but you’ve seen my breasts, and I haven’t seen any of your naughty bits.

I shot back: Let’s play doctor. I’ll show you mine when you show me yours.

She laughed, and it brightened my day to see that smile linger on her face. The trauma from last night had receded.

She was busy texting again: We have another problem. I can no longer close my drapes until they are repaired.

I replied: I’ll keep mine closed unless you say to open them.

She typed back: That doesn’t keep you from peeping.

I replied: Paper over the window?

She shook her head and typed: Here’s the problem. I enjoy living with you sort of.

I typed: I enjoy having you around too.

She bit her lower lip as if she was trying to decide something, then she typed: You could keep your drapes open all the time.

I nodded and wrote: I wouldn’t mind, but I do sleep in the nude. There may be a some semi-unintentional flashing.

She smirked at me: I sleep in the nude too. I don’t mind the flashing as long as it’s semi-unintentional.

I stayed in my underwear for the rest of the evening sitting at the lap top trying to write. She wore an oversize tee shirt and I think a pair of panties, but no bra. I had enough images to fill my fantasies for quite a while. Her breasts fascinated me. They swayed and bounced in an entrancing way as she moved about. I wanted a pair I could play with.

The problem was Lisa would glance at me from time to time. My soft, undefined body and slight pot belly filled me with self-loathing by comparison. In the morning, I got up early and went for a run. Later that afternoon, I stopped by the gym to begin a weight training program, but discovered a judo club instead. I had trained in high school and knew there was nothing that would get you in better shape.

As the cloudy skies of November cloaked the campus, Lisa and I grew comfortable with each other. Lisa lounged in her panties when she was done with classes and I did pretty much the same since no matter how many times maintenance fiddled with the vents and thermostats, they couldn’t get the temperature right.

My judo class proved to be better than I anticipated. My sensei was a tiny Japanese woman who practiced what she called, ‘old man’s judo’ which specialized in foot sweeps and hip throws. They should have called it ‘sneaky judo’. Every time I sparred against her, I ended up flat on the mat. A conversation ensued about how I got there. Her moves were subtle and devastating.

In the evening if I got back first I got to watch Lisa disrobe at the end of the day. She seemed to enjoy it as much as I did since there were times when she waited until I got home before she began. Her perfect breasts were full and only sagged a little when she peeled off her bra. I spent hours imagining how they would feel squashed against my chest. I spent additional hours dwelling on her hips, too. I imagined grabbing them and pulling her to my face.

Our relationship changed again when I slid an autographed copy of my published story under her door. Later that evening, she rapped on the window showing me that she had received my gift. She had a gift too. She spun slowly displaying a very brief thong. Then she texted: I’ve never had a story about published. I am deeply flattered. Do you like my thong? I bought it for you.

I mimed wiping drool from my mouth before texting my approval.

After that, she wore thongs most evening. Just before Thanksgiving holiday, she showed off what looked like a microkini bottom. The front was a triangle of flimsy fabric perhaps three inches long and about two inches wide across the top. From the back she looked absolutely naked.

She typed: A little something to remember me by over the break.

She was gone four days. When she returned, I couldn’t tell who was happier. She left a trail of clothing across the room on her way to our window.

Was it a little strange to have a girlfriend that I never touched? It was. When I suggested a date from time to time she changed the subject. I had to settle for a lovely, nearly nude woman parading around in front of me most evenings. Given a choice between that and my former life as a grad school hermit, I chose Lisa in all her glory.