There was a clatter, a bump-rattle, shake-slam. She stood in her teddy bear

slippers with a foamy minty mouth, toothbrush in hand, and made an O at herself in the

mirror. She stepped into the living room. Her window was open, a scream filled with

faraway buildings flashing like silver teeth. Her curtains quivered, a pair of parted

transparent lips.

A strange man stood next to the curtains. His face was a smear of amazement. He

reached out a finger and touched her shelf of magazines, her spider plant, her rolled-up

yoga mat, as if to make sure these items had substance. He kept rooted there with his eyes

on her. Later all she would remember about the strange man was the brown shine of his


Her surroundings paused in horror. The traffic out the open window was mute, the

whirr of the wind had choked, the trains and downstairs voices shushed. There was even

a break in the trusty rhythm of her own pulse. She squeezed her eyelids and her fists

tighter than shut. She kept them that way. Bump-rattle, shake-slam. Footsteps on the fire

escape ringing. She opened her eyes and she was alone again and all the sounds, in and

out, strummed back to life. Her apartment stared back at her, mum paint and angles, wide

irisless eyes. Her furniture and posters appeared so deliberate, so loud.

She sputtered toothpaste and tears on her nightshirt even though the man had

come and gone in seconds and had done nothing but blink. He had only affirmed that

walls were weak and windows were weaker, things she’d long suspected and only now


Faith Gardner lives in Oakland, and has work in or forthcoming in Word Riot, Defenestration and PANK.

Find her online at


Boundaries/ borders constructed by human beings intrigue me. Walls and windows are symbols demarcating “public” and “private” life, keeping us separate from those who threaten and annoy us. But in reality no window or wall can keep someone out who wants in. This is an uncomfortable and inevitable truth we often choose to ignore.

Here, I tried to paint a moment where a woman is confronted by this truth. She experiences a touchless form of victimization by simply having her apartment entered and being watched by a strange pair of eyes. A gaze alone can be very violating under certain circumstances.



Copyright 2009