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  • Writer's pictureJulia Roscoe

Sameness

A window can be a door to so many things. It has certainly opened my eyes to this reality, and it has showed me more than I have ever seen.

Saint Laurent Street 308 was a forgotten place in London. It relied on two other decaying buildings to keep itself steady, though the word meant little when the underground train made its way under the ancient structure.

When the rotten wooden floor shook under my feet for the first time, I thought it was the Four Horses of the Apocalypse riding on Earth. Dirt fell from the once painted walls and the window glass was a shake away from cracking.

I rushed to make sure nothing had been broken, though I had no valuable possessions to be concerned about. Only the window mattered, its glass was the one thing keeping me from freezing in winter. So I looked for any cracks through which the cold air might sneak in.

Two children wandered on the street below. Unlike the Christmas stories my mother read to me when I was a child, these two kids were not happily playing in the snow nor were they singing Carols. Instead, they looked into the trashcans on the sidewalk. One of them found something and yelled at the other who then hurried to see what the treasure was.

Not a coin. Nor a toy. Not even a crumpled newspaper. It was a half-eaten apple.

I watched from one store up as the children shared the piece of food.

Saint Laurent Street was not a place one would expect to find joy. But it was where I found love.

Every morning, the street filled up with life, people getting up for a new day. Not for new possibilities, just for a new dawn.

Mr. Tharaud, an old teacher, used to tell us, "Life for a bird is picking worms, and life for a worm is not getting caught by a bird".

At times like this, I do not know if humans are the worm or the bird.

The snow in Saint Laurent Street wasn’t white. Neither was the gown of the woman walking with a book in her arms.

It was not the book that caught my attention, though it was a rare object to be seen in Saint Laurent. An object that brought me back to more comfortable days. No, it was the woman’s face. She was smiling.

From my window, I could feel her warm smile touching my cheek.

The next day, at the same time, I saw her again: book in hand, feet on the pavement, that smile on her lips.

Such a strange person. No one smiles like that for no good reason. Probably a lunatic, as there was no reason to laugh about in Saint Laurent Street. It certainly was not the old pub closed at that hour, nor the stray dogs fighting for a piece of bread. And it couldn’t just be the book she was carrying for it remained closed from the time she turned the corner and carried on two blocks further down Saint Laurent, which was as far as I could see the narrow and crooked street.

After watching her with that weird smile four days in a row, I had to know. Waiting on the sidewalk, I saw her show up, coming closer with her book. And her smile.

“Excuse me, madam? Can you inform me what time it is?”

She barely paused before answering, “It is fifteen to six, ma’am”.

“Shelley?”

Her smile opened wider. “Are you familiar with his work?”

I was. But I would then become an intimate acquaintance.


“Waking or asleep,

Thou of death must deem

Things more true and deep

Than we mortals dream,

Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?


We look before and after,

And pine for what is not:

Our sincerest laughter

With some pain is fraught;

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”


The words, as beautiful and deep as they may be, diminished in comparison to the sound of her voice.


Winter continued to be cold. Saint Laurent was as beautiful as a pile of horse shit. Number 308 would carry on with its fading away. But the window moved to the person next to me. The one who would continue to smile upon life’s sameness.

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