We sat and listened to the rain fall. Me and Eduard nursing our whiskies. Ice disappearing, drinks turned oil spills. Eduard’s huge horse eyes blinked slow. On our seventh-storey balcony we could hear the storm wail its guts out, could hear the sky give in. Beyond the steel muzzle of the balcony rail, our little world of brick was dishevelled by an indecisive wind. Below us, scurrying neighbours leant into it, the tree in the courtyard thrashed with each gust. From the vantage of our brick-lined perch we seemed untouchable. Three solid walls and one open screen, just enough to see. Eduard nosed his tumbler and dipped a long tongue in the whisky, his graceless equine teeth poking out like broken piano keys. We’d been waiting all day for the storm.
It was one of those too-hot too-early spring days that begs to be stripped naked, to be dragged to bed and laid bare. But the heat took its time with the day. When the storm finally hit, Eduard and I were already out on the balcony, dog-tired after too much nothing. From our seats we watched the square garden bed in the courtyard. Across the way were other balconies like ours: green corrals of painted metal, clothes racks and potted plants.
Eduard and I always end the day this way. Even when we get things done it’s as though we haven’t moved from our places. After two drinks, neither of us feels the need to keep wandering back to the kitchen to replenish our tumblers. After two drinks, we’re at ease enough to keep the bottle on the balcony. At ease enough to say, “Screw ice and modesty, screw the way they say it should be, who said whisky was any good anyway and who cares how I take it?” Nothing is quite that colourful between me and Eduard, though. He might be a horse, but we are both pretty calm about things.
Before the balcony and before the whisky, Eduard was inside the apartment and I was at my day job. I call it my day job even though some of the time it’s at night. Eduard stays inside because he’s not great with stairs. We don’t have an elevator, so Eduard has to climb all the way up here, like everyone else. Once he figured it out, he was pretty into stairs. He likes a challenge, but it’s easier when he doesn’t have to. He likes to talk too, though he talks slow and doesn’t use many words. Not that he’s stupid. He just doesn’t need them and hates wasting anything. He builds furniture from egg cartons while I’m at work. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s really handy. I never ask him about it because he’s pretty secretive about that stuff. He never leaves a mess when he’s been making things and never makes things when I’m home. Egg cartons are sturdy and good for building, but they’re not so good with spills. Luckily we eat a lot of eggs, which we buy from Henrietta from the first floor. Mr Gumption on the second floor gives us his egg cartons, too. Eduard makes a new coffee table every month or so. I’m pretty clumsy, apparently.
The other thing Eduard likes to do is scare the neighbours’ children. There are five children in the building. Two boys on our floor, who live with their dad; a boy on the third floor; then Henrietta and another girl on the ground floor. Eduard scares them by sticking his head through the special window he installed in the front door of our apartment. I don’t know how he put it in. He said it was inconvenient for him to open the door when a package comes or a pizza or someone to talk to. The children find it strange. They probably wouldn’t be scared of him if they saw him in the garage or at the park, but the big floating horse head is weird. Maybe their parents let them watch The Godfather. Every now and then, when he’s bored, Eduard will stand around with his head out the special window, waiting for someone to pass by so he can say, “Howdy, neighhhhbour,” in his quiet horse voice and chuckle to himself.
Sometimes I worry this place is driving Eduard mad. Recently I mentioned moving out, hoping it might prompt him to go off somewhere else, somewhere with patchwork fields and snails of rolled hay. Or at least somewhere with a backyard. But Eduard just breathed at me through his nose and shut himself in the bathroom for four hours. We didn’t talk about it again.
At my day job I do a lot of keeping track. That is basically it: words and numbers and things that someone doesn’t want to lose. Most of the things don’t seem worth keeping track of. Besides, I don’t know if we really have space for all these numbers and words. I’ve heard the Library of Congress is storing all our tweets, which I guess is cool. It just seems like too much to hold on to. I know why they’d try: there are things I don’t like to lose, either. Me and Eduard and the balcony, that’s one way of keeping track. Some people think it’s sad to do the same thing over and over. You have to let things disappear, so you can find new things. Then again, there are things you have to keep, otherwise the new things will never make sense.
There is an air conditioner at the office where I work. It helps us all hide from days like these, when the sky longs to de-robe for the whole long stretch from rising to sinking. It helps us forget the world outside is blind and rushing past like a cape. In the morning, before I came in, the sky was an uncompromising blue, looking down with the gaze of a lover. The kind of look that is a challenge and a secret at the same time. The kind of look that says, “We both know where this is going, but I’m not going to tell you how it will happen, or when.” That’s the kind of look the sky had, bearing down on the city.
Before my day job, before the whisky and the balcony, there was the balcony and there was Eduard and me. The heat woke us earlier than usual, stirring sticky with mist behind our eyes. He had cold oats for breakfast, with milk, because he’s civilised. I had eggs, because I know Eduard likes the cartons. We arranged our food on the outdoor furniture, a township of china and tea. To our left, a glimpse of cityscape: skyscraper tops sketching grey staircases through the smog. The tree in the courtyard stood paper-still. Eduard looked up at the sky with his whisky eyes and there was no challenge in them, and no secret. That’s the way Eduard looks at everything – at oats, at whisky, at egg cartons and me. That’s the way he looked up at the sky, as she looked back, waiting for release. That’s how he looked at her all day, I think, until she finally put her hand to his snout. He is a very beautiful horse, after all, and has an unusual knack for building things and knowing when to let them go.
‘Library of Congress’ is from our current issue, and is the first chapter of Bridget’s collection Thirteen Story Horse, to be released through GDS in 2015.