‘Brucie, are you awake yet?’
Brucie Mann bolted awake. He was sitting in his swivel chair, beside the window, binoculars around his neck. His bed was still made from yesterday, and he was still wearing his school uniform.
Brucie heard footsteps. Thought and action, he raced into the bed, kicking the blanket to give it as much a used look as possible. The door opened as he covered his body entirely, head included.
‘Brucie, wake up!’
Brucie slowly brought his head into the open, careful to keep his clothes hidden, and blinked false sleep from his eyes. ‘I’m awake, mom’.
Brucie’s mother stood in Brucie’s bed-room doorway, hair half-done. ‘I can’t wait for you to-day, so if you’re not ready when I leave, you’ll have to take the subway to school.’
‘I’ll be ready,’ promised Brucie.
His mother exitted the doorway and the door slowly closed behind her. Brucie breathed a sigh of relief and threw the blanket off him. The door, never having quite closed, now began to open again. Brucie scrambled for the blanket and pulled it back over him as before. His mother was in the doorway again.
‘Did you sleep in your clothes again?’
Brucie considered his mother carefully before answering, ‘no.’
‘Then why are your pajamas lying on top of your dresser, folded, as they were last night?’
Brucie sighed, and then threw his blanket off, displaying his wrinkled school uniform.
‘Oh Brucie…’ his mother lamented. ‘Just make sure you wear a clean uniform to-day.’ The door began to close and Brucie sat up. The door re-opened. ‘Did you fall asleep with your binoculars around your neck?’
Brucie looked down at them, hanging against his chest. ‘Uh…yeah.’
‘Oh Brucie…’ and his mother left and the door finally fully closed.
Brucie ran from his bed to the window. He put his binoculars to his face, and there she stood. The little girl, hair tussled from sleep, clothes rumpled from same, holding her own binoculars to her eyes and waving modestly.
Brucie watched the cars passing him. Some passed him going forward, some backward. Brucie’s mother’s car stopped, at a light presumably, and so did the ones outside his window. Brucie barely noticed the honking that signified a green light before his car started to move again. Cars came and went, a few cyclists. Brucie looked up the buildings before him, towering above the street. He looked back down to the cars and there she was.
The car beside them was hers, she behind the driver, looking through the window. Brucie smiled and put his hand lightly on the window. The girl did the same. The traffic forced the girl’s car to drop behind, and Brucie strained and twisted round in his seat. A few minutes later, she was back. They stared unflinchingly into each other’s eyes. Their smiles grew broader.
When the teacher let them out for recess, Brucie raced out of the school. He passed the other boys, some playing handball, some playing tag. He ran across the field, to the end furthest from the school. He stood, face pressed up at the chain link fence, looking out over the road and parking lot. He waited, breathless.
Soon, he heard the bell on the other side of the street. And she emerged from the other school, and she came running to the fence on the other side of the road.. And so they stood for a little under fifteen minutes, when the bells signified a return.
‘Are you still up, Brucie?’
Brucie lowered his binoculars. ‘I’m going to bed now,’ he lied. He raised his binoculars again.
‘It’s really late.’
‘I said I’m going to bed.’ Brucie got up, lowered his binoculars, turned off the lights, and then sat back down by the window.
It would be another four years before Brucie and the girl across 85th street would meet. Until then, and afterward, they were never alone.