Drake Hadden's Window
he figured that he should hate it, should hate everything about the room and the yellowed ceiling, the faded creaking floor and the broken chairs. he figured that, coming upstairs every morning with his old faded thermos, slopping over old-fashioned coffee, with his battered briefcase of papers and pens, he should be burning with hatred at the nicer rooms he passed, the ones with white ceilings and carpeted floors. he figured everything that happened to him should have been wrong and could be reasonably hated-
but that didn't matter. he hated none of it.
every morning was far from the same. some days it rained and some it was so blazingly sun-filled up the narrow staircase that he shielded his eyes. in the winter it would be freezing as he pounded up the cement stairs, and a wind would give the building a rickety, unstable feel. in the late spring it would be just as uncomfortably hot, and even in the morning he would feel the prickle of sweat tinge at the back of his neck, against his collar.
and the room. yes, the room at the end of the hall that he should hate with every ounce of negative emotion he possessed. but to God, he walked in every morning and did not hate it. some mornings he tried to. really, he would stand in the doorway, looking at the yellow ceiling that bulged and discolored, he would look at the flickering lights that never seemed to stay on or focused to a level of brightness. he would see the stained floor, the tiles missing in some places exposing the mealy-colored material underneath. he would see the rattletrap bookshelves, splintered and half-broken, he would see the old desks, so antiquated they raised storms of protest whenever a student sat down in them. he would see his own desk, as old as the school, the drawers that stuck and would refuse to open, he would see the blackboard that would not even handle erasures any longer-
all of these things he could have hated with much reason. and his colleagues expected him to. but he did not.
they thought him odd. he knew that. there was much he understood, of the whisperings, of the slanted looks he received when he ventured (rarely as it was) into the faculty room or when he passed another teacher in the hallway. oh yes, they were cordial of course. that was the way of things, and many of them had known him since he was a child. but none of them liked him. he heard it. and they still referred to him as 'that Hadden boy', like he was eleven again, and not nearly thirty, and not in the same place they were.
oh he could have hated them as well, hated them and their mocking whispers and their slanted looks. but he did not.
and he could have hated that which the room was. beyond its age. beyond its yellowed age and disrepair. yes. he could have hated that which he knew, and no one else did. about the room and about why he should have hated that room and he did not. he did not even hate that thing, that last thing, that thing which was more than age and more than slanted whispers-
but he did not.
though he never really tried to explain to himself why he didn't hate any of these things, the abstract answer was always floating around his head. on the tip of his tongue. ready to be expressed, but really never because it would have been so ridiculous and so nonsensical, but to him, it would have been the only answer.
it was the window.
"That Hadden boy."
Drake mutters and looks out of the window. He is a slight man. His eyes have a shuttering look to them, as if he is always ready to hide behind their being closed, his eyes are pale and downcast, and people think about Drake they way they think of his eyes. That Drake knows very well. That is why Drake mutters 'that hadden boy' as he looks out of the window and the sun is bright-white against the old tin school roof.
Classes are over for the day. Drake believes everyone has gone home, but for the football team out in the back fields. Drake can hear Rusty McGowan's voice echo up from the shoddy mud-darkened meadow where the boys are working on passing or running. Rusty McGowan grew up beside Drake. Rusty McGowan calls him 'that Hadden boy'. Rusty McGowan says it also with a vindictive knife-edge twist so the words sound angry and sharp, more than simply slanted.
Drake cannot see the football field from the window. He can see the tin of the roof, the bright-white sun, and small dark bird-shapes perching about and wheeling in the winter sky. Drake thinks that even Nate Calhoun calls him 'that Hadden boy', and Nate is almost as bad off as Drake, because Nate is best-friends with Schuyler Bailyn, and no one, not any person in town, can stand for a person of modest rank and income befriending a Bailyn.
A grim smile comes to Drake. He does not have to worry about befriending the Bailyns. He is 'that Hadden boy'. It comes upon him like a signpost, in great large block letters, that follow him home in round trails until he does not try and walk away any longer. Then he is, on that dark road home, 'that Hadden boy', 'that Hadden boy', over and over as if Drake's father were standing beside him (in the dark), muttering the three words.
Drake stays long after classes are over, looking out of the window and down on the tin roof. No one much notices, and even if they did, they would not ask him why. Drake is left to his own. Rusty McGowan's voice echoes again, hoarse and rough, scraping against the air like rough cotton, until Drake finally stands, and cannot hear the voice anymore. Rusty McGowan used to sit behind Drake in an English class.
Drake finds it funny.
Rusty never played football before, not ever, and his rough voice is telling the boys on that muddy refuse-field that they have to "runrunpasscatchrunrun-" on and on until Drake walks out of the room. He does not look back into it. He never does. Drake walks down the stairs, and the winter sky is not as bright from the stairwell window, it is not reflected off the tin school roof.
Drake does not drive. His father had left him a dusty pick-up, and it sits in the driveway of his father's house, as it has sat since his father stopped- stopped driving and stopped waiting at home for Drake and stopped, and stopped-. The other teachers and the townspeople mutter to themselves how 'that Hadden boy' won't even drive his father's pick-up, won't even do that, lets the car rot in the drive, and of course, everyone says how much the deceased Mr. Hadden loved that truck, and 'that Hadden boy' doesn't even have the common decency to drive it-. Yes. Drake hears all those accusations. The bland ones made not to him and not to anyone, or if anyone then made to the mothballed ghost of the deceased Mr. Hadden, which pretended to still breathe in the exhaust or miss the exhaust which no longer pours from the rusted pipes of the old truck. Drake walks home every afternoon, even in rain, in snow, wind, and the house is always small and waiting, the truck in the drive.
That afternoon the sky is still quite white and sullen almost, bright-eyed sullen, an odd kind of morose bleary bleak white, that does not look like it did, off the tin roof. Drake enters his house alone and locks the door after he closes it. He is still thinking about how Rusty McGowan never played football in school, not in high school, but how his coarse cotton voice still breathes up from those soiled fields 'runrunruncatchpassrun!'. Rusty McGowan has lunch break at the same time as Drake. But Drake eats in his room, and he only sees Rusty (with his condescending cotton-colored eyes) for a few moments as he walks up the hall past Drake's room.
"That Hadden boy."
Drake almost laughs. He does not laugh very often.
You said, Drake thought, a carry-off of his voiced scoffing only to himself as he takes off his jacket and stands in his small room, you said 'those Bailyn boys' (Schuyler and Garrett, though no one spoke of Garret much anymore after he had killed himself last autumn) and you said 'those Fitzgerald boys' and so on and so on until all the families had their boys named, and they are always the family boys, of course, and then you have
"That Hadden boy"
(Drake says this),
and there is only I. Only I. Though of course there was father, and there was I, and for that time there were I and father, until what-happened-to-father, and then only I. And I am still
"That Hadden boy"
(Drake says this) because really I was never to them, more than what my father was and a
(Drake says this)-
Drake suddenly sees it is snowing. He stops his thinking and he looks out of the window, as the white heavy flakes drift down into the heightening dark of the day, and the flakes look morose and sullen, falling from the heightening dark of the white sky. Most of his day is spent alone and thinking. It has always been that way.
The next day, it is still snowing, but there is school, because the town kids are used to lots of snow in the winter, and canceling school would be considered (even by the kids) quite unnecessary. Drake walks up the cement stairwell, and the building takes the snowy wind in and it moans under the weight of its age and the wind. Drake walks into his classroom before the children pour in. The glass pane of the window rattles in the wind, and the lights flicker. Drake sits at his desk and thinks softly of all the others driving through the snow and all the children riding the busses or walking through the snow, and how they had names beyond what they were. Drake is simply the sum of what he was. And what he was was nothing more than the sum of what-
Drake stops. The first of his classes is settling down on the rusty desks and chairs, on the peeling tiled floor, under the faint lights. Drake starts his lesson. The children are better than the teachers and the parents, Drake thinks. They (even though it is dictated) at least call him Mr. Hadden. And even though Drake knows they hear all the same things from their parents, the children listen to Drake when he talks, and they call him Mr. Hadden, and he is, he supposes, the sum of who he is and something small and more. At least when he teaches.
The snow whirls and howls outside the window
(The first Hadden, Drake's father, was called Samuel, and he was born not in the town nor in the surrounding lands, but some place Other, an Other place which Samuel Hadden would not speak of, not even to his son. Samuel Hadden came to the town as a young man with dark, dark eyes, darker than the shadowy pools in the roots of the trees in the marshes, dark and completely ungiving. He was a teacher, Samuel Hadden, and the town was building a regional high school. Samuel Hadden was one of the first men hired there. But Samuel Hadden was more than the sum of himself. While he did his job well, and was liked by his students, no one truly knew him, nor did he allow anyone to. Samuel Hadden was, to the town, a sprite popped out from some dark place, a man who did not have anything but his name and a degree from some far-off college saying he was qualified to teach. Samuel Hadden went to the racetrack every month (as did all the town men), he hunted and he would spend some nights at the small saloon, drinking with the town men, but he would always sit silent and dark. He was more than the sum of himself because there was not a single self to him. So no one could call him by just one name. He was Samuel Hadden to his face and behind his back. Samuel Hadden married a young woman and she bore him a son and died soon after, leaving no imprint upon Samuel and none upon the boy, Drake. It was as if she had never been, and Samuel had simply produced Drake from the soil and air about him. Drake even resembled his father except for the eyes, the boy's eyes were pale, and looked like gauze, with a slight nervous shaken mien. Samuel Hadden raised his son by himself. The boy spoke to no one but his father, and when he began high school, the town and the town children were so used to seeing him as a not-person (as the shadow of a boy, as something that was part of Samuel Hadden like perhaps his bedroom door, something that was there and was not), they were so used to not seeing him that he was not allowed to enjoy being 'one' of anything, not one of the town children, not one of the students, only himself.
Only 'that Hadden boy')
By the time school is finished, the snow has piled high, and the unlucky children who must walk back home, batten themselves tightly against the snow, with squinted eyes and up-turned collars. Football practice is cancelled, due to the snow. Drake sits in his classroom, looking out his window. He can see the snow dart and whisper across the tin roof. The wind comes in through the old glass pane.
A voice calls to him from the hallway. Drake turns. Rusty McGowan is standing in the hallway, and his hair is filled with melting snow. Drake stands.
"Hadden, what are you still doing here?"
Rusty McGowan asks. Drake wonders why this man (with his hair filled with melting snow) would be asking such an arbitrary question. Drake looks at Rusty McGowan's eyes. They are condescending, and cotton-colored.
Drake's voice feels rather raw and painful. And he knows Rusty knows that he is lying. There is not a paper on Drake's desk.
"Ah. Well, if I were you I'd start for home, because it's supposed to get worse, and you have to walk."
Rusty McGowan says in his rough cotton way.
"I can walk in the snow."
Drake looks out the window as he says this. He does not mean to. And Rusty sees it. And Drake turns back to Rust McGowan who is looking at Drake, and the cotton has roughed up a bit, so it seems like cotton in the wind. Rusty McGowan looks at Drake's eyes.
"I had your father you know."
Rusty says this in a way that is not like the cotton at all.
Drake says nothing.
"As a teacher. When I was a freshman. I had your father."
Drake says nothing.
"It was funny, because no one knew where he came from. I don't think you did either Hadden. It was funny. It was really funny."
Rusty McGowan's eyes are not roiling like cotton in a hurricane, and Drake still says nothing, still says nothing and looks at Rusty squarely. He is thinking ('that hadden boy' i am i am i am i am that hadden boy. and the window. and rusty does not cannot know. the window. why i do not hate this)
"What's the matter with you Hadden!?"
Rusty McGowan screams practically. Drake drops his gaze. He looks back out the window over his shoulder. He listens as Rusty McGowan walks away. And then Drake sits down and looks out of the window fully, watching the snow.
That night the snow howls and stalks about Drake's small house with a lupine air of shadow and gray. Drake sits in his room on his bed. His father had slept across the hall, in the room he must have, at one time, for a very short time, shared with Drake's mother. Drake thinks about some nights when he would sit awake and try to hear his father sleep, but he never could. It was almost as if Samuel Hadden would disappear at night. And sometimes, when Drake was very young, he would creep into Samuel Hadden's room just to make certain that he hadn't disappeared, and Samuel Hadden would be sitting up in bed, looking out of his window, silent, and perhaps sleeping. But perhaps not.
That night, with the baying snow outside, Drake sits on his bed and thinks about Garret Bailyn. Drake does not know the Bailyns, he is not like Nate Calhoun, who still goes to smoke on the hill with Schuyler Bailyn every night. Last autumn, last November Garret Bailyn shot himself in his father's field. Devon Bailyn also found a shot-dead horse (which everyone assumed was shot-dead by Garret Bailyn) a ways back from the field. Drake Hadden attended the service for Garret (most of the townspeople did, because they knew Garret Bailyn from when he had rode his father's horses in the monthly races, and they were the sort of town who would show up for funerals of anyone, hated or not), and Drake remembers how he had sat in that small church, while the reverend Ralegh Parkman offered a prayer of salvation for Garret Bailyn's soul. Drake remembers this in his dark room surrounded by the lupine snow. And he remembers how afterward he had gone to the classroom. And he had sat and looked out the window.
And he had looked at the window.
Drake lies down, with his clothes on, with his eyes open, and he stares up at his ceiling, and everything is quiet. It is really not much different from when Samuel Hadden was alive really. Not much different at all.
The next morning the snow has stopped, and Drake walks to school among the drifts and the sparkling clear white-cold of the winter sun. The blackbirds are small whisps against the snow. They wheel in the white air like cuneiform against the break-point clear whiteness of the sky. Drake has to shield his eyes of the glare from the snow. The blackbirds make discordant harshly chastising cries from their wheeling patterns. Drake does not feel the cold, he has inured himself to it from walking so often in the snow and the winter. The school is delicately dripped and glazed in white. Drake walks upstairs and into his room.
The window is open.
Drake stares for a moment, his eyes resembling the window, open and dumb without any comprehension as to why there would be such a glaring inconsistency. The window has never been opened. Never since of course that time. Drake cannot seem to move. His breath is uneven, and then there is someone in the room with him.
"What is it Hadden."
It is Rusty McGowan, and he does not ask Drake, but he merely says it.
Drake says softly.
"You look like you've seen a ghost."
Rusty adds a harsh little cottony laugh to the end of his observation.
"Glare of the snow."
Drake cannot understand why he is making excuses or why Rusty McGowan cares whether or not he is seeing ghosts.
"Yah well I suppose the glare can take forms and shapes. I told you I was in your father's class right? Yah I know I must have. You know I was thinking about that, and I remembered how you didn't have a funeral for him when he died. Did you Hadden."
Again, Rusty does not end with a question.
"He didn't want one, Rusty."
Drake almost trips over saying Rusty's name. The children start to pour into the room, and Drake turns. The children are coming in around Rusty, some as tall as Rusty and some substantially shorter, and they move around him with deferential respect, and some even mumble Rusty's name in greeting. Drake stares as the children move in around Rusty. An artic wind balloons into the classroom. It comes across the back of Drake's neck. Drake shudders suddenly, violently.
"Good day, Hadden."
Rusty's voice is barely audible.
"Good day, Mr. McGowan."
Drake's voice is also barely audible. Rusty McGowan walks out of the room, then Drake turns, and he closes the window, and the old glass pane sounds like a screeching wail as it slides down. Some of the students flinch at the sharp piercing reverberation.
(there was no funeral because in the will there was to be none, and Drake Hadden told the town that when they all found out Samuel Hadden had died, and the town was curious because as they went on "Samuel Hadden wasn't sick" "wasn't old" "gave no impression…" he was simply there and then not, like he was to Drake at night, silence that was once him and then silence which was not. Samuel Hadden was buried with no one there save Drake and the Reverend Ralegh Parkman, and then it was simply Drake within that silence. Drake who was not-there and there, Drake who taught at the same school as Samuel, quiet Drake that no one knew and that everyone secretly slanted their words against. Drake. Who had never explained to a single soul why there had been no funeral for Samuel Hadden.)'
It is always the same, Drake thinks, staring out of the window to the snow-covered tin roof and watching the blobbed shapes of blackbirds dip and twine within the white air. It is always the same, Drake thinks. He can feel cold air against the bridge of his nose and against his face from the cracks in the pain. And Drake does not want to think about the window being open, and does not want to think about Rusty McGowan asking why there had been no funeral. Rusty McGowan was thinking of Samuel Hadden, but Drake could not say why.
Drake reached a hand out. He touched the cold glass pane. It moistened slightly under the heat from his hand, and Drake looked out over the tin roof.
"What are you doing Hadden."
Rusty McGowan. His condescending cotton tone. Drake stood quickly.
Drake said nothing.
"I asked what you were doing."
Rusty sneered, and Drake wanted to say you're wrong because you didn't ask what I was doing you said it, and I cannot respond to you if you do not ask a question.
Drake said nothing.
"Still seeing ghosts?"
Rusty moved closer into the room.
"No. I never did."
Drake barely says this, it is a thick whisper stuck in his throat. He is surprised that Rusty can even hear him speak. But Rusty does hear him.
"Is it because no one ever really died Hadden? Is that why? Because he's still alive isn't he? Oh his body might be in the ground, but he's still alive, and that's why you don't drive that truck and that's why you don't speak. Because you're still the goddamned son of some spirit who drifted into this town coming from nowhere and saying nothing about it. And I don't what looking out that window is doing for you Hadden, but it's not making anyone die. I told you I had your father when I started high school…"
"Stop it damnit."
Drake barely says this too, but he barely says it in a shaky painful way. Rusty is now right beside Drake. And Drake thinks of Rusty out on the field, yes, the football coach who never played football telling those boys to "run""pass""catch""save""SAVE" and so on and so on until his voice rose all the way into Drake's classroom.
Rusty practically screams this. His voice had been rising throughout his angry soliloquy. Now it is fevered. Drake wonders why Rusty saves his cotton condescending eyes and boiling anger for him.
"Stop speaking about my father."
Drake turns fully and stares at Rusty whose narrowed cotton eyes are stormy and whipped about.
"My father is dead, Rusty. My father is dead. My father died. I know he died. I know he did. Stop it Rusty, I don't know what he did to you or if he did anything to you at all but he died. And can you just let him die and let me alone, because my father died, Rusty. I know my father died. I know my father died."
Drake is repeating himself, and he can feel the cold of the snowy wind on the back of his neck as Rusty glares with cottony rage.
"How do you know he died Hadden?"
It is Rusty now who is barely audible. Oh but it is rage. Drake can feel the rage blow across the bridge of his nose like the wind.
Drake does not say anything. But he thinks loud enough to want to say
(oh but i did see it rusty i did i did see it. i did. i did.)
Rusty does not move. And Drake walks out of the classroom. He walks past Rusty, and the wind howls in through the chinks in the glass pane.
Drake dreams. And in his dream there is absolutely nothing. There is only wind. And Drake can only hear the wind, and he cannot see and he cannot feel, not even the cold of the wind. And when Drake awakens he is in his silent dark room, and the wind is coming in across the woods and the snow in Drake's yard. And suddenly he is seized with an anxious need to check his father's room, because for all he knows Samuel Hadden is really not dead and is only sitting up in bed, and Drake walks across the cold hallway, and opens Samuel Hadden's door.
The room is empty but for the sound of the wind. Drake's hands are cold and he slips into the dark shadows, and he sits down on Samuel Hadden's empty bed. He never knew where his father came from. He never knew. He never knew his mother. He never knew really who he was beyond his father (who did not tell anyone who he (Samuel) was or had been). The only thing he knew, really knew, was that Samuel Hadden was dead. Samuel Hadden was dead. Samuel Hadden was dead.
Drake stands and crosses the hallway again, back into his own room.
"He is dead."
Drake says. The truck is parked out in the driveway, the truck Drake does not use. And tomorrow Drake will go to his classroom and stare out of the window and know, and know in a way Rusty McGowan cannot know.
"He is dead. I know he is dead. I saw him die. I saw him die. And Rusty McGowan cannot know that, because only I saw him die, and he waited for me to watch him die. Because he knew, my Father knew, that when he died he would not have to be 'Samuel Hadden' any longer, and here I am, and I am 'that Hadden boy' and I will not die now, not like him, and I will be 'that Hadden boy' until I get the courage to finally die, though not like him, though he left it to me. He did. He did."
Drake mutters this as he lies down in his bed and watches the ceiling, and the silence dart across the hallway like it always had, when Samuel Hadden had been alive. Really alive.
(Samuel Hadden stopped teaching when Drake started, and he (Samuel) had never told Drake anything about whether or not he approved of him (Drake) teaching. Drake had only started because he knew of nothing else to do; teaching had been what Samuel Hadden had done, and Drake was nothing (to the town and really to himself) but another part of what Samuel Hadden was, so Drake got a teaching degree from the small college, and he had gotten a job at Samuel Hadden's school, and then Samuel Hadden had quit. Samuel never told Drake why, just as Samuel never told Drake where he had come from, just as Samuel never spoke of Drake's mother. But Samuel Hadden would be sitting at home every night waiting for Drake to come, and at this time the window was nothing, and the window was no excuse, and Drake had nothing to protect him at all from the slanted whispers, and Drake came home to where Samuel was sitting in his enveloping silence, and then one day it had ended. And Drake continued to teach. And he still had not an idea if Samuel ever approved. And he still had not an idea where Samuel came from. And Drake still slept in the silence)
It is a Saturday, and the snow is crystallized to an enameled hardness against the trees and the lands and the houses. Drake is in town to pick up some varied groceries, and he sees Rusty McGowan speaking with Ralegh Parkman.
Ralegh Parkman is the reverend. He is a young man, perhaps a few years older than Drake, and Ralegh is the only one besides Drake himself who had been to Samuel Hadden's burial. Ralegh is well-liked without being well-known, and he hides behind his serene dark eyes, giving soft and gentle sermons that even the high-and-mighty Devon Bailyn would listen to. And Rusty McGowan is speaking with Ralegh Parkman, his (Rusty's) head is bent down and his eyes are narrowed. Rusty does not see Drake. Ralegh does though, and he meets Drake's eye across the glare of the snow on the cracked sideways. Drake and Ralegh stare at one another over Rusty McGowan, and then Drake walks into one of the small stores, and he stays there until he watches Rusty McGowan pass, his hands in the pocket of his coat.
Drake walks outside. Ralegh Parkman is standing there still, and the reverend approaches Drake. His serene dark eyes are impervious to the light thrown up by the snow, they seem to whorl on into an internal sense of being, that which made Ralegh so adept at spreading the Word of God.
"He was asking about your father, Drake."
"I guessed as much."
Drake's voice is just as muffled as Ralegh's.
The two were quiet for a few moments. Then Ralegh puts a hand on Drake's shoulder.
"It's not anything you have to hide you know. I want you to know that. You don't have to hide it."
Ralegh's eyes are dark and Drake can not see the snow in them, not the reflection of the white snow. Ralegh really was a good preacher. Drake had to give him that.
"I'm not hiding it."
Ralegh stares at him softly with his dark eyes.
"Then why doesn't Rusty McGowan know?"
"Why does Rusty McGowan need to know? Why does anyone? I don't hide it Ralegh, but I don't say it either. Because it does not belong to anyone."
Then Drake walks off down the snowy streets, leaving Ralegh staring at him, and Drake realizes that Ralegh was the only one who knew, and Ralegh didn't even know about the window. That the window was the last thing that Drake had because it was the only thing that had been left to him.
The school was always open on weekends because there was football practice. Rusty McGowan was a good coach, and the team had flourished underneath him. Rusty McGowan started the team the first day of the new year, and then went all through the winter and spring and summer and autumn until the kids were hardened, and did nothing but think of the games they had been made for. Rusty McGowan was the best coach the school had ever had. And it was funny because no one really remembered he had not played when he was in high school himself.
Drake does of course.
And Drake is at the school. Rusty's voice comes in through the window, even closed, even closed Rusty McGowan's voice pours in through the cracked panes, his hoarse cotton voice demanding of the boys, demanding of them what they would then do naturally come autumn. Drake has his hand against the window. He feels the force of the throbbing cold on his hand, and he thinks of Ralegh Parkman saying that it did not need to be hid, and how Drake had never hid a thing, because there was nothing of his to hide. Drake sighs. The throbbing cold pulses with a regular beat, and Drake does not believe it is the blood in his hand but the cold itself, with its own certain rhythm, and Drake tries to not hear Rusty McGowan's rough-cotton hoarse commands.
Drake whispers without knowing it himself.
"This window. Damn. It is all I have, not the truck or the quiet house or anything but this window, because he gave it to me. It was all he said that I could have. And he gave it to me. This was not even his room. No. This room was not even used until I came, and they put me here because no one would have to see and no one would have to know. But he gave me this window-"
Drake stops, his hand numbed by the pulsating cold.
The sky is heavy outside. It looks like it will snow again. Drake presses his cheek against the window, the heart beating cold heaving up against his pale face, and Drake closes his eyes. Behind his eyes the cold pulse sand pulses, as if Drake is the cold, and it is better sort of because if he is the cold he does not have to be 'that Hadden boy-'
And then he opens his eyes quickly and he stands up, and he stares out of the window at the white snow on the roof and the militant build-up of gray clouds, and there are no birds, and he cannot hear Rusty McGowan. Drake stands and his mind is pulsing now with the cold and he thinks and he says at the same time, in a shaky voice
"My father became the cold. My father became the cold. My father became the cold. And he left me the window so I wouldn't hate it, and so I would always know that I could go out and I could become the cold, and that is why the window stops me from hating everything that I should hate, because I could become the cold like my father, and the window, the window-"
Drake stops speaking. He is crying. He does not even realize it until he touches his face and he feels the damp trails across his cheeks, and he knows he is crying. The window looks at him. Drake touches his face again, and feels the warm tears on his cheeks, and they are the only part of him that is warm. His face is cold, and his hands, and he looks out the window, as the afternoon darkens with snow, and Drake thinks he is already so cold, the cold-
"What the hell you doing Hadden, every time I come up here and you're here, staring at that damned window."
Drake wipes his face quickly and turns. Rusty McGowan. Goddamned Rusty McGowan.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Why were you talking to Reverend Parkman about my father?"
Drake asks carefully.
Rusty stares at him.
"Why were you talking to Reverend Parkman about my father?"
"Because your father, Hadden, came out of nowhere, and arrived at this school, and he would not tell a single soul where he came from, not even you I'd wager, and then one night he just up and dies, going back to that dark not-place from which he came, and there was not even the faintest ripple, not even a funeral Hadden, because you said he didn't want one, and Reverend Parkman was the only one to really even know that your father died. And Hadden, who is there who knows if he ever really lived?"
Rusty says this slowly, his breath drawing quietly beneath his words.
"I know he lived because I know he died."
Drake says this slowly as well. He does not want to cry in front of Rusty. So he turns and looks out of the window.
"What the hell is it with that damned window!"
Rusty screams this.
"Rusty. Coach McGowan. I don't know what sort of inane and juvenile grudge you had against my father. I don't even know if there was a grudge. Maybe you are only angry because he came from nowhere and offered no explanations to people. And he owed no explanations to anybody. But leave him alone, McGowan. Leave him alone. He's dead. You can believe me, McGowan, he's dead."
Drake says this speaking to the window. And perhaps Drake is speaking to Rusty as well, but he is really saying this to the cold, and to the snow that has started falling from the morose clouds, and to the window. To the one thing he has inherited from a man (father) who came out of nowhere and who returned to nowhere of his own volition, and Drake hears Rusty leave the room, Drake hears Rusty McGowan's sullen footsteps leave the room, and Drake is crying again. Soundlessly, he is crying, and suddenly everything is quite clear, like the snow, like the blackbirds against the snow.
Drake walks to the window.
('that Hadden boy' comes to the school and it is dark.
'that Hadden boy' walks up the darkened stairways and there is a light from the room at the top of the hall, and wind coming from it, and 'that Hadden boy' walks into the room, and the man is standing by the window, is standing by the open window all bouqueted in wind and cold, and 'that Hadden boy' is struck by the silence of it all, by the man's silence and the open window, and then the man turns to 'that Hadden boy' and smiles. He smiles. A silent sort of smile, with nothing in his dark eyes but cold, and the no-where from which he came. Then 'that Hadden boy', still struck by the utter and complete vacuum of silence watches as the man climbs out of the window. Out of the window into the dark. With no word, and 'that Hadden boy' watches as the man runs out across the tin roof and then returns to the no-where from which he came, 'that Hadden boy' can see with perfect clarity, that man running in heavy steps across the high tin roof and returning to that no-where, and 'that Hadden boy' thinks with perfect clarity that when he walks outside, there will be no body on the ground but only a dark area of nothing.
Only nothing. And 'that Hadden boy' is in the empty room, staring at the window, which is a mouth of nothing, and a comforting mouth, that is always open and ready for the nothing and the cold, and 'that Hadden boy' walks across the room and closes the window.)
Drake Hadden opens it, and the cold and the snow burst in with a melancholy yawp, and Drake's hair is blown back a bit, and he looks out into the snow, on the tin roof. And it is all right. In the snow, and with his face streaked with tears it is suddenly all right. Suddenly very all right. Because Drake is standing at the cusp of becoming cold, and he closes the window, not even hearing the screeching protest of the old pane. Drake wipes his eyes.
He has claimed his inheritance and he has given it back to the wind.