It is a balmy evening and he is on his way to spy on her again. He is a Peeping Tom and this is funny because his name is actually Tom. He does this now night after night, this peeping. He has been reduced to this. He has been reduced. He is a poor man. But there is no shame in that anymore. Many men are poor, and many men do what they have to do.
He walks at a brisk pace and yet he takes things in. He watched crows heading back to their roosts and ponders that very word. Roost. He likes birds. All kinds. He could watch them all day, especially the little ones, their flights, their skitty scamperings on the pavement, finches, wrens, their giddy glides into bush or hedgerow. But he has no time to watch his feathered fancies right now because she’ll be filling the bath and checking the temperature of the water and disrobing and stepping into it and so he has to make it in time. He can’t be late.
The bathroom window has a frosted paper over it as if to deter, but there is a tear in the corner of it and that is where Tom puts his eye. The house is fenced off, and when he climbs over and nips in behind the hedges and up to the window it is already dark, and the neighbours cannot see him in his black clothes. It is the same black outfit every night: light black shirt and light black trousers, like a work uniform. He has considered smearing mud on his face to further darken himself but maybe this is a step too far. Once when he bounced over the fence he surprised a raccoon that was rummaging in the bins. The raccoon’s body shuddered and it seemed to panic for just the slightest second, but then it quickly calmed, knowing that it was just a human standing before it, and human eyes are easily read. The two animals stared at each other without moving, regarding, and then the raccoon waddled away slowly and without fuss.
He positions himself. He is just the right height for all of this. The eye-hole is at the bottom of the window so he neither has to stretch nor bend. It is a very comfortable position. His timing is just right, as ever, for when his eyelashes brush against the glass she enters the bathroom and she is ready. The bath is filled and a little steam rises from it. It is not too hot, she seems not to like it too hot, only increasing the temperature in the colder winter months; it’s harder to see in then, December, January, steam, frost, breath. But it’s June now and things are much clearer and nothing impedes Tom and so he peeps.
She begins as she usually does, disrobing very slowly, like a dancer in a club, or at a pole, swaying her shoulders and her hips. She lets the silk robe — he thinks it must be silk, it has that sheen — fall to the floor and the garment seems to sigh as it slides away, as if it didn’t want to leave her. She has a perfect body, as perfect as Tom could’ve imagined before he got into all this. When he was younger, in his teens say, he would’ve dreamed about bodies like hers. It has all the right curves. It pleases him greatly that this is the body he has to spy on. She enters the bath slowly, turning herself this way and that, and Tom gets a complete view, there’s not a part of her he doesn’t see, not a part unaccounted for. Her light hair soon darkens in the water and she soaps her body, slowly. She never looks at the window, only at herself, and the sponge makes its way all over, from her long neck down to her most intimates. Tom hardly blinks, night after night, hardly blinks, just watches this same performance and becomes very aroused, still, but he is careful not to make sounds, or breathe too heavily for then the little eye-hole would get fogged up and he wouldn’t be able to see a thing which would defeat the purpose of his coming here night after night to do what he is supposed to do.
She masturbates in the bath as Tom watches. Then she slowly leaves the bath, toweling herself, and then puts the silk robe back on and exits the room. She is done for another evening. And so is Tom.
Her name is Melissa Parks. That is the name she signs the checks with. She never looks at the window because then she will meet his eyes and a human’s eyes are easily read. Tom walks home. He does not know what the rich woman does after the bath. He only met her and spoke to her once, when he was first employed. There are no birds in the sky at this time. They are at rest. Do crows close their eyes at night or are they forever vigilant? He looks forward to the checks that will be in the mail. There is no shame. Many men are poor, and many men do what they have to do.