Night Windows



When you were very young, there was a window. The window was in the house in the country town an hour out of the city where you grew up. The window was in the bedroom shared with your brother: bunk beds, a six-by-four wardrobe, a fireplace in which no fire had ever been lit. And an eastward-facing window, long and narrow; hunter green curtains and a linen veil filtering the early morning light. When you were young, you slept on the top bunk, and spent long, listless summer days pulling the veil over the bed and reading in the undiminished light.

And then, all of a sudden, no longer as young as you once were, you are moved into what used to be the guest bedroom. You are now a teenager, and feel a window shut.


You are a teenager, and thus granted more freedom and privacy. This freedom is used to take trains into the city. The pleasure is always in the journey rather than the destination.

You are a teenager and you are still a reader. You start reading what you see other people reading on the train. Slowly, perspective begins to grow and shift. You are no longer a child, and so the world slowly opens up, as if for an embrace you are reluctant to be held in. You begin to see the city by its degrees of separation from the country, to appreciate the sense of dreamy anonymity the city provides—the ability to exist without the possibility of being recognised. You notice the way the buildings grow upwards and outwards, the way they seem to spread out like a widening pool of oil, dark and slick.

While wandering through a city bookshop one day you come across a book called Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography. You have never heard of this man before, know not how his life could’ve been so extensive as to warrant some six hundred pages of documentation. You pick up the hefty tome and examine the painting on the cover, in which a man sits outside a gas station, his interest in an unseen object out of frame apparently undeterred by the woman leaning out of the window above him, her face scrunched in something like anger. You don’t buy the book, but upon returning home you immediately look the artist up.

What you discover is a series of paintings unlike anything you’ve viewed before: scenes of loneliness and alienation; depictions of the degrees of separation between lovers and friends; moments of preparation for, or in the aftermath of, a particular event, but seldom the events themselves. And in almost all of them, the city and its man-made structures: the entrapment of an apartment room; revealing hotel windows; trains on railroads, their depictions such that they allude to the divisiveness of industrialisation.

You decide you wanted to become an architect, that you wanted to construct buildings and imbue them with the same degree of symbolism as the buildings depicted by Hopper in his paintings. When you tell your mother this she responds by saying that you aren’t good enough at drawing to become an architect. Incredulous, you look up ‘Do you need to be good at drawing to become an architect?’ on the Internet. All evidence to the contrary, the belief in your dream being the foremost of them, is equally met with articles displaying arguments in the affirmative. Nevertheless, you slough off the dream soon enough.


In the second semester you settle down into a routine: for one hour every night after dinner, you will invariably sit down at your desk and write. The hour is always divided up, with the first half dedicated to journaling and the second half to writing fiction. Gradually you become something of a watcher—an observer. You sit in cafes and comb through overheard conversations for interesting anecdotes, for pinpricks of insight into the lives of other people. What appears in the journal often makes its way into your fiction: the anomic worldview of John Darling, the smooth-talking detective in a story called Kill Your Darlings, is redolent of a man you wrote a diary entry about in September about a man in a porkpie hat you saw reading the newspaper on a tram. The eponymous character in your story The House That Jack Built is a retired architect-turned private eye whose musings on his professional career are your way of compensating for the fact that you never consolidated such career dreams yourself.

But then you begin to realise that there can be an architectural element to writing as well. You begin to choose particular words with which to structure your stories, as if they were materials being chosen in a design plan. After re-reading Daphne du Maurier, you begin to emphasise the power of a first line, which serves as the foundation for the building you are to construct. You want to tell stories that are dark and provocative—stories that move from darkness to light and then into darkness again like figures coming down a lamplit street. You want smoke curling from chimneys, heat rising from the ground floor. You want stories that glimmer like the flash of a blade before it slides into the back of an unwitting accomplice, that slide from sentence to sentence like a hearse weaving through a city street. Most importantly, you want to commune with a reader, to express feelings which you believe are universal but which largely go unspoken in everyday conversation. You want the reader to feel seen, to know that they are not alone.

You keep an image of Hopper’s A Solitary Figure in a Theater tacked above the desk as you write, and always make a point of propping open the bedroom window, beckoning the chill of the oncoming evening into the room with you as you begin.  

Farrago's magazine cover - Edition One 2024


It’s 2012 and you have just opened Tumblr. A photo pops up of MGMT in skinny jeans, teashade sunglasses and mismatching blazers that are reminiscent of carpets and ‘60s curtains. Alexa Chung and Alex Turner have just broken up. His love letter has been leaked and Tumblr is raving about it—”my mouth hasn’t shut up about you since you kissed it.” Poetry at its peak: romance is alive.

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