Last Night’s Light


christopher troy

She led me into her bedroom for the first time. It was late and dark, the effects of the distilled juniper berries still strong in me. I heard her walk away, bare feet on hard wood and nothing else. The night began with her scent, faint and distant. Then it surrounded me as I stood in its birthplace. I felt and fumbled my way to the bed and waited for her sound to let me know it was okay to rest.

I woke up hours later.

I don’t remember undressing, but recognize the folding technique. I look to my right, the door slightly ajar, to my left, her pillow untouched, under the soft sheets, no signs of her on my body. I close my eyes tightly and think back to last night. Nothing…just little stars of light. I give up on trying to piece it all together, open my eyes, and focus my attention on what is real, what my mind can grasp. I continue to look around guided by my curiosity and the sun’s eagerness to show me clues of who she is.

Three lamps, one larger and more colorful than the next, adorn separate corners of her bedroom. I think of lighthouses. I also think of mythical sirens.

The first is a reading lamp. It arches lazily over five books on her nightstand. The pile is strict and orderly, respectful of geometry’s tenets.  I stretch over the bed slowly towards them. Two titles catch my eye, but only one is worth remembering: Un Coeur Tranquille et Sage.

“Tell me about motherhood?”

“I might tear up if we begin talking about it.”

“Then tell me if you enjoy the process that made you one.”

“You might blush if we begin talking about it.”

“Tell me anyway.”

Directly across in the opposite corner of the bedroom, another discerning lamp (beige in color, toddler in height) and more revelations: a large black-framed corkscrew board sitting next to the lamp on top a plain, ashen dresser that climbs halfway up a slate-hued wall. Her choice in colors make me think of Mother Earth at rest. On the board are haphazardly pinned postcards of artwork (Euclid’s postulates ignored this time). I get out of the bed to take a closer look, wincing with every hardwood creak. Birds in flight, abstract colors and post-impressionist oranges. I recognize Degas’ dancers and Schiele’s seated woman.

“I wanted to be a dancer when I was a little girl.”

“What kept you from being a dancer as a woman?”

“I did…my belief that dancing is for little girls, not women.”

“So you don’t dance anymore?”

“I dance all the time with my little girls.”

In the third corner stands a tall, thin, handsome lamp with a bright red hat on. This lamp is aloof in its demeanor (alone in front of a full-length mirror) but slightly ridiculous in its design. “Too much hat for such a thin lamp,” I almost whisper to myself with a growing smile. I expect to see it slide down its body at any moment and expose its bald white head. Unlike the other two, this lamp is as vainglorious as the purpose of its existence. It’s not there to highlight an author or an artist, as are its brethren — its function is to shine light on its owner. And when not in function, it’s left to stare at itself in the mirror, surely wondering if its red hat isn’t too big for its lanky body.

“You are a beautiful creature.”

“What makes you say that?”

“The way you walk, it reminds me of a gazelle…timid yet sure of its grace.”

“And are you preying on me?”

“Perhaps.”

I start to hear movement in the next room, stretching, rustling, deep breaths. I shift back to the bed with guile as I pull the door open conspicuously wider and the soft sheets over my body, barely. I leave my right leg dangling off the bed as bait. I sense she must be starved; I fed her nothing last night (except for thick compliments). Now nude feet on hard wood begin to make the return trek to the point of departure. I hide my alert state while simultaneously trying to arouse hers with light morning moans. She must hear them; her ears have surely been trained to pick up on the slightest noises coming from the rooms of this apartment. Streams of liquid (first hers then the faucet) set off biological urges in me (first to urinate then to copulate). If she walks in to her bedroom, she’ll see what I can’t hide.

Stillness shrouds the room.

I no longer have control over my mind or my body. I want to believe she is standing over me, ogling, craving what’s trapped in her bed, but there is no way to be certain unless I open my eyes. And I can’t seem to do that. My mind will not allow me. She has me paralyzed, except for one part of me that is reacting violently to her ghostly silence with thumps and throbs.

A gentle calm comes over me. The colors of her bedroom coat the walls of my thoughts: I join the Mother Earth at rest. I see white birds soaring in empty blue skies high, high above and ballet dancers thin and twirling like tops in fragrant burnt orange groves. Again, I smile at the long-limbed lamp with the ridiculous red hat, in my head, hoping the smile doesn’t escape. And then I feel her caring lips glide along my forehead. She takes some of my perspiration with her on her lips as she closes the door, leaving me to rest in her bed surrounded by her scent and with a heart evermore tranquil and wise.

– Christopher Troy

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