Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Dark Again

The nighttime earth seems so wide and empty. Gusts of wind, slaps of rain. Houses all sealed up. Everything locked away.

I have wandered through so many dark streets, searching, plotting, hoping. In the end the dark becomes its own thing. A wind and a rattling leaf. Nothing else.

I learned the constellations. Draco coiling around the dippers. Perseus all dim-witted and flecked with double stars. The great faded square of Pegasus. But I stopped before I learned them all. I had a dread even then, as a teenager, of filling up the sky completely with names, of encouraging the delusion that my mind contained the night.

Not that I need have worried. Come cloud, come moon, and everything shifts. I wandered the hills outside of Springfield by starlight and moonlight and cloudlight, in dry weather and wet, summer and winter. Always a new sky, always an old despair. I counted up my fingers. "Ten," I whispered. "I have ten fingers." Aldebaran glowed near the horizon. "Ten!" I shrieked.

Into the woods, into the dark loom of oak trees. I knew all the paths. I knew where the dogs would bark and where they wouldn't. Where the abandoned barn was, above the quarry. Where the rocks cropped up in the path, and where the mud would spread in the rainy times. Driven by strangled wishes and incoherent fantasies, I would wander for hours. Waiting for the dawn. When the sky began to lighten I would go to the open spaces, so I could watch the sunrise, and weep.

Another night without sleep and without company, self-exiled, listening to the rain and heater-fan. The mistakes and the humiliations weigh heavily on me tonight. This morning. I've thrown away far more than most people have ever had, squandered fortune after fortune. The insides of my eyelids are raw, and there's a sourness on my tongue. Nothing has changed. Thirty-three years have wound past, but that means nothing to me. I'm in the dark again, waiting for the sunrise.

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