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  • You have been sensitive to light ever since.

    Even on a gray Seattle day, you need your sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare. What is light? Luminous energy? Something through which all else becomes visible? You long for only what is lost. There’s a chill in the air. You take a cigarette from your purse on the floor, place it between your lips, and rest your head on the pillow.

    “Here’s a light.” He leans over to his side of the bed and takes a lighter from the nightstand. He strikes it, and a yellow flame gives a pocketful of light.

    “Never mind. I don’t really smoke,” you say and put the cigarette down as if it didn’t belong to you in the first place.

    The dim light of bars and restaurant is best to hid wrinkles, lies, loneliness, hurt, anger, and rage. You don’t know why you went home with him. It seemed like the self-propelling conclusion to an evening spent drinking with a stranger who was kind enough to ask you if you’d like to go home with him. You like being with people who don’t know your story. People who don’t look at you with pity. People who don’t offer advice. People who don’t try to say the right thing but say the wrong thing instead. You don’t blame them. The right words do not exist in any tongue.

    Years ago, right after it happened, you bought a light box. The therapist you were seeing three times a week said that you needed to do everything you could to help yourself. Three meals a day. No recreational drugs. No alcohol. You had to take your meds on time. You had to go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time in the morning. You had to attend a support group on the days when you did not have therapy. You had to see friends and family who were easy to be around. Your days were programmed. The only way to get through was to hold onto the frayed rope and step lightly back from the cliff until you were out of the darkness. It was always dark then. You could have been living far north in Alaska in the middle of the winter. But in Alaska the snow would have given off some light.

    What no one other than you seemed to understand was that every day increased your sense of loss and took you one day further from the ones you love.

    You walked into the apartment and wondered why it was pitch dark. You turned on the lights as you walked from the entryway to the hallway calling out, “Anyone home? Hello!”

    You stopped yourself. You sat up and hit the light on the side of the bed. You had the sheets pulled up over your breasts. You looked over at the man whose name you wouldn’t remember in a week. His hair was shiny coin-silver not gray as you had thought. He had a long straight nose that was large but quite handsome.

    You got out of bed and stood naked with your back to him. You bent over and found your clothes in a heap on the floor where you had let them fall when you were trying to lose yourself in some imagined rapture. You slipped on your underwear, your jeans, your blouse, and tossed your scarf around your neck. You picked up your purse, turned off the light, and at the door you looked at him not sure what to say. Then, a hoarse, “Thanks. I’m leaving,” came out, and you were gone into the dark night that had promised you nothing and had given you nothing.

    Tears hit your cheeks before you were outside in the cold early hours of morning. Rain mixed with your tears and your nose began to run, and you couldn’t remember where you had left your car. You leaned against a streetlight and hoped the rain would carry you away, so you wouldn’t be there when he came out to get his paper.

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