The newly fallen night is foggy. As if it is unsure
what to do with itself tonight. Shadows creep in through the windows and
play along the walls of the three room apartment like ghostly children
in an empty school yard.
He has come to visit her. He being an acquaintance from long ago. She
lay across the hall, not far but almost miles from where he is, so it
seems. She being the woman, he, loves. Lying, waiting in the silence of
this indecisive night, he wonders. How many are sleeping? How many are
awake? Is she awake?
Sitting up in bed, too electric to lay down, but too sleepy to stand up
and pace, he looks at the ceiling. Like so many before him have. Old women,
young men, babies, perhaps, maybe a young couple in love's embrace have
gazed up at this aloof ceiling.
The ceiling is yellowed, with age. It expands to all corners of the room,
like most ceilings do, but has this expansive long draw to it that sinks
him in his own mind.
"Did you insult someone today?"
"Break a heart?"
"Get yours broken?"
"Should you have helped that old woman with her parcels?"
These are the disjointed questions the ceiling forces him to ask himself.
"Avoid all you like, eventually you'll have to lie down and face
me", the ceiling whispers. Just one-on-one with his mind is the game
the ceiling plays. "Play it the best you will, but you'll always
end up losing", chuckles the ceiling.
"What am I waiting for?", he wonders. The ceiling goes silent
and bereft of opinion. He strains to hear through the silence. Wondering
if that muffled buzz that accompanies silence is a companion of silence,
or some remembered noise of imagination or an impish lie meant to confound.
The ceiling, still quietly gazes at him, tacitly prompting, "What
are you waiting for?"
Minutes drag, like old jeans at the back of worn shoes. By now he's given
up on trying to hear her through the silent halls that buzz. He's playing
the ceilings game now; he's losing.
It was long ago, or so it seems, since he met her. Alone and lonely he
stumbled upon her, as if to just stumbled upon on diamonds. She worked
at a video store, he liked to watch movies. He liked the way she said
hello to him when he entered, she did it to all, but he convinced himself
that it was said in a special way for him upon his first arrival.
"Hello", she'd say, "how are you?"
"Not bad", he'd reply.
Truly he was alone, lonely, still weak from past endeavors of the heart
and mind. In a sense he really was bad. So it would go, he'd visit her
place of work, stare at the reviews opposite the box covers, blankly.
Really wondering things like what she likes to do, brothers, sisters,
does she eat Chinese food ? Finally making chit chat at the counter with
the movie he had picked, based mainly by the pictures on the back, he
would feel more confident with each conversation gone a success. He was
hers without effort.
A creek ! Not loud , but maybe a footstep ? He strains to listen for breathing,
a footfall, anything. The blunt question, no, the hope, echoes in his
heart, "Is it her out there, is she pacing, wondering what I am doing
too?" There are no more creaks, back to silence again. The ceiling
would laugh at him if it could. The ceiling's very old. Old ceilings have
been known to creak. Old ceilings have seen all this before.
Two o'clock in the morning. The night has decided what to do with itself
well before now.
He is up now. Milling about the room, fiddling with things on the dresser.
His fingers slide from one picture frame to the other, gently rubbing
the pictures as if he expects them to say , "please don't do that
, it is very early you know?" After touching the small objects on
the nightstand and proving that, yes, they are solid, he is bored again.
Then, just as if the indecision and awkwardness that has haunted him for
most of the night never occurred, the door gently opens.
They stand at opposite ends of the room. It's been ages since they. He
does not know what to say. She, too, seems unsure. She moves closer to
see his eyes in the dim light.
"I've missed you", she says.
He's nearly speechless. "I've missed you too. Almost . . ."
She gives him that warm and familiar look that confirms no more needs
to be said.
The door softly swings shut. The light that poured into the hallway from
his small bedside lamp, is gone, like a tap, shut off. The muffled buzz
is replaced with soft kisses in the dark.
As for the ceiling, its seen this before.
For now, the ceiling closes its eyes.