“How do you know, Mike?” It was a question of how I knew something, not someone, and I wasn’t sure at all what she was asking, but it was one of those moments between friends. I wasn’t supposed to ask what she meant. If I asked what she meant the conversation would be over at that point, more or less, and I would miss the meaning, perhaps forever. She sat at the edge of the bed, nude, staring out into the darkness, and she waited for me to understand. I sat up and followed her gaze into the inky night and I wondered what she meant. This was the first time she had sat on that side of the bed, facing that direction, and I knew it wasn’t an accident.
“Are you okay?” No one who asks this question believes you are in some way and I can’t believe how many times in the last two weeks that question has been asked. But that isn’t the question, really. That question is a statement that says, “I know you well enough to know things are not okay but I want to ask you so if you feel like talking you can say “no, I am not” but if you don’t feel like talking you can say ‘yes’ and I’ll understand” But I wasn’t quite sure who she was speaking to either. Her voice is very soft and very female in the dark. A woman’s voice is different when you can’t see her in of the dark of the night, and a man could forget more than a few things if that voice speaks to him. It’s easier for a man to think sometimes when he hears that voice, at least about the things that are important, but it can make him forget about those things that aren’t. Women are like that, like day and night sometimes, they get wound up over small things in the daylight but then at night they have a clarity about them. The day has ended and night never does, really, but each night is very much like another minute of the same hour. Days can be different in their own way but the night is only silvered by the moon, and often not much then.
There isn’t a moon and only a tiny piece of light shines down from the neighbor’s place. I can’t see her, really, only the outline of more darkness in the darkness. I feel the weight of her body on the bed, and the dogs sleep through it. There is an owl out there somewhere, speaking to us, talking to the woods, telling the small ones that Death is still here, still waiting for everyone, and I can feel her lean forward on the bed, as if she can see into the nothingness. Sam stirs at the sound of the owl, stops sleeping and I can hear his breathing change. Sam is more connected to her than Lucas is and she knows it. She leans back, inviting Sam silently, but he rests his head down and she and I both listen for the sound of sleep from him. A minute passes silently and Sam’s breath is deep again. The owl is far away. The night is total. The air is cool. Sam’s world is the sum total of the moment and he sleeps.
She waits for me to speak, and I wait for the words to come. I know what she is asking but I can’t put it into words yet. I cannot tell you where my feet are in the dark but I can still walk. I can navigate my world without light. I can sense what she is asking but I lack the skill of human speech to put words together to say what I feel. I know her well enough by now not to try to vamp my way through this. I pull a pillow over behind me and wait for words to come, or not to come. The silence is very much like the dark. There is so very little light yet I can sense so very much around me without my eyes. There is so much I want to say but my voice is midnight with no moon. There are only tiny stars to navigate by so I must move slowly…or not at all. The iron headboard of the bed isn’t comfortable even with the pillow but the coolness of the metal sinks past my skin and into my body. It makes me feel more alive and I wonder how it would feel were it cold as well as dark. Lucas stirs but he’s deep into sleep now, and I could slip away from the room before he knew I was gone. Sam dreams, his feet tapping the wall as if gravity had deserted us in the dark, and he was a wall walker. She waits for me to speak and I close my eyes in the darkness and breathe.
She’s getting ready to leave, and I know it, but it hasn’t anything to do with me speaking or not speaking. There is some inner calling she answers when she leaves me, and I don’t have to words to ask her where she goes or why she goes. I think to ask these questions sometimes but I know better. I know there are questions she will not answer, and maybe she can’t. The owl is still there, still waiting for the small ones to move, perhaps in fright, perhaps in over thinking about what to do about the owl, but the owl just waits for the small ones to move in the dark, nothing but pure silence will mean life.
“I don’t know” I speak and somehow the words seem overloud as if I had spoken them in a library, the kind with just books not computers. The words do not seem harsh or impolite, but they do sound loud. It’s the answer to both questions and when I open my eyes it is dawn with faint light flooding into the room. She is gone again.