Long Black Hours

I sit at the window, the woman waiting for two headlights to turn into that black square that is my driveway, those monstrous eyes that will fade out before I hear the crunch of his steps on the gravel, unhurried but coming towards me nonetheless… and the thud of car door that tells me he is here to stay, for tonight at least.

It does not happen; he does not come.  I peer through my own reflection and see nothing.  My ears strain past the ticking of my mother’s old clock, which cannot tell the time, but marks it anyway.  She found the sound soothing, or so she said, but I find that it breaks up my thoughts as surely as a knife hammering on a chopping-board.  My mind fragments and the pieces tumble into the recess that he would call my chest-cavity, I suppose.  It is a space as dark as that night outside.

Where are the stars tonight?  I see nothing.  I hear nothing.  I only click my tongue, and shudder at the sound.  Any noise I make is in competition with the clock. I should be ashamed.

I notice that my hand has moved only as it twitches the curtain to my right. I wilfully twitch the curtain to my left.  This is a gesture which coincided with his homecoming, once.  Just once.  I resort to such repetition now, only as he has not sent his excuses for the delay.

I would be comforted by a reason, however improbable.  It would still be a sign that part of him knew I waited here, that as she smiled he remembered that I used to do that, once…

I must be a chronically jealous woman to create so clear a picture, with which I then torment myself.  This phantom is so strong an image now, that she appears at his shoulder whenever I latch my mind onto his presence, focussing on those firm and lovely features of his.  It doesn’t matter whether he’s really here or not; she is with me always, with her smooth honey skin and dark, shadow eyes, her lips and fingernails painted red as any cliché.

At least she can be relied upon to appear.

Such madness.  These thoughts should be quickly swallowed down or spat out.  To savour them so bitterly is like an unwise wish, or a thoughtless incantation.  I will bring the worst upon us if I wait for doom incessantly.

But where are you, my love?

I leave the window.  I am sure that all the neighbours can see me when I sit there, clear as day, the light a yellow halo behind me, innocence turned sour.  I do not close the curtains, only turn away and switch off the light.

The dark engulfs me like a dizzy spell.  I feel as though I fall.  I have not had a drink today, but am drowning still.  This proves that it does not pay to take care, after all.

My eyes adjust.  I am accustomed to patience, to getting ‘used to things’.  That is what marriage is all about, or so it seems in these long, black hours.  Time is warped, and though I cannot fix on anything but thoughts of them, my mind jumping jaggedly like a torn reel of film, my body is as still and heavy as stone; it is only my mind that flits.

There is a source of light, a silver haze.  I turn and see that square of dark window glow.  So eerie but so inviting too.  I take my place to resume my vigil.

She is waiting for me outside; a steady, brazen, curvaceous moon.  She holds my gaze and it is only when I am compelled to blink that I remember: never look upon her through a sheet of glass.  She is at her most maternal when her nakedness is shared.

I hurry outside without my coat or shoes.  I only intend to stay a moment, just long enough to fork my fingers at her and ask forgiveness.

The stones prick my bare feet like icy teeth, but I stand firm and look up into her face.  She is almost full, she must be.  She looms so large, and yet she is so elegant.

She has given me a shadow; I feel it sway as I do, as though it drags on me.  The feeling is not unpleasant, and so I turn, arms out, like a child pretending to be a tree.

The crunch beneath me as I move sounds heavy, in this night so thick with quiet.  Where is the hum of distant traffic? Can it really be drowned out by the rushing in my head?

I close my eyes and I am somewhere else, somewhere sideways, basking skin-clad in her rays.  I cannot read the stars, but she has me look again, to watch them.  I am waiting now for a twinkle, or perhaps the silent scream of a falling star.

His car pulls in and I hop clumsily onto the step, not quite brushing shoulders with death, just touching shadows maybe.

I would run inside and wait on my side of the door, but his lights have caught me.  I see myself flicker out as he turns the key.

“What are you doing out here? I could have knocked you down!” he says.

The moon and I watch him close the door and step towards me, briefcase in one hand, jacket hanging over the other arm.  His eyes are wide, his lips are open. I kiss them and do not look for lipstick stains before or after.  I do not ask where he has been, now that he is here.

I am not ashamed to say that I was waiting, since every night I do.  But this is the first time that I ask myself: what is it I’m waiting for?

By Lisa Farrell

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