November 28, 2005

Dusk, November, Central Texas

The sky was glowing pearly gray when I started this, but now it’s darkened to smoke blue as the clouds passed to the north, and the horizon shines yellow through nest-laden black branches. The wind is hard enough to ravel a pile of leaves or change a mood. Across the street only one light is on, where the owner is fixing his vacant house for sale. Through the grid of the window his wall shines bare: he’s painting with a roller, then he’s sitting on a stool and talking into his phone. I could more easily travel to the moon than know his thoughts. Next door to him, a mother and her daughter step out to string white lights on the small pine that grows outside their door. A long, low sedan passes on the street, and after it’s gone I still see the path of its headlights in the air. Then, from the opposite side, a couple passes wheeling a stroller in the street. It’s so dark now you can hardly see the outline of the stroller hood, and since I’m making this, I want to have the baby be awake, wide-eyed, taking in the trees, the sky, the lights, me, everything; I want him to grow up and remember this in forty years and not know if it was reality or dream.

From the back of my house I hear a child whimpering, and I rush in to the boy who’s doing homework at my desk.

“Everything okay?”

He’s perfectly calm, writing, no sign of distress, no eye redness, no rumpled hair.

I walk back to where I came from, and the whimpering comes again, and the boy in the study calls out, “Who’s there?” But we never find out.

The lights on the tree across the street blink like wind-shaken leaves, and the sky is cold charcoal.