Where is the moon on a night like this? Strategically absent as I stand in the harsh light of the bathroom, picking at my face because I’m too tired to sleep. It’s been a long week. It’s been a long life, and as I squeeze at my pores, which have always been too big, I think of you in some other bed, God knows where, slumbering soundly. But maybe not. We assume those who make themselves scarce from our lives do so without a hint of remorse, that nothing so insignificant as an emotion would keep them up long after sunset. But maybe not. Maybe, as I stand here, you lie there, tossing and turning, scrunching that crescent patch of left eyebrow that never grew any hair. An angel’s fingerprint, your mother called it, those years she took you to The Church of Light and Sound. What did you worship there? I asked. God, you said, and that was enough. It was the first time I realized you weren’t as full as I’d thought.
When I put myself to bed, my skin is red and raw, and like the fool I too often am, I think the damage will be gone by daylight. In the night, the clouds roll in, and in the morning, I wake to a face marked by sores, which I will now have to spend time–time I don’t have–covering with makeup. Today, the sun is hiding, and again, I must resort to unflattering fluorescence to ensure that all my flaws are found out and dealt with. It’s amazing, you once said, how the human body heals. You marveled at your liver’s capacity to revive itself after decades of drink. I thought of asthma, eczema, tendonitis, conditions that only hibernate but are never fully cured, and that I’d long ago learned to endure them, instead of expecting they would ever leave me. I couldn’t decide whether you or I had made the more positive conclusion, and as I dab on foundation, concealer, powder, and blush, I still can’t make that decision.
Why it seems so dark this mid-morning is one question I can answer easily: forty-five days of cloudless skies have made me forget what this northern corner of the world is really like, and I can no longer find the all-over glare I used to see on dreary days. I only see the sun’s absence. I only see my damp clothes and frizzing hair and think that less than a week ago, I was complaining, It’s the middle of September, and I’m still sleeping in shorts. I was ready for change, but now that it’s here, I don’t know how to take it. I try to remember. Hair in a ponytail, arms in a sweater, I step out my front door and am hit with the smell of wood smoke–a sure indication that the long, hot days are over. Yes, I think, and inhale. Yes. It wasn’t until that night my mother told me there were fires in the mountains. Bad air quality, she said. Did you notice? I didn’t. I wanted to believe the ash-fall wasn’t an act of nature but of man, stoking fireplaces and doing what we could to rush the change of seasons, telling autumn we’re ready, we welcome her, and telling summer we’ve endured him long enough.