"What are we doing?"
I wasn't expecting an answer. I wasn't even sure she was still awake. I reached across her form in the pitch and felt around for my cigarettes and lighter on the nightstand. After groping around, I found them, rolled back, threw back the covers and sat up on the edge of the bed. I felt the flat of her cold hand on my back...
"Where are you going?"
"Out on the back porch to have a smoke. Want one?"
"No, thanks. What do you mean, 'what are we doing'?"
"What are we doing? What are we doing, here, now? For the past four months?"
"I don't know what you mean. What do you want me to say?"
"Probably nothing. I was talking to the dark, really. Go to sleep."
Winter was over, Spring had a heart attack and Summer was dancing at the funeral. It was hot inside, outside, day and night. Even the breeze off the mountains to the East, pulled to the sea by the night, was too warm to be enjoyed. I sat on the porch floor, my back against the outside of the kitchen wall and cupped my hands around my lighter, lit a smoke and dragged in hard. Nothing like a stale cigarette at a quarter past too late in the evening. I exhaled and the smoke just hung there like some specter until it faded away into the dark and became part of the atmosphere, rising into space. I rested my head against the wall and stared out into the glow of the city in the distance when the kitchen light snapped on, casting a yellow counterpane across the weather worn boards of the porch and the railing that was in dire need of some attention and some paint. Through the open window I could hear her filling the coffee pot and setting it down on the burner of the range. I didn't hear the cabinet door open, nor the coffee and mugs being taken down, but I heard it being shut. Not a slam, but not just being closed, either.
"That was a pretty deliberate closing...", I said to myself, the dark and no one else in particular. The screen door opened and she came out, wrapped in a blanket. She leaned, standing, against the wall. Silence was not to be golden that night... nor silver. Lead, maybe.
"What the fuck? What are we doing? What kind of a question is that? It sounds like you're looking for a way out. You found the back door ok, you could just keep on going..."
She wasn't really speaking. More like whispering. Like she was afraid of waking someone or something up.
Oh, god. I rubbed my eyes with the fingertips of my free hand. It was a bad habit of mine, I always rubbed my eyes when things got confrontational. Reflex action.
"Look, I didn't really mean anything by it. I think I was talking to myself. I thought you were sleeping".
"Well, I wasn't and I don't know what we're doing. I don't care what we're doing. Don't do this to me."
"I'm not doing anything. And this is as far out your damned door that I'm interested in going right now."
Nothing. Not a word.
I remember once when I was about five or six years old, my father took me fishing for flounder, off a ramshackle pier in one of the ramshackle towns that hung like a partly peeled off scab on the edge of the bay not too far from where we lived. It was always cold by that water. The bay was fed by a flat land river that forced it's way into it and the Atlantic waters that forced their way into it, around the huge spit of land that jutted out to form the Northern edge of the bay, tempered it even more. Perfect for flat fish. Not so much for not so hardy anglers, or their summer clad kids. I said that he took me fishing. He took me for company. He fished. I wished. This day, however, he handed me one of his short casting rods and taught me how to play out enough line to cast, how to hold it to the bottom of the reel with my index finger, how to two hand cast into the green waters. He held the rod with me the first few time until I got the feel of it, then said, "Go ahead..."
I did everything he told me to do and I cast that baited hook and sinker with all my soul. Along with the rod. Got good distance, too. It arced through the morning misty air and dissapeared into the drink a good ten or fifteen yards out. I just stood there, blinking in disbelief. After a few seconds I looked up and over at my old man, expecting the worst and he was smiling and shaking a Chesterfield short out of the pack he had stashed in his t-shirt pocket.
"Well, you got the motion down pretty good. Next time, hang onto the damned pole, ok?"
I just wanted to walk off the end of the pier and nestle down with the flatties on the bottom and just fade away.
"I'm sorry, Dad..."
"Well, just step back a bit and watch out," was all he said. And I did.
He lit his smoke, picked up his big surf rod, played out some line and cast it out in the general direction of where my rod landed. He slowly reeled it back in, cleaned off some kelp from the hook and tried again. And again. And again. Three or four cigarettes later, I was getting the sense that this was starting to end in a not so good way, when he reeled his line in one more time and just damn, he had snagged my line and rod and brought it up, all dripping and glistening and prettier than any damned flounder I'd ever seen.
"And that's how you do it, Bud."
That was the end of fishing for that day. I sure as hell held onto my rod like my life depended on it from then on. I still do. And I sure as hell realize now that that was a damned lucky cast of his, but that day, it was a fishing miracle.
She pushed herself off the wall, gathered her blanket tighter around her and turned to go back inside. Pausing, with her hand on the door knob, she turned to me and said/whispered/rasped,
"I'm having some coffee," and went inside, letting the door slam shut behind her.
I took the last few pulls on my smoke, flicked it over the railing into the parking lot below and pushed myself up to standing. Fuck me. I'll never learn.
I went inside, got a mug full and sat down across the kitchen table from her. She reached up over her shoulder and flicked the wall switch, turning the kitchen from day to night, light to dark, filled with us, to empty with me. No matter who you're with, how close they are, in the dark, you're alone.
I could hear her breathing. She took in an extra long breath, held it a few seconds and exhaled, "Ask me again..."
"Ok. What are we doing?"
"We're running around in the dark, with scissors... OK?"
Things that go bump. Things that go bump in the night.
"That's how you do it, Bud."