A Small Dark Room
by Nelson Vicens
She wouldn’t look at me. She kept her eyes in the mirror but I liked to picture them drifting over the curve of her shoulder and resting on my lap in the corner of the room. My own little auburn butterfly, she would always float just out of reach, but not now. Now, she was here with me, her eyes in the mirror, perhaps a tear rolling down her cheek.
Of course, I wouldn’t know what was true; I had my own eyes banished to the streets, my gaze locked through the window into the night, watching the snow weave in and out of the lamp light.
“I have to leave once the sun rises,” she said into the mirror, red crimson consuming the arc of her lips.
“Do you know what time it is?” I asked.
She shrugged without looking back, “It’s still dark.”
The streets were white, the sidewalk, the buildings, all white and pristine and untouched. A new beginning, I thought, but I felt old. I sensed a thickening of the blood in my knees and in my calves, as if my heart had slowed its pump and resigned itself to be covered in the snow… to be cleansed of itself in the purity of the consuming blanket of white outside.
We had been in that tiny room all our lives it felt like. I thought I knew her like I knew myself, but who truly knows themselves? We seek another to do it for us, to dissect our souls and give us the answer we desire, when in the end, more often than not, we were both wrong.
She still hadn’t looked at me in hours.
I was afraid to look away from the window, as if it were a game we played, but every molecule in me might as well have been hers, so I lost myself to her once more and turned to face the other side of the room.
She was still applying her lipstick. Years had gone by and still she was not ready.
“Who are you getting pretty for?” I asked.
She finally looked back and I was swallowed by those eyes. She smiled, as if I knew the answer and turned back to finish her make up.
The room grew smaller then, and much colder. I slowly returned my gaze to the window, detaching myself from her aura.
“If only the moon could talk,” she said from across the room. I said nothing, did nothing, just watched the individual flakes of snow melt into the whiteness of the earth. “You want to know why I visit you less?”
She was standing now, she looked different. Much younger, her hair was a pitch black and her limbs moved with a certain cat-like nonchalance. “You’ve never really known me.” She slipped out of her shawl as if shedding an old skin and began to unbutton her blouse. I saw this all without turning to face her, in the reflection in the window, as if her pale figure were undressing in the bare frozen, untouched snow of the street. “You’ve never stopped loving me, but I’m not her.” My breath fogged up the window pane and I shut my eyes with such ferocity I wished I could never see again, but of course, as always, I felt my neck give way as the molecules forced me closer to her magic.
“Why do you have to leave?” I asked.
It was then I felt the warmth of her fingertips touch my chin, and I was home again, like a child, rising up to meet the glory, my body warming up with each quickening heartbeat, my every pore caressed by a cloud.
I followed the trace of her fingers up to her face and opened my eyes. Her nakedness emptied me, my chest now a swollen cavity. Her skin was dark and smooth, unaffected by the tiny room’s icy breath. She smiled her knowing smile, always just a few steps ahead, and she held my hand as gentle and as forceful as love demands and she led me to the bed.
“Why do you have to leave?” I asked again, the sun slipping through the lip of the window frame and spilling on to the floorboards.
“I want to touch you now,” I whispered.
“You’ll ruin everything,” she sighed.
“Will I remember you when I wake up?”
“You will see me in someone else.” She smiled and raised her chin to the ceiling, taking a big deep breath and closing her eyes. “As you always do.”
“How will I know it’s you?”
The air was hardening into stone, the bed a defiant marble, her skin melting into a magnetic quicksilver. Her form became formless and my lips searched for hers before the sun ruled the room and I woke up at last.
“You fool,” whispered her molecules, “you never remember your dreams.”