She remembered nights like this. Walking home long after the sun had gone down, there was a welcome breeze in the air and moonlight casting a silver aura over everything she saw. The moon, whose reflection in the lake was a sight to steal breaths, called to her in some foreign and indistinguishable language.
Some hold fond memories of such nights–sitting with partners on the beach, toes in the sand, fingertips tracing out initials and words such as “love” or “forever.” Others, or perhaps plurality was merely an imagined comfort to her, recalled shouting matches and words that once spoken could never be taken back.
She used to put her rollerblades on while he slept. The tell-tale click of the fasteners would rouse him from slumber, eliciting a generic and half-hearted, “Where are you going?” To the lake, she would reply. “At this hour? It’s too dangerous, come back to bed.” She wished she could say to him, you don’t know danger.
The peril of laying stoic next to him as her heart began to freeze over at a tortuously slow pace, feeling her pulse stop in self-defense so that her brain would no longer be able to register pain, was far greater than any terror the streets of Chicago past nightfall could possess.
So he rolled back onto his side, and she left. The emptiness was chilling. She thought herself a proverbial tree and wondered if anyone would hear her if she fell. Who would come running if she screamed? As she skated through the park, she became fixated on the shadows of trees produced from the moonlight. What malice those shapes could hide. His voice, on cue, played in her head. She admitted that he may have had a valid point, but mused, “It would serve him right if something did happen to me. He’d be sorry, then.”
She knew this was not a healthy thought. She continued to the lake, exerting great effort in avoiding cracks in the pavement. Maneuvering across the sidewalk felt almost like tiptoeing around someone’s ego. She was clumsy by nature, but had become rather methodical as of late. Careful not to say too much, show too much, believe too much. Superfluity had become her greatest enemy. Paradoxically, deficiency had become her biggest fear.
The moonlight led her to the waterside. She glided along down the lake shore path, trying in vain to keep strands of hair from invading her slightly parted mouth.
Her eyes rested in the distance on one of those couples. The sandy-toed, finger tracing couples. Embracing at the water’s edge, she did not even need to see their faces to know that the stars were in their eyes. At first she seethed with a loathing that almost frightened her. The hatred soon turned to pity, pondering how much time, how many fights, which hurtful words would pass before escaping to the beach would become a solitary endeavor.
Distracted by the blindingly obnoxious public display of affection, she lost her balance. She looked for the nearest solid object for support, and aimed towards the bench. The blade, twisted in the grass, propelled her at an unexpected velocity, and she reached out to catch herself. She missed the back of the bench, but her knee found the sharp corner as if it were a bull’s eye.
Composing herself, she sat down and examined the gash that had just formed on her leg. With nothing to stop the bleeding, it ran down her thigh and began to pool at the edge of her sock. God damnit.
She remained seated, waiting for the wound to dry. She was sure he wouldn’t notice the blood. Just like he hadn’t noticed the other times when she would lock herself in the bathroom and walk out with scissors in hand and a band-aid over her ankle. He was adept at seeing only what he wanted to see. This meant, of course, that she had become increasingly invisible to him.
So after a typical incident, a confession that someone else had entered his line of vision, paired with a declaration that he was still, after years of empty promises, not in love with her, it was not unusual for the rust colored stains at the bottom of her pajama pants to escape his attention.
She remembered time passing and the moon giving way to the sun as she made her way back to his apartment. She recollected the brave face of forgiveness worn in the light of day as she crawled into bed and brought her head down to the pillow. It was as if the illumination of the moon cast her darkest shadows, which faded with the sunrise.
Tonight, putting the past to rest as she prepared herself for bed, she realized that despite everything, she was grateful for the memories, shadows and all. With the moonlight, she was no longer afraid of the dark.