I turn off all the lights until “it’s as dark as Noah’s ark when it’s dark.” That’s the second line of a poem written by a neighbor girl. Today she gave me a private reading of it in exchange for giving her a ride.
I light a candle – for whom, I’m still deciding – when the phone rings. It’s Lee. The candle lights for Lee.
We met in film school, back when I was a culture vulture. Well, not really a vulture, more like Snoopy pretending to be a vulture, using the art of others as braces for my artistic posture.
From the shelf I pick up a forgotten necklace, untangle it, lay it around my neck. I describe it to Lee: “it’s plastic beads and metal hoops and it was probably suffocating in some girl’s cleavage only days ago.”
We bitch about The Perks of Being a Wallflower being called this generation’s Breakfast Club. “Don’t they know it’s set in the ‘90’s?” Lee asks, and I answer probably not, but incidentally, I just finished reading Molly Ringwald’s first novel, When It Happens To You, and when did it happen to us? Somehow we started as that and became this. God is like a thief in the night – no – a nocturnal interior decorator who sneaks in and gradually switches a couch, a lamp, a painting, until you are home away from home.
Not so long ago – not even on a good day, which made me think I was a good person – would I think my life taking place in a church-bought duplex, to love our neighbors in a diverse area. Actually, it’s diverse now that we moved in. Before it was just poor black people.
I hear Lee mention his roommate, the roommate he’s mentioned for 2 years, but this time I’m not content with an honorable mention. I ask if he’s more than a roommate.
There is a pause. With my lips, I surround one of the metal necklace hoops, forming an expression like the Coppertone girl.
“Yes.” Lee says. “He’s my partner.”
He apologizes, “I know your beliefs – ” and I smile, “No, you don’t – ” and soon we’re Victorian houses being opened, furniture undraped, dust floating like thoughts, secrets gasping for breath.
We talk for another 20 minutes, say goodbye for another 15, talk for another 5, and then actually say goodbye.
It’s quiet. The orange streetlight fills the room and it glows like the center of a jack-o-lantern. I smile and wonder what I’ll be this year.