I keep a light inside my head, a small one with a flexible neck and a tiny bulb, so late-night reading won’t disturb my wife. When that light’s tuned on inside me, as it is most nights, I have trouble sleeping, though the light shines out of my eyes, not in, and the person reading in there is just another me.
Sometimes he dozes off while he reads, and the light burns for hours. So I lie in bed worrying about all the silly details and problems of daily life: have I been a good father, will I have enough money to retire, was I cruel to my friend, to my wife? I toss and turn for hours while he dozes and dreams, until finally his book drops to the floor, and he wakes for a moment to turn off that light, at which time I can finally fall away. I sleep best when he and I are sleeping at the same time.
But last night I got out of bed when that inner light snapped off. The night was so warm the moon seemed to be sweating in the sky, and the trees were moaning like animals. My fingernails gleamed in the moonlight. I felt as though my mind was being emptied and cleansed of its detritus. Memories kept slipping and shifting, revisiting experiences I hadn’t thought of in years—as though by stripping off the callused top layers of the stories I think of as myself, the layers of memory below them could emerge, pink and tender and throbbing.
I liked some of those rediscovered memories very much indeed. In fact, I think I preferred many of them to anything I’d remembered for the past few years. So I felt good standing there in the darkness. And as those memories emerged from their oblivion, I became a different person, though I still looked like the man I had been, standing there nearly naked on my back porch while white birds flew overhead and my wife called out to her husband, who was still me, to come back inside, lie down beside her, and let myself vanish till morning.