Somewhere in the Night

By on Oct 18, 2020 in Fiction

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Greyhound bus at night

At times, he would turn on the overhead light and peer at his reflection in the window. Earlier, with the onset of twilight, he had noticed, in a rather accidental way, that with the overhead reading light on, as it grew darker outside, his image in the window would begin to become more discernible—increasingly clearer—as the night slowly and consummately overwhelmed the residuum of day. His mind found the obvious symbolism ironically reifying; that it was only the light above—particularly when the night was most engulfing, foreboding, when it was the darkest—that permitted him to see his own image with clarity, whereas daylight only permitted him to see the outside world. And when this light was turned off, his image disappeared out into the night. It was almost as if along with his image, his spirit, his soul had been consumed by the darkness; lost; its existence stolen through the glass and metal into the dark of the night beyond. But he also found that he could recall these very same aspects of himself by turning the light back on. So, every now and then, throughout the night, he would reach up and turn the light on and off while he watched himself both appear and vanish instantaneously. Though he would occasionally chuckle or laugh, he still was not able to escape the thought and more so the feeling that this was more than symbolic coincidence; that there was a lesson to be learned, a message to be understood. Soon, he found that his subdued laughter invariably gave way—what was for him—to serious and profound thought and speculation; thought and speculation that brought up, what to this point had been an unquestionable incomprehensibility, his actions and purpose. Not only as they related to this particular trip, but beyond to the direction of his life in general. He wondered if there might not be some unknown reason for parts of his life; particularly this trip; for him—for her—for them.

He laughed. “This is preposterous!” he said to himself. “I sit here on this bus, flick a light on and off, watch my reflection come and go, ascribe miles of symbolism to it and am on the verge of becoming a budding theologian!” He shook his head as he readjusted himself and leaned back in his seat. Turning his head, he caught the eyes of the reflection; deeper and deeper he peered down into them, finally seeing nothing but the dark beyond. Abruptly, he looked away, trying to overcome the symbolic pattern that he discovered himself snared in, trying to believe what he said, about the inanity of it all, but nevertheless knowing better than anyone that his conscience, spirit—his soul—was not at peace. Again, the pattern continued, “on-off,” “on-off,” “on-off.”

Yet, on the bus, among travelers and kindred spirits, he knew that there are certain rules, some written, there above the driver, while others are understood, rules that passengers are expected to adhere to; the unacceptability of turning the overhead light on and off, over and over again in the middle of the night, was one of those rules. There is no known authority, or authorities, to adjudicate the law and mete out punishment. It is understood. Likewise, in a spiritual sense, he realized that the light cannot be a matter of worldly fickleness, a self-serving indulgence; it is neither a toy nor an intoxicant of some sort that can be played with or taken and used when needed or wanted. No, you are either bathed in its luminescence, and, therefore, have a clear and sure grasp of your spirit, or you don’t and, as he symbolically discovered much earlier that, if you are not within the light, then your spirit, your soul is lost. Lost and wandering in the darkness—without a home or a hope—with no recourse of any kind. Or so he was taught and led to believe; then tended to believe; began to question yet still believed; continued to question and believed even less; found himself ambivalent toward, fluctuating between dogmatism and agnosticism; finally not knowing what to believe or if to believe, and who and when—save for the forces that were impinging upon his life; believing in them in some sort of after-the-fact way; an easy way of belief; to believe in what has been, rather than what is or will be; a belief of ease and certainty, a relief from anxiety and impending doom; a belief in what he has done, lived through and survived; a belief that his belief of the past would be transformed into a blueprint, a mandate, some kind of tacit design which will carry him through the present and the future—or so he now thought, rather than believed—though with an increasingly marginal conviction.

But, he was also finding, as he plunged further and further into the night, that, although the conditions were right for him to see his image clearly, he was coming to have a greater and greater problem concentrating on it, seeing himself clearly within the essence of the light. It was a problem stemming from the demands of his body for equal care and attention, for some form of protection from the proverbial cold. He found himself cold. Cold, because in the summer the air-conditioning on buses runs incessantly, which should, when all things are considered, fine—but it was not.

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John Hawkins spent a considerable number of years on the two-lane roads of Middle Georgia. Almost always, these roads led him back to where he lived in Flat Rock. Then, one day, he found himself heading north--crossing state lines--and ending up in New York City. There, he stayed and stayed and stayed until one day the roads, again, beckoned him to “…come, follow us…” Well, he did until he stopped in a small upstate hamlet that he now calls home. Yet, every now and then, Georgia “calls,” but not loud enough or convincingly enough for him to leave and go back.