No bright light surrounding me

by thanklemons

I’m crossing Broad Street one evening, and the lights up and down the strip of road are mesmerizing. I purposely strand myself at the traffic island so that I can put my finger on the city’s pulse, watch the vein of lights running toward the horizon. The signal changes, and I cross, feeling like the dark skyline has a hold on me, too. Weaving through crowds, the city feels overwhelming, intolerable. Lamps are glaring and artificial, too bright to be reassuring in the twilight.

——-

Miles away, I am walking in the sun on a beach. Here, I wear too much eyeliner and stay up too late; I’m transformed, more carefree, brighter. Cliched gold sand and crystal water glint in sun and moon light, never dull for a moment, never losing their glamorous appeal. Living in the tropics, everything seems glamorous. Life is slower, all things more beautiful and surreal than I can imagine trapped in concrete American cities. I  feel very far removed from the world.

Pseudo-intellectual party conversations and all-night dancing open new avenues of flirtation. I’m watching these men watching me: trying, and earnestly working to give the impression that they are not trying. It’s an amalgamation of all the wild parties I missed in high school and college. Liberating, captivating…but fleeting.

There’s no point playing hard to get, 
I figured I’ll just sit on your swing.

—-

I wonder if the city is making me a worse person– less sure, more afraid and bitter.

I’m wandering Fairmount just before dark, and I feel strange watching the city dull as daylight fades. Maybe the world is supposed to be like this. I strain to see the sidewalk clearly. I approach a fountain and stare at the water, which moves with an undeniable consistency. The surface is easy to make out in the transitioning light, but what happens beneath is still a mystery. Light is too revealing to be comforting, too certain of itself to be trusted; even where the dark is ambiguous and lonely, stranding me in a shroud of shadows, barely able to make out my immediate surroundings, I have faith in it. Faith in my own senses. The dark is a known unknown, while the light is deceptive, revealing only what it wants to.

When I walk alone, I’m hoping for things unknown

I’m splashing my hand in the water, watching the ripples, and I find myself wishing I had someone to see this with me, the city at dusk, the movement of the water. Sometimes, I wish clarity could come without loneliness.

——

It  is 4 AM, and we are dancing along the beach.  Everything outside this tent is dark, invisible. Maybe it’s not there at all. The loneliness of islands really hits me at this moment.  Darkness is the same everywhere, and that’s both comforting and disconcerting. I turn back to the warm glow of the party, the newly-familiar faces all laughing and looking at one another. When someone else meets my eyes, I’m not tempted to look away. There’s an intimacy in this experience that I already know I won’t be able to describe to anyone later.

When the party peters out and a few booze-driven dancers jump into the ocean to cool off, I’m content to sit under the pool lights and chat drowsily with the others until the sun peeks out from the horizon. Soon the whole sky will be bright and the beach will light up; I realize that I don’t want to see it happen. Even as my less-than-noble friends call me back, urge me to stay, I pull away.

“Watch me swim. Please?” One of them wheedles, and my resolve firms even more.

You keep on trying to make make believe…

I walk up the beach alone, moving slowly west, racing the reach of the sunlight behind me.

There’s no use in me trying to be the things I wanted                                                                        

 And that’s right for me

That’s right for me.

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