• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 11

The First Night, 2013

Once again Mary could not sleep. She could never sleep the first night in a man’s place. The moonlight might have been foam from a cold cappuccino. Running her finger along dusty blinds, she pictured herself cleaning them. As if that could help her fall asleep. It couldn’t even turn off her mind. And she was not the kind of girl who cleaned someone else’s apartment. Not on the first night.

Instead she traced a cat’s path through the several rooms: kitchen, living room, study, bathroom, but not the bedroom. No, in the bedroom, David was sleeping, with Emily the cat at the foot of the bed. The tabby had been glaring at her anyway.

Mary did not turn on any lights until she stepped into the study for the third time. Perhaps reading the <em>New Yorker</em> would put her to sleep. Or a math journal could confuse her enough. She turned on the light. This study was a museum of old science fiction paperbacks, some faded and yellowed, with rubber bands around them. She looked for something newer, found a book about Mars by someone named Kim. Books had taken over the room’s armchairs. As if she were younger, she crouched on the hardwood floor.

Somewhere into the first chapter, she let the book drop. Later she saw the moon, alone in the starless sky, as if through a filter of watered-down blood. A little boy in a red snowsuit scampered up and down a woman’s hand as if it were a snowdrift. She wondered if he was her brother who had been born dead. If he had lived, his hair would have been like hers: thick, black, straight. She didn’t know what he was trying to tell her, but then she had never told anyone about her dreams of him. She knew not to tell her


The First Night, 2013

mother. Perhaps she would have told Frankie. She would not have told anyone else.

The phone woke her before the dream could continue. Wan sun spilled into the room from a near-white sky. She heard David, the man she met last night, talking with his mother, agreeing to meet her for brunch. Maybe he had been that boy in her dream, scampering on a snowdrift until his mother beckoned.

She shrugged, wishing for clothes, finding her purse, his sweatshirt, sweatpants, her shoes. Before she drove away, she saw the boy in the red snowsuit again. His features had become those of the man she had spent the night with: his high, narrow forehead; hazel eyes tiny behind thick glasses; frizzy, almost dirty blond hair. She told herself not to think of him, to wash him away as if she’d only dreamed about him.