Night Index – Ryan Madej

A:  Archive


A kind of modest radiance trickles through my mind as I leave the Archive on Friday, 

only to be presented with a sickening taste of my last meal welling up in my throat as I 

stop to button up my coat. The streetlights are just coming on as the light blue

fluorescence of twilight, always so vast and deeply meaningful to me in some obscure

way, begins fading and giving way to a quiet evening. Taking out my cell-phone I

notice a text glowing in red letters: Don’t be late tonight by any means. I miss you.

I chuckle to myself, knowing that being late was our way of seducing one another;

or to put it another way: a direction in which to fool one another with mirrors.


B: Barbiturates, Benjamin (Walter), Black Lights 


The stage is set for another evening of transparent dreaming. That is what this strange

arrangement has become when I sit down and think about it hard. We didn’t know each 

other prior to hooking up…I mean, who does that anymore, right? But that evening four 

months ago when I opened my inbox on that dating site I knew I had found something 

interesting. Not special, mind you, but something interesting. I could tell by the words 

and phrases he used in describing himself he was not ordinary like a lot of other men I 

had met recently with their greasy charm, and on top of that, small penises. He didn’t give 

himself away; he remained hidden, or at least partially seen when I threw tough questions 

at him. He didn’t flinch in any way.  The more he looked at me—in a way that wasn’t 

bewitching, but hardly familiar—the more I felt like I had tapped into something rarely 

observed. Call it a hunch or womanly intuition, but I unearthed a diamond in his gaze and 

then I was his.


He sat there across from me in that black light lounge sipping his whiskey in an

almost half-hearted way, and after a time we said nothing more at all. I felt like

there was no barrier anymore, perhaps because he was a stranger with no knowledge

of who or what I was, or the inclinations and desires I kept only to myself. Through

the course of our first few hours together we found that we had a mutual appreciation

for Walter Benjamin; in particular his great, unfinished magnum opus The Arcades

Project. We talked of the flaneur and how wandering the streets of Paris with no

true intention but to wander had more appeal than doing a shit load of drugs, which

he admitted he had done anyway when he was young. I had no choice but to admit

the same, maybe just to impress him, when really all I had ever done was a lot 

barbiturates when I needed a vast amount of sleep.  And yes, my sleep became more

interesting as well…


C: Calls in the middle of the night

I tend to take my time on these nights when we are supposed to meet, more out

of a necessity to prepare myself for the unknown pleasures that wait than anything

else. Still, there are times when she has totally caught me off guard and I would lie

awake in my empty bed wondering what would come next as I lay my head down

to sleep, a heavy gust of wind rattling my window. It was during these reflections

where my mind drifted over past memories of women with less charm, which she would 

surprise me with a phone call just as the pain of remembrance served as a narcotic to

bring on sleep. “Did I wake you?…sorry…I had a dream about you and had to tell

you right away.” Without protest I sat up to listen, relieved by the sound of her voice

that washed away those bad memories. I told her it was alright, I hadn‘t fallen asleep 

yet anyway. Lighting a fresh cigarette for my waiting mouth, she continued almost 

breathlessly: “I was walking in the desert somewhere in Mexico. I assumed this because 

the only sign I saw outside a ramshackle town I passed through had Spanish phrases 

No one inhabited the town, nor was there any real sign of life. An entirely cloudless 

day that would be appealing other than the fact I was alone, watching a series of vultures

off in the distance. This is what probably propelled me to investigate. Anyway, once I got

closer to where the vultures flew, I could see what looked like a person lying on the

ground. Rushing over, the sun blazing in my eyes, I looked down to see that it was you

who lay bleeding on the verge of death, eyes closed and murmuring. I remember placing

my finger on your cracked lips and that is all.”


Strangely, I wasn’t at all taken aback by her dream, but rather intrigued by the thought

of a quiet yet agonizing death in the open desert. More often than not—the cherry of the 

cigarette nearly burning my fingers as I spoke—I had many playfully morbid fantasies 

just like the one she described. She stifled a laugh, then apologized for waking me at such 

a late hour and assured me she would be calling me again soon to meet. Ending the call, I 

sat in bed for a long time ruminating over the scene she painted from her unconscious, 

somehow calm and ready to find her in my own dreams with a smile on my face.





D: Daggers 


How should I put this? Really, there is no clear explanation to my fascination with

daggers a fascination I had forgotten over time—but I can say with a degree of

certainty that once we came to know each other a little better through the miasma of

the erotic exchange, a deep impulse to greet him with one in the future came rushing to 

the forefront of my thoughts. The idea almost made me come.


E: E=mc, Elephants

The streets are dead tonight. They become deader as the months pass and the waning 

light of fall inevitably disappears, making the nights seem like endless excursions into a 

gradually cooling void called “winter”. Lately, when I’m not thinking of her, I watch

old stock footage of atomic bomb tests on the Internet, somehow drawn to the deep light

of splitting atoms.  Maybe it’s more than that, though. Perhaps it has more to do with

ultimate endings, whether taken up by forces we cannot control or the people behind

them whose intentions seem removed from death until they see, as Oppenheimer did,

the price of knowledge. Bad thoughts to have on such a quiet night. I used to lie on my 

bed when I was a kid and imagine an elephant carrying me across the plains, my head 

held high, searching out a place to drink water coming down from the mountains. When

I come to realize how far removed I am from innocent memories like those, I tend to

laugh a lot more at what I’ve become…





F: Fathers, Fingers

A bottle of white wine chills in my fridge. Thick blue smoke circles my head. I’m

restless for one reason and one reason alone: him. He always makes me wait and what

inevitably happens is some sort of regression into how and why I’ve come to this point

in time with such a strange man. Maybe he reminds me of my father—the bastard that

he is—but to imagine such a thing is wasteful and tiresome, even as I’ve 

come to notice the similarities between them more. The dark hair, the intense gaze, the silences,

even the laugh seems so exact.  How didn’t I notice this before?  Sometimes the sudden

appearance of a new toy makes one forget what it is they are playing with in the first

place. But the aspect of him that really surprised me was his fingers and how much

they reminded me of my father’s touch. Those gentle fingers wiping away my tears,

even as the smell of whiskey and stale cigarettes wafted in my face, or the other hand

caressed my leg. Glad he’s gone. So very glad. I was right in saying this was a waste of



G: Gifts

Nothing she has said as of late has pushed me in the right direction. As we’ve come

closer together a kind of fog has appeared between us obscuring the other. She looks

at me curiously now, searching for that bad seed that she is certain must exist. Her 

gaze is close to the truth, that I will not deny, but I want more of her. Every piece.

Every pore. Every strand of hair. Every eyelash. Trophies, gifts, call them what you

like. Is it wrong to want all of someone? The air is so still and the streets so quiet that

I imagine nothing else but the two of us, mimicking each other’s movements… 

H: Halcyon

Where the fuck is he? What is taking him so long? But I digress. I find comfort in the 

past as most people do by drowning in the familiar. Over the course of the last few 

months a kind of bomb has gone off in my mind. A time bomb. Literally a bomb that 

erases the present, insofar as only the immediate is of any interest to me, and the rest of 

my days are spent living in situations that are only tangible through the lens in my head. 

One piece in particular has been floating around as of late, taking me back into that 

fluorescent grey sphere of my memory. I must have been about ten years old at the time, 

wandering around in the garden trying to catch those cabbage butterflies with a makeshift 

net, feeling only the deep swell of well being that is common amongst most kids, only 

there is something wrong with the scene as it progresses. The longer I play the wind picks 

up, the clouds gather, and I come to realize that perhaps this didn’t happen at all. My idea 

of memory is only a disguise for imagination, and the longer I wait for him to come see 

me, the more I know that what I see through that lens, the more it needs actualization.



I: Icicles

I’m surprised she hasn’t texted me yet. Perhaps I’m just taking my time in order to push 

her buttons. The streetlights have just come on and I realize I’m running late, knowing

that she will be pacing back and forth in her apartment pissed off that I’m not in her arms. 

Good.  As we draw nearer, the more my feelings for her linger in an odd space between 

strong affection and coldness. If nothing else I’ve achieved a sort of control with her. I 

can hang over her now like those icicles on the eaves of houses…



J: Jealousy

Third cigarette. I decided to open the bottle and drink a little in order to calm my nerves.

Maybe he has decided to forget me and fuck some other girl. The topic did come up once

when we were lying naked on the bed and turned away from another, me looking out the 

window of my bedroom, and his eyes gazing into the mirror in the corner, perhaps staring

at the curve of my back. I asked him if he would ever tire of the games we played with

one another. Without turning over, he said in a soft, almost boyish voice that he didn’t

know but that every game, no matter how intricate and pleasurable, would inevitably

end with one side being defeated.  I asked him what he meant. All he did was chuckle.



K: Kabuki

As I walk over the High Gate bridge, brightly lit and empty, I feel a void inside me. 

Nothing. Odd that she wouldn’t make an effort to try to contact me in order to see where I 

was. Perhaps our relationship is different from others—yes, definitely different. But 

different how? What is it about us that make us unique? The way she looks at me when I 

touch her is more the look of a little girl than a woman, and perhaps that is what I find to 

be the most appealing aspect about her. How she wriggles beneath my hands as I stroke 

her skin or touch her breast as though she is resisting me. It is responses like that—

subtle and intensely erotic—which make me believe they hide something about her

I will never know. Like a kabuki dancer upon the stage acting out the movements of

a story, she covers her inner world with beautiful make-up.



L: Letters, Lies

We were having a drink on a rooftop bar during the summer—a night suffused with a 

sticky heat and a growing mutual drunkenness—when I think he asked me if I had ever

received a love letter from someone. My head swimming with whiskey, I asked him to 

repeat the question. Instead he produced a folded piece of paper from his pocket and 

handed it to me, his eyes three quarters closed and his breath thick with the smell of 

Bombay gin. Leaning back in my chair and lighting another slim cigarillo, I put the letter 

up to the dim patio lantern and began to read: Funny how in this age of distances and 

isolation I came to find you across those great distances on a computer screen. Lonely

is no longer a word I know since I found you. I remember laughing. I also remember

how incredibly empty his words sounded. But again, I found him interesting despite his

tacky lies. When I looked over at him again something silver flashed in his hands. He

smiled and showed me the tiny knife he was playing with in the growing moonlight.



M: Millennium

I see her apartment off in the distance, the pallid light coming from the living room

in thin streams. Pausing in the street, more deserted now than before, I lean against

a lamppost taking a flask from my coat and sip slowly. Looking up at her balcony

I have the feeling that I won’t return here after tonight. Just call it a hunch.

Maybe I have grown tired and bored in much the same way when we entered this 

new century and realized I have gone nowhere but inward away from the light.

Many people claim to know where they are going and how they will get there.

I’ve just let impulse drive me to where I need to be. I throw the flask into the street.



N: Nihilism

I’ll be ready once he does arrive. After all this time together I’ve finally learned how to

see, and by opening my eyes wider than ever before, I understand what I must do. In 

order to move forward, one must must break the mirror and walk barefoot over the

pieces. Only then can I truly understand what I’ve been trying to destroy all these years

without regret. Perhaps deep down he even wants me to do it for him, because maybe

he is thinking the exact same thing. Nothing left.


O: Origins

Someone once said that this universe is possessed by war and games. I would go

so far to add that in the midst of that great miasma of energy that brought us here

to this point in time, death would have to be the third.


P: Pipe dreams

Images change in my head. Moving away from those of his beautiful face and into that

place where butterflies play and roses bloom. Some call that paradise. I call that an

impossibility, even though the images are so clear and alive. I step outside onto the 

balcony and breathe in the emerging night air, all cool and dead, and look westward

seeing only the faint glimmer of the day that passed…That and what I thought was real

with him.


Q: Questions

I ask myself: Where did this all start going wrong? Answer: When our eyes met under

the glare of those black lights.


R: Rain

Why is that when we are so close to the end of a given situation that our minds give

way to distant memories? Even now, especially now, I remember the presence of rain

as that natural process stirring my thoughts as the vivid darkness set in. The sting of

leaving this apartment in the middle of the night when the streets were still and filled

with deep puddles, mysterious unwanted tears matching the landscape, always indicated

I was heading somewhere I didn’t want to go. Not this time. Tonight the cycle is broken.

Tonight I act. Tonight I transcend.


S: Snakes

The lobby has several chairs that sit beside a small wall fountain whose vertical ripples

remind me of a dream I had of snakes, or rather of one snake in particular. The room—

it always tends to be a room with no windows or doors for quick escape—is dimly

lit and the snake lies coiled near a slow burning candle, rearing its sleek head as I

approach. We study one another in way that is uncanny as though we share some

sort of symbiosis, then the mouth opens. Only then do I accept that I will not survive…I 

close my eyes and smile.


T: Tears

Turning off the lights, I sit down with my head pressed to the door, listening for the 

elevator door to open and his soft approach down the hall. My bitterness has turned

to tears. Large, salty tears that run down my cheeks and neck into my cleavage. I

can almost feel his fingers there, and I shudder to think that he touched me so many

times. I try not to breathe deeply so any tiny sound reaches my ears, even my heartbeat

which seems dangerously slow. Somehow, I knew this night would be memorable.


U: Unicorn

As I ride up in the rickety frame of the elevator, the sounds of Vangelis floods my

ears—Memories of Green, Blade Runner soundtrack. And as the sounds give way

to the scrutiny of memory, the vivid image of Decker’s unicorn comes to mind in

much the same way it did to him, almost like a dream. Just as he may have thought

the image was not really his, but planted there by those who created him, I begin

to think that nothing has ever really been mine…even her.


V: Vendetta

One can only assume what they will do in any given situation until they are actually 

confronted with that situation. Now, as I hold the blade in my hand, I give in to what

I’ve always felt: a desire to see an ending.


W: Walking

I like to walk in silence, for in silence one comes to know the slow moving current

of the universe and the dynamics of change. Someone told me that once. It might

have been her, actually. Sounds like something written on a fortune cookie, but a

grain of truth nonetheless.  The hallway is still; I must tread lightly so I don’t destroy

what I have just created. All I have to do now is walk through her door.





X: X-rays

Once the mirror is broken, the reflection is gone and one can truly see the other. 

Or rather, one can now see through the other.


Y: Y chromosome

My hand grazes the doorknob and my breathing slows. She never locks the door, for

she is the inviting type and I’m always welcome. The man, or in this case insect,

drawn into the web of the widow spider, suddenly paralyzed and put to sleep.

How tired I’ve become. She has sensed my fatigue and prepared a bed for me to lie

down in. Thank you for everything.


Z: Zenith

I can almost taste him now. Lightly licking the edge of the blade, my hunger pangs

reach their peak. Tonight, I dine alone.