Night Index – Ryan Madej
December 12, 2019
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.
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
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…
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’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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I ask myself: Where did this all start going wrong? Answer: When our eyes met under
the glare of those black lights.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I can almost taste him now. Lightly licking the edge of the blade, my hunger pangs
reach their peak. Tonight, I dine alone.