Night People

Night People (Excerpt)

It’s 2 a.m. There are two houses lit up in a town of sleepers. In one there is a man with a stiff neck gluing together the fuselage of a model airplane. He bends his head down over the model to see closer, then sits up and stretches his neck, massaging it with his right hand. In the other house there is a woman with red hair sitting in her kitchen eating olives lined up on a plate. She picks up each one, holds it to the light, then sucks out the pimento filling. Each occupant is enveloped in the silence of early morning, yet not embraced enough by it to be sleeping. The man is awake because he won’t sleep. The woman is awake because she can’t sleep. Somewhere in the neighbourhood there is a rabid raccoon.

The woman used to be an acrobat. The man used to be a dentist.

When she was young, and a mistress of the unity of movement, she could bend and flex her body, do the splits, hang from a trapeze, smile upside down in a backbend. This kind of novelty is frowned upon in a 40-year-old woman. She can’t sleep at night because she keeps dreaming acrobatic accidents: a quivering knee whose uncontrolled vibrations spread from to the calf, to the toes, translating into a quiver in the high wire and a creeping fraction of doubt. She never falls in the dreams but wakes at the point where her body becomes a composite of parts and can no longer be commanded by her mind. Once she succumbs to this state of discreteness she can’t fall asleep again.

The man, unaware of the woman eating olives just ten houses away, is studying the parts sheet for his model airplane. As a boy, he always wanted to build a plane but never had, and he can’t remember why. Lately, he can barely remember anything—at least, details. Instead, his memory is a blur of associations and emotions. This surprises him since he never considered uncircumscribed subjectivity a part of his repertoire. Not only does this new emotionality occupy his waking hours, but for five weeks now (he has documented it on the calendar, or tried to) it has wormed its way into his sleep in the form of unrelenting and disturbing dreams. […]

Source: The New Quarterly, Spring/Summer 2014