We go out after dark

We go out after dark, not often but every now and then. The ground has a loamy smell after baking all day and there is the damp smell of salt in the air.

We sit on the porch on nights like these. Glasses beading slightly in the still, warm, air. The sky unfolds in the heavens like a blanket shook open. The stars are little holes eaten in the fabric.

We don’t talk particularly much on these nights, my sister and I. We don’t talk particularly much at all anymore. But the nights we go out after dark, we sit in the stillness and watch as the world darkens and caws. We hear birds, occasionally calling—the sharp squawk of a Tui. Later, if we stayed long enough, this would be replaced by the hungry call of the morepork, begging more-pork, more-pork, more-pork, he would say, a Cartesian cry.

Sal might say ‘do you hear that?’ Tilting her head in the direction of the big Puriri tree. I’d nod in reply and say something comforting in return like, ‘Its still warm, even for March.’ She’d pick up her glass and take a sip. She might reply. She might not. We’d sit a while longer in the darkness.

Then, on nights like these, we go in, the orange light spilling from the house like an escaped emotion. Sal draws the curtains and we sit side by side, not touching (never touching) on the sofa. Sal switches on the TV, a low rumble and picks up her crochet. I pick up my book. We sit there a few hours more, not speaking, but a different kind of not speaking than before as we busy our hands and minds.

Outside, the blackness continues. It envelopes the house, swallows it up. From time to time I look up at the window, I see this darkness pressing on all sides and I think of a tiny boat on a wide sea. Sometimes I wonder how we’ve kept afloat all these years.

We go out after dark, not often but every now and then. And on those nights, I think of how it could have been different, for Sal and I. If things hadn’t gone the way they had. We could be living in the city with people, with jobs, with everything except each other.

On those nights, after dark. I listen to the birds, I smell the earth. I take Sal’s arm and lead her back inside. Before I turn to close the door I look at the dark. It holds the possibility of anything, the deepest ocean, the farthest sky. On those nights, after dark, the world spreads into everything.

The loss of it all is heavy inside me. Empty like a hunger.  Empty like a hole.

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