Survivalist Lighting


He was in a mood this week. He barely called and he had been scarce. She imagined he was sinking to the bottom of a bottle every night, one sip at a time. This week he hated himself and he left no light on for her to find him by; too dark.


She worked at a lighting store. She liked working there because it was a specialty retail. This made her feel special in some small way, like she had a perfect little corner of organized and well-lit shelf in the universe. There was a different sort of clientele that purchased at such establishments. They didn’t just casually shop for something, or purchase anything out of need. At a lighting store, you got the customers who were beyond necessities; people who could afford the aesthetics of how their light lay.  Ordinary people bought ordinary lamps and bulbs to live by; survivalist lighting wasn’t enough for her customers—they had to create ambiance and make the harsh light of reality at least appear decorative and beautiful. She imagined someone like Balzac noticing this bourgeoisie shopping mentality and decided he would never have worked in a light-shop. This made her feel a little down on herself, as she loved Balzac and hoped that if he had written a novel on her working at this shop he would have put her in a kind enough light. But he was long since dead and despite where her mind often took her, she was not a fiction.


She lay in bed at night and held her phone to her chest. He did not call. He would not call. But she still held onto hope like a pilot-light. Her grip would tighten around the little bar of technology and she would have sleepless dreams about futures that would never see the light of day.


She got a considerable discount at the lighting store. Not that a considerable discount meant much when everything was so in-considerably priced. Even with her discount she had been saving for three years to buy him The Light. She was sure it would make him happy; sure it would illuminate hidden corners and dark angles of himself and somehow, just maybe, he would be whole with that light shining beatifically on him. He had suffered survivalist lighting his whole life. The Light was perfect. It gave off just the right incandescent glow and if there was anything she knew about incandescence and being incandescently happy it was nothing. But she imagined that one would be incandescently happy if they had such a light in their home. The glass was hand-blown. Little bubbles hung in the swirled milky glass like caught breath. The opaque color of the glass looked like cream in a cup, set outside for a cat. It let off an almost hallowed light that shined on the brassy metal of the fixture and made one think of galaxies: The Milky Way. There were no black holes here—just aesthetically pleasing light for miles and miles and miles and miles.


“Sorry,” is all he said, as if that explained the hours and days that he had been in the dark. He laid his head on the flat of her stomach and she petted his hair. She was imagining how he would look at such an angle with The Light on him. Right now he looked beautiful, but part of his face was shadowed. She could tell he was thinking about swimming in bottles and that just as quickly as he came back to her light, he would be gone. He was her shadow, but he didn’t follow properly like a shadow should. He slunk off in the night and played shadow to the neon lights of bars. Until then, she would hold him contentedly and try to shine enough for the both of them. It was exhausting.


It felt like she had worms in her stomach the day she deposited her paycheck in the bank and had finally saved enough money for The Light. She could feel them squirming like her insides were soil and they were just pushing, pushing, pushing through her dark, damp innards. She went into work with a purpose and placed the order for the light fixture. One week. It all came down to one week. Then she and him could bask in the glow of incandescent happiness.


He didn’t call the week that she waited. She would stare up at the ceiling fan for hours and think how beautiful that perfect light would be in its place. She imagined them both laying there, content, fully seen, and happy as cats basking in under the sun. There would be no dark corners for fears and insecurities to scurry. Everything would be illuminated; past, present, future. His childhood wouldn’t be lurking in the corners of his peripherals, collecting his years and futures like stamps in a book. She wouldn’t be afraid of opening up to him—she would look pure in that light; pure and clean and fully understood. But the ceiling fan would just nod its head in agreement and she would continue to stare at the dark shadows its blades cast on the wall.


The light was installed. It was Electric! Is there any other word more perfect for a light? The walls looked warmer under its touch. There was nothing it did not envelope in its luminescence. It was a light that did not cast shadows. She lay on the bed and waited. She looked up at the ceiling where the fan used to be and she now only saw splendid light emanating from the center. She looked at her skin and it looked so pure under that mighty orb. She wondered if this is how all her customers felt when they had their new lights installed. She was no longer living on survivalist lighting; this was a luxury. He opened the door to her room and it cast a long shadow that came all the way up the bed like a burglar and cut her in half. He had been swimming at the bottom of bottles again, stumbling in, leaving the door open behind him. Not noticing the Milky Way perfection he had just disrupted, he came and laid his head upon her shadow-lacerated belly and whispered, “I am sorry,” before falling asleep in her arms. She died then and there, with him laying on her; bled out in a dark pool around him while he slept. But she made him the blackest coffee in the morning.




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