utter my nightly prayer to the moon. It is always night. There
is no alternative and no cure. Eventually, I am expected to acknowledge,
even embrace, the notion of perpetual nocturne. But there is only
rejection. As I gaze out the arched, leaded glass into the darkness,
my mind whispers to me that it is always the same night. And the
moon is a poor mistress.
The oil lamps burn in the cathedral across the street. I hear
the priests praying, repeating to each other in reverent murmurs
the ancient children's stories of shepherds, water, and sons.
They talk of death, although not one of them has experienced the
sensation. I am reminded of an accountant, whom I had for dinner
one night, who stated that the only certainty in life these days
run my long fingers through my thick, flowing beard. It has adorned
my face proudly for ages. I have gardened and tended and nurtured
it from a tiny patch of moss to the dense rainforest to which
it has flourished, giving it the care and attention typically
reserved for a child by its mother. It has aged into a loyal and
constant companion. However, the crass maiden of social correctness
beckons me to trim the old jungle down to a manageable shrubbery.
And if I am to finally walk among the people of this village without
causing alarm, I must do what I must do.
are the times when I rue the nature of my people the most. Long
ago, I ceased ruminating about the large issues that concern most
men. In my circumstance, the only place to really go is inwards.
So I find that daily tasks like the simple shearing of the fascia,
which these same men perform without a second's thought, require
me to plan in the most complicated manner. Since I would never
allow my precious façade to be contaminated by the foreign
touch of another, the situation presents a dilemma. In short,
how does one in my singular situation shave?
my window, I see three children approaching the back lawn of my
house. Boys wanting to be men. Boys who have heard rumors of this
house. Rumors of its occupant. Rumors that this is the house where
those things happen.
have dared each other over the tall wrought-iron fence and onto
the grounds of this neighborhood haunted house. As usual, there
are no lights on in my house. They hide behind one of the elm
trees, darting their heads from behind the tree, hoping to catch
a glimpse of these rumors.
they do, I also observe them and take their measure. One of the
boys, a red-haired lad, seems to be of sufficient height and type.
He may do nicely.
boys gather up their courage. The rhythm of their breathing changes
as they remove themselves from the tree's shelter. They creep
slowly towards the house, not realizing that I am standing inside
in full view, the window framing me like a coffin.
actions please my eye. They decide to storm the house via the
side alleyway. One of them trips over an empty 55-gallon steel
drum in the alleyway. The drum crashes on its side and begins
to roll, making a frightful noise. The boys scream, not caring
a whit about what the others will say of their lack of courage.
They turn and run back whence they came.
of the boys escape over the wrought-iron fence and return home,
where they will never speak of this night again. The red-headed
boy's getaway plan takes an unexpected detour the moment my lithe
hand clutches his shoulder.
I lead the boy into my house, I require him to straighten the
55-gallon drum and place it with the others. To some, these steel
containers are an eyesore, but they remind me not only of my homeland
but of my journey to this country. They are a monument. When these
drums arrived years ago, they were filled with soil. I landscaped
and carefully tilled my native soil into the grounds.
within my house, I resign myself to gaze again into the timeless
world through my window, the thick pane of glass separating me
from those not like me. I have observed, of late, the glass melting,
slowly sinking, its liquid base growing thicker over time as its
year, I retain the services of a local servant whose sole responsibility
rests in reminding me of my birthday. The rest of the year, he
is free to do what he wishes, so long as he remains on the grounds.
He begins his unique apprenticeship to me as a young boy and continues
on until his retirement. Thus far, I have procured eleven such
reason for this employment has to do with providing me with a
small amusement. Time means nothing. There are great expanses
I can recall where my servant would enter my room, wish me a happy
birthday, take his leave and instantly come back. I knew that
his frequency of visits was once a year but it seemed like seconds,
as if a revolving door had been installed at my threshold. In
these instances, I saw the man aging before my eyes and I knew
that his counsel was of men and mine of the devil. But I digress.
his reminding me each year of my birthday, as a small diversion,
I write a suicide note. Mind you, I don't act on it in any physical
way. How could I? But when the note is discovered by a reliably
nosy cleaning woman, it does stir the blood of the locals and
makes for the most fascinating denouncements by the clergy. Lately,
however, the tradition has taken on a darker tone. These days,
I alternate between my windowed view of the village outside these
walls and the hallowed inspection of my past suicide notes, each
note talks of longing for a girl I don't remember. Other missives
speak of being a misanthrope, of the mad dreams of blood and silver,
and of sharpened poles being thrust by a faceless enemy. But they
are a former romantic's delusions. I am embarrassed sometimes
in re-reading them to discover my past naiveté.
I am mostly introspective these last several years, something
about the wind outside, as the leaves stir across the lawn, triggers
my memory. Perhaps it is the smell of motor oil when the drum
was disturbed by the boys. It reminds me of my past. My childhood
in Romania. The Berlin Wall falling. How I had been finally invited
across the Atlantic when the Wall came down.
U.S. Army had set up camp in Budapest. They accidentally spilled
hundreds of gallons of their peace-keeping fuel onto the native
soil and were obliged to clean up the soil and dispose of it.
I came to understand later that it was referred to as a "cradle
to grave" policy. Europe was about ten years behind in environmental
practices and America's disposal requirements could not be met
there. The contaminated material was sent off to the U.S.A., mostly
in 55-gallon drums, to be buried.
one of the drums, hidden and crumpled under the soil, was yours
just a sentimental, old fool. Why else would I still have these
memories? Thankfully, my hunger returns and I surrender to it
completely. It acts not only as a herald to routine and nourishment,
but as a temporary distraction to depressing thoughts of days
gone by. Nights blend into nights. They are all the same night.
the window's view, the animal pen suddenly goes still. I step
outside and enter the pen. I slake my thirst, my throated teeth
gleaming silently in the dark. I return inside to concentrate
at the task at hand. Shaving.
am correct. The red-headed boy proves to be of sufficient height.
The boy stands in my house facing the window, his countenance
a familiar blank. Mirrors had been removed from this house upon
my ownership. The darkness of the night outside combines with
the candelabra light inside to create the boy's reflection dancing
with the glass. The boy helplessly stands in front of the window.
My whiskers are lathered and ready for editing. I command the
boy to shave his face slowly. I stand behind him and watch his
reflection as he plays out his pantomime. I have no reflection
and must rely upon his. I mimic his moves and thus am able to
my task is complete, I drink the boy. My servant throws the rest
to the animals in the pen. The moon shows its face from behind
the cloud, curious again of my nocturnal activities. I utter my
nightly prayer that perhaps one evening, I will persuade the moon
to enter my humble abode. I would lock her up and never have to
suffer this interminable night again.