The Good Life
Kevin and I? We are sick of shadows. We are sick to death of them. In the mornings when we wake up I like to remind him that we are sick. And at night, before we fall asleep, he reminds me of the terror of the shadows.
He tells me, “I’m sick of all the shadows in this apartment.”
And I say, “Tell me about it.”
He concedes, “Some things, sure, are worse than turning light into dark.”
“But not much,” I say.
We have two big windows in our pretty little apartment. One is in the living room, the other in the bedroom. No curtains or blinds adorn our windows. We keep no furniture in front of the windows. Our furniture is small and our apartment is mostly bare. There are lights in our apartment, but rarely do we use them. We like to keep what we have close to the floor, because such a move minimizes unnecessary shadows.
When people ask us what we do, Kevin says, “I work in an office doing copy-work for an ad agency.”
I say, “I’m a transcriptionist who works from home.”
This is true, but in my mind I know that my real occupation, the one that counts, is nothing to do with transcribing sound files. My real job is harbinger of light. When Kevin leaves for work in the mornings, I kiss him goodbye and tell him to have a good day. He tells me the same, and I think about guarding the apartment until he gets back.
Our apartment is particularly gorgeous at two specific times. One is at noon, when the sun is directly above our part of the world. Light is everywhere then, and I like to sit on the rug on the floor, away from the window, and watch the light come in. On other occasions I go outside and lie down under the sun, in a place without trees or buildings. There is no better activity for soaking up light-beauty than floating on your back in the ocean. Accordingly, we live on a few blocks away from a good ocean.
The other time gorgeous time is at about nine in the morning, when the sun is rising in front of our east-bound windows. Kevin is usually gone from the apartment at this time. I alone must face the eye of God at nine in the morning. After much practice, I am hardened and wise in this endeavor.
There is one time that is particularly ugly, and that is the exact second at night when Kevin and my part of the world is facing outer space, not in the direction of the sun. When I wake up at night, around this time, I can get scared, because this is the moment of the biggest shadow of all. But Kevin assures me that there is light coming down from stars farther away from the one that lights our planet.
I say, “I wish it would get here already.”
“It takes some time,” he says. “Try not to be impatient with the stars.”
I laugh and say, “I’m such a stinker.”
Kevin says, “I love this stinker,” and then we make love.
One weekend morning Kevin and I woke up to see the sun come through the windows right at nine in the morning. We watched from our mattress that sits on the floor, far away from the window. I had my head on his chest, and his arm was around my neck. I could feel his hands brushing against my left breast.
Kevin made a noise and blinked his eyes.
“That’s a bright one,” he said.
“You’re just out of practice,” I said.
I let it go and then thought that maybe God was speaking to me by blinding Kevin momentarily. So I started kissing his chest a little bit. He made a more pleasant noise so I got on top of him.
“Take off the blankets,” he said.
“Turn around,” I said. “I want to see the sun while we make love.”
As he entered me, I watched the sun. I felt I was doing right. I looked back and forth between Kevin and the sun. We were bathed in light and happy.
After we were finished, I felt a little sick, leaned over the mattress and threw up on the floor. Kevin gasped and ran to the kitchen. I went to the bathroom and washed up.
“Are you okay?” Kevin asked me in the bathroom.
“It’s a miracle,” I said. “A true miracle.”
Kevin made a look with his face. I pulled out a pregnancy test then and peed on it. I had a lot of pee in me because it was morning-time. Minutes later, when the air was totally full of the smell of urine, the test confirmed that a miracle had taken place. In fact, I was pregnant with a baby of light.
“Look, Kevin,” I said. “Just look.”
“I can see,” he said. “Now I can truly see.”
“A baby from God,” I said.
“A baby from the sun,” he said.
“Our baby,” I said.
Kevin got dressed and said that he was going to get some sparkling grape juice from the grocery store. I thought that this was a good idea. After he left, I stayed in the bathroom and looked at my naked body. It was a beautiful-looking body. I imagined how my breasts would get bigger along with my belly. I ran my hands over my chest and stomach. I felt my legs and my bottom. I looked down at my vagina and then studied it in the mirror.
“I hope you are ready from the task that lies ahead,” I told it. “A baby of light is a lot to handle.”
In the mirror I thought that my body was trying to tell me that it was ready for anything. I was quick to believe it. My body hadn’t spent many days letting me down. It was the first to alert me to the dangers of the shadows. When I was young, I remember lying on patio in the sun. I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit, because my father didn’t want any of the neighbors looking at his young virgin daughter. I didn’t mind. For an hour I lay in the sun, soaking it all up, until I just fell asleep. I drifted off into dreams of flying.
And when I woke up, the clouds had come in to cover the sun. For innumerable minutes I must have been lying in the now-dark. I was suddenly freezing cold, too cold to be angry. It was at that point that I knew what the sun really meant. It was then, awaking on the patio of darkness, that I knew all of it.
Shadows are impossible to extinguish completely. They’re like love, I think. For years it was very difficult to get along. I met Kevin in college. We took many of the same classes, and he refused to sit next to the windows. He first approached me on the boardwalk near our campus. I was walking along quickly to get back home when he stopped me.
He said, “I’m Kevin.”
“I know,” I said.
“Can you move?” he said.
I looked down where he was looking, and noticed that I was somehow standing in his shadow.
“Quick,” he said.
And then I kissed him and dragged him into the big water nearby, knowing then and forever that we, in our own little way, had saved each other.
I left the bathroom to go back and lay my new body down on the mattress near the light. After a while I got up and moved to the living room to look at the light from a new angle. For some reason, I felt that I should try to get into the light there. This was a risky move, because with the angle of the sun and the window I could easily just create my own shadow without needing to. I felt my belly and looked ahead of me, and eventually decided that now was the time.
In the light in front of the window I felt good. I managed to get myself down in a way that made very, very little shadow. I was proud of myself. I spoke to the baby inside of me about my life and about its life, explaining to the baby that for now I was its sun and universe and everything.
“And I promise now,” I said, “that I will absolutely harbor no shadows for you. But in the future, you will have to learn how to do that on your own. Yours is a world of a different kind of light. Ours is a world of many sources of light that conflict and trouble us.”
Kevin eventually came home and showed me the bottle of juice. It was grand. At noon we decided to drink it outside under the noonday sun.
“It’s a cloudless day,” he said.
“It’s a day of miracles,” I agreed.
So we went to a park near our apartment to lie in the grass. We lay on our backs and drank big swigs from the bottle of sparkling juice. For a long time it was really nice. There were no trees in the way. We could close our eyes and just absorb the light.
A man approached us after a while, though, and asked us if we were drinking alcohol in the city-park. We opened our eyes to see that it was a copy, and that he was standing over us.
“No,” I said. “Of course not. We’re drunk on the light.”
The man sighed. I looked over at Kevin, who was staring in horror at my belly. I looked down to find that the shadow of the cop’s head was covering my entire stomach. Kevin yelled at the cop.
“For God’s sake,” he said. “Leave this park, sir!”
Kevin looked at me, and I stared back.
“Save us,” I said.
Kevin is Kevin. He is strong and full of light. Sometimes I know that we are being tested. This was Kevin’s test. Earlier in the day he had been blinded by the sun. I had saved him with my love. Now I knew that he was blinded because God was hitting the reset button on Kevin. I should have known that a true test of the pure soul of Kevin was coming. I just didn’t realize it at first. In my mind I promised the baby that I wouldn’t make the same mistake with him.
Kevin picked me up and ran towards the ocean, looking back and hoping that the shadows were still behind us and not in front. We were heading in the right direction, at least. It was a good thing that this hadn’t happened earlier in the day.
We kept running towards the sun that sat over the water. Kevin didn’t have time for streets. He held me up, his arms bulging and his hands close to my breasts and under my knees. He ran through front yards and back yards. He ran as I imagined God could run. He carried me across Northridge and Prospect, then across Lake Drive and beyond. When we got to a fence, he would say, “I’m sorry, baby, but I have to toss you over.”
I said, “Do you mean me, baby?”“I mean all my babies,” he said.
When we finally got to the beach, I was feeling tired and thirsty. It was the dark setting in. It was going to come right down to the end, I knew. Kevin didn’t take off his clothes, he just ran straight into the water.
He went deep enough so that his waist was wet. He held me up so that I was floating full-length in the ocean.
He said, “Here I stand with my babies. I have two of them, and they have been drenched in the worst kind of sadness. Here I stand, humbled, ready for them to be washed clean again with the light.”
He looked at me and I looked back. It was love. It was sacrifice. It was there. Kevin waded away and left me floating and looking up at the sun. I felt my face getting hot. I put my hands on my belly and wished for things. When I looked at Kevin I saw that he was floating in the same way. With my face back up at the sun, I thought about Kevin and the baby. I started to feel better.
We floated until I felt my body dissolving into water. It was a feeling that I hoped resembled death. Kevin and the baby and I all turned into the water then as we floated. We were the surface water, the water without shadows, and we were all praying strangely and thankfully for the good life.