Lucy’s Midnight Story
At midnight, Lucy rolls over and asks “Did you hear about Sadie?”
My wife likes to tell me stories about made-up people. We are staying with her parents in New York, fighting again about where we ought to live: New York or Seattle, near her family or mine. The argument is as old as our relationship, but in the stale, overwarm air of her parents’ apartment, it feels much older. I’m grateful for the distraction.
“No, I haven’t heard about Sadie,” I say. This is part of the ritual. “Tell me about her.”
“Well,” Lucy says, “Sadie was a masseuse at the resort. Giving all those old guys massages—no happy endings. But one winter she slipped and fell in the parking lot and threw out her back.”
“That’s awful,” I say.
“So she got addicted to prescription pain pills. She was spending a lot of time in her house, you know, not answering her friends calls, feeling really sorry for herself, doing a lot of drugs. Then, one day, she was high on pills and she went out to get her mail, and she slipped and fell again! Right on her ass! And as she sat there, writhing around on the ground, she saw the opening to a tunnel—right there in the snowbank next to her mailbox.”
“That’s weird, right? There’s not normally a tunnel there?”
“No, it was a new tunnel,” Lucy says. “And Sadie was very attracted to it. ‘Where does this tunnel next to my mailbox lead?’ she wondered. So she crawled inside. The walls were made out of ice, like all blue and sparkly. She had to go on hands and knees at first, and as she crawled, she started to hear techno music. Dum dum dum dum dum. And the walls started opening up and the tunnel got wider, until she could stand up and walk. Dum dum dum dum dum. And then it opened up into a room.
“She was standing on a ledge, and the room was full of the night sky. There were stars. Sadie stood at the edge of the tunnel and she moved her hand through the sky, swirling the stars around. They flowed up into her arms and she felt very warm. She was glowing from the inside. Then, she leaned too far over and fell in. She fell and fell and fell and fell.”
Lucy goes quiet for a moment. In the other room, her parents are watching an old Peter Lorre movie. They eat at midnight, stay up and wake late, take their walk through Riverside Park. Regular days extending in front of them ad infinitum, a marriage caught between two mirrors.
“And at first it was scary, feeling all those stars rush past,” Lucy says, “but then she relaxed, and she started to enjoy the falling.”
I ask her what happened next, but she has already fallen asleep.
Originally published in Moss: Volume Four.
Quantifiable, Dawn Pichón Barron
When Will We Ache Less, Michelle Peñaloza