On the Nature of Daylight
Dreams are the bright creatures of poem and legend, who sport on earth in the night season, and melt away in the first beam of the sun, which lights grim care and stern reality on their daily pilgrimage through the world. - Charles Dickens
Do you ever wonder what the world would be like if we lived with eternal sunshine? I think about that sometimes; I doubt anyone would manage to get much sleep.
An icy draft circled the park that morning. As I sat waiting on a cracked wooden bench, I glanced up and down for a glimpse of her. The sun was preparing to appear, and my nerves grew more frustrated with each new layer of color that showed. Growing up, she and I had always chosen to meet around sunrise. For us, the sunrise was innocent. The sun represented a time when the both of us were uninhibited, and in some ways alone…young and heavy, filled with thoughts of the oncoming future.
We hadn’t seen each other in a while, mostly because of me. For some reason, the idea of burying my feelings for her had always carried a shard of unrealized beauty in it. This idea was nothing but a sweet disposition of the deluded mind. Basically, it was a cover for the lack of courage I had when it came to her. By telling her the truth today, this would mark the first time I finally allowed myself to breathe.
After a few seconds of further self-reflection, I saw her there, standing with the meek, subtle poise that only a rose could know. Ten feet away and staring at me, she wore a black fleece cardigan barely large enough to cover most of her upper body. Her eyes, lightly darkened maroon, stared blankly at me. Her hair was auburn, glowing with a reddish hint colored by the dim beams of the maturing sun. She was a portrait. She took sudden steps in my direction, while the glare in her eyes faded, and in a playful manner, she sat next to me.
“Hey guy,” she said.
This being the only way she ever really addressed me, in a lot of ways it annoyed me. But I accepted it, sitting straight up on the bench with a half-smile.
“Hey,” I replied.
“So you wanted to talk, right? I mean everything’s okay, right?” she said, her eyes connecting completely with mine and her head tilting slightly to the right.
“Yeah… Well, I mean no… Not really, I guess.”
It was quiet for a moment. Both of us appeared to be waiting for the end of a breeze that had just swept our faces. The breeze smelled of soured cabbage, with a slight aroma of gasoline in the air. I lifted my head, stared straight ahead, and said, “Today’s my last day.”
“What do you mean?”
“Tomorrow I will be dead.”
“Wait, what? I don’t understand what you're saying, John. Seriously, what the hell are you talking about?”
I realized that she had actually said my name for once. This brought me a measure of peace. I smiled.
“It’s just what I said. Tomorrow I will be dead. Actually, I will be killed.”
“Who’s going to kill you, John? I still don’t understand.”
I stared away from her for a minute. Then, looking her dead in the eyes, peering at her with what felt like the purest sense of concern, I said, “I’ve always loved you. You have always been the only thing I have ever truly loved unselfishly.”
I smiled once more, standing up to walk. I grabbed my hat, gave her one last glance, and left. I have always been melodramatic in that way. While I was leaving, she continued to sit still on the bench, staring at the powdered pavement under her feet.
As I walked away, I thought back to the day we first met and how we had spent much of our early life together.
We'd met almost twenty years ago to the day, when she was just ten years old. I remember how awkward she was back then. She always wore a pair of huge, shiny circles on her face, big enough to be their own set of magnifying glasses. She wore pigtails which were always garnished by old blue and yellow cloth strips that her mother had torn from an old blanket of her grandmother’s.
I also thought about that day on the school playground when she met me, the little boy, chubby and rounded like a polished pink snowman. My jeans were always torn, especially towards the knee area. I would always wear a blue faded ThunderCats t-shirt. I laughed, remembering that damn shirt. I wore it almost every day when we were young. I even attempted to wear it sometimes later on in high school, but she always teased that it was more for the humorous affection I would receive from girls. She was right.
We spent much of high school, even college, in each other’s orbit. There was this awkward period, in which due to a maturation stint of her upper body and a fashion reboot, she was way too well-adjusted to hang around me. So I would back off and allow her to have her space. However, once sunrise came, we would meet outside of McArthur Park. Sitting on the mound of woodchips left over from the park’s half-assed creation, we would discuss our futures.
For her, working for the CIA and marrying some rich surgeon was always what she had in mind for herself. My idea of a future lacked the focus of hers. I didn’t want to be rich, but I did want to hold some power of persuasion over people’s lives. I thought back to the last conversation we had before we moved on as adults, our final meeting in the park after college graduation.
“So, I heard you got that government job after all,” I announced.
“Yeah.” She smiled. “How about you? Still plan on saving the world?”
Our ideas often clashed. She wanted to work for the man, whereas I wanted to expose him. To a lot of people I came off as self-righteous, but she seemed to love that about me, even though she may have completely disagreed with my views.
“Looks like I’m going to be writing for this newspaper in Chicago. It’s one of those government watchdog type publications,” I said.
“Sounds like you. I guess that would make us enemies.” She winked. She had a way of challenging me without ever firing a single shot verbally.
“I just don’t get how you can support a government that claims most of the world’s resources and uses temper tantrums to justify wars.”
“What are you trying to say?” She was visibly annoyed.
“I’m just saying you’re better than that. Working for the government is so beneath you. You could be using your intelligence for social or scientific change, not militaristic progress.”
She glanced at me, a bit angry. “No one ever said I was working for the military. And if it wasn’t for the government, people like you wouldn’t have the freedom to sit around and trash-talk it for a living.”
“I’m not trash-talking it, just stating the truth. The government is corrupt and has been for a long time.”
“You know, I’m not as horrible as you think I am,” she said.
“I don’t think you’re horrible.”
“I’m not shallow or uncompassionate. I feel for other people, too. And I’m not looking for some surgeon to marry.” She smiled. “It may be hard for you to believe but I could marry even a staunch socialist like you.”
At that, my chest grew warm. A feeling of dizziness gripped my gut, as if my stomach was preparing to jump ship from my body. My mind raced, and I tried to think of some way to tell her how I felt. Eventually, like the settling of a wave, I decided not to respond.
The sun rose and we both stared off at the floating star. There was something about daylight that always made life seem much more bearable. It would come and go as if it knew that too much of it could only lead to a very awful and unappreciated thing. That morning we hugged each other and went our separate ways.
The last I heard she was living in DC. Just recently having moved there, I had been working on an article which I had been researching for months. I was working on a story that would expose the government’s involvement in assisting armed conflicts in a Middle Eastern country, specifically Pakistan. In exchange for intelligence, money, and oil, the government offered semiautomatic rifles, a few warheads, and aid with a civil skirmish. They were assisting a group of radicals for cheaper oil. For once I had the opportunity to unveil the true nature of our current government.
The most exciting part of my findings, however, wasn’t in the generalities but in the specifics. I had a list of ten top officials who would face major public degradation once I published my story, including Larry O’Brecht, senator of Texas, avid supporter of UNICEF and the owner of a series of Organic supermarkets in the Greater Austin area. The largest coup however, the one that was going to make these three months -- no, better yet, my entire life! -- all legitimately worth something in the end was the discovery of records proving that the Secretary of State, Joel Hastens, knew about these affairs. In putting this article together, I finally found my life’s purpose.
It had been at least twenty hours since I had met her in the park this morning. Surprisingly enough, I spent the entire day not once thinking about what had occurred. Arriving at my new apartment, I spent much of the evening finalizing quotes from my sources.
At 2 in the morning, there was a knock on the door. I was a tad unnerved by the unexpected visitor. I hadn’t been living in DC long enough for there to be anyone I knew visiting at this hour. I opened it.
There she stood, dripping wet. It had been raining. I could make out tears streaming from her eyes. She smiled. I let her in, and she jumped on me. She was hugging me tighter than I had ever felt from another living being. Our embrace was so intense that it felt as if the beating of her chest mimicked that of mine. For me, that moment made me happy. I loved her, and I could tell she loved me.
After our embrace, staring at the now wet and murky wooden floors of my apartment, she began, “I know what you mean…” Her breathing shook and intensified. “I wasn’t so sure at first. Who could know, right? I mean, journalists stirring up problems in DC are a dime in a dozen. It’s like DC’s the training grounds for anyone with a notebook and a heightened sense of morals. I just didn’t know or at least didn’t want to know. You have to believe me…”
I just stared at her for a moment. The maroon shade of her eyes seemed to fade a bit. There was a strange look on her that evening: remorse. It wound her so tight that each breath her chest took seemed to slow and take longer to release.
“I don’t understand…,” I started, once again annoyed by her inability to completely divulge all information.
She stared at me quietly. After a few moments, she turned to pick up a wet purse. Reaching in to it, she pulled out a water stained manila folder; it had espionage written all over it. I knew before she spoke what that folder was for. It was my death ticket, my sentence to be covertly executed by dawn the next day. Right before my eyes, she crumbled. Tears appeared like ribbons, decorating each corner of her drowning face.
I had never seen her cry before. During this abstract briefing of her, I felt like I could see her true emotions toward me for the first time. Her anguish revealed her to me, and seeing this, I grabbed her, holding her, attempting to embrace every inch in some way.
We made love, gave ourselves, and were floored by the inner passion shared over the course of the night. A bit shell-shocked, I manage to escape the fibers of our first shared blanket. I walked to the piano in the corner of my room. I could hear her moving under the blankets, sitting up in the bed, most likely preparing to listen to me play. One of the things she always loved was when I would play for her. Ironically, I had forgotten that this morning was originally my ordered exit from the world. None of that mattered.
I sat down at the piano bench. The cold leather made the hairs rise from my bare ass to the strands on my arm. I smiled. I played and sang Nat King Cole’s You Don’t Know Me. As I played, the dancing shadows slowly retreated from the walls of my room and the sun rose. I thought about it once more. It wasn’t the presence of the numbing object whose cold, harsh barrel meekly kissed the back of my head that made me begin to reflect. The sun as an entity had always fascinated me. The large glowing mass was responsible for growth, warmth and the nurturing of multiple planets. Besides the philosophical relevancy of its physical power, it is the sun’s most basic service that makes it so intoxicating.
The naturally free, daily occurrence of light delivers the sun in its true glory. In a way, light acts as a reminder of the importance of sleep, like a daily prayer card for one’s continual days on the planet, or as a distributor of hope, unmasking the secrets of night, illuminating all dreams and desires for an upcoming future. Each day brightens hopes for grander tomorrows. Light is happiness. Each day rides the sky chariot of the sunrise, demanding confrontation with each individual it wakes. The daylight brought on by the sunrise allowed me to feel more than anything ever has in my life, beyond words, beyond any research I had ever celebrated.
I laughed. Reality staked its claim once more, and my dim current situation grew even brighter. Sunrise reveals beauty but also acknowledges the darkness, ever fleeting to show us just how precious it can be. The reality is that sunrise isn’t permanent. Like life, the true intentions of its nature are never clear to us for long. Then I felt her warm, trembling lips on the back of my cool neck. I inhaled, taking in a deep gasp of air.
The sound of a muffled explosion penetrated the dawn.