On The Behaviour of Phantoms

For Anna, who tends to Understand Me. Just because...
it feels as if perhaps it should be.

I should not have been awake that nightthat starless, silent, cloud-stabbed night. That night; night of darkness, night of fire, when I should have been asleep.

You looked so lonely there, crested in the darkness of the night unfurled; and yet a part of it flickered from you, and I could not tell if the shadow belonged to you or you to it. There was no moonlight to be yours or to not be; it was naught, lost from the sky even as its light was lost from your eyes.

But it was not the light of the night-sun that I sought in your gaze. It was the light of your joy, and it was as hidden from me as was the vagrant moon.

You looked so lonely, there. I stirred without stirring, and my heart reached for yours—for phantoms can move through windows, you see. And beyond my window, the shadow of your ghostliness twined with the frailty that was mine. I had thought to comfort you; and yet in our twining, your phantom-fingers fit so gently into my own… I felt that I had needed you, too.

We stood there in the darkness, lonely together. And then the clouds beheld our broken wholeness, and broke the wholeness of the night itself. Its shattered fragments, cracked and spindled with a birthless sort of starlight, pierced the night around us with a rain as soft as thunder, a fall as wild as rain.

My starstruck eyes lifted with yours, and the shower of cloud-blossoms was like the falling of a quick, white flame. It touched your face and traced our phantoms with a lancing spark of silver; as a forge-hammer falling, your shadows cracked and splintered. The shell of you fell away at last; and in its fading, the flame of you leapt with a life that, for all of its newness, I knew had been waiting long for you.

If only you knew how long I, too, had waited.

Our phantoms found heartbeats as your face beheld its own joy, captured in the beauty’s star-arrested birth. Then the darkness was overcome with white, and in the veil of quicksilver, my eyes were lost from yours.

Still I lingered as the night grew older, tracing with my gaze your footsteps which I could no longer see. For though my eyes were locked behind the window, I knew that our phantoms still lingered, somewhere in the furtive darkness; the darkness that was white.

*    *    *

At last the creeping morning came. Against the whiteness beyond my window, our phantoms had fled, and so had your footprints. The moth dust of the world’s lightening crusted the paleness with gold, covering the iced-in memories of our ghostly dreams.

Yet the ice could not erase the softness of our phantom touch, nor the wind scatter by the dreams we had dreamed there, on the night when it snowed.

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