There is more to this world than meets the eye; this is something Eloise knows but can’t prove.

It is the frosty tail-end of November and this is all she can see: grey, black, the wet dark brown of twisted branches against a sky that hasn’t seen blue since October. There are many months left of these monochromatic matte paintings and Eloise wants out of here.

There are no outs. If she possessed a different kind of personality, she’d pop her thumb straight up in the air and climb in an unfamiliar car, be out of here like a big-ass bird.

There are no outs. If she possessed a different size bank account (or one at all), she’d book a flight to Prague or to Venice, maybe the South of France where Cezanne painted those sun-drenched orange buildings.  No more monochrome.

There is only this bottle of Thunderbird, the first of several she buys every time the SSI check comes.  There is only this crushing weight called life.  There are only these dirty olive sofa cushions on the floor and the asthmatic wheeze of the refrigerator, kicking on, kicking off.

There is only this.


Her habit, her ritual if you will, her method of survival: to drink until darkness comes. That is black, it’s true, but soft black, insulating black.

She sees these colors, this time, though. They are lights, little colored lights. They are not DT’s, because she had those before and they are not lights, not colors.

      Oh, you got the light, girl, you got the shine. The old lady on the corner cackles those words to her all the time, but they don’t mean anything to Eloise. Just a crazy lady’s ranting, and she isn’t like that, not so bad off. But the lights make her think of it: having a light, having a shine.

And so she comes to understand—half-sitting, half-lying there, smiling bemused at the lights—that these are the souls of her children that aren’t born yet, or maybe the souls of ones that have been born, she can’t tell, can’t remember even after they tell her.

 More than this. Their words have the solemn tone of a promise, and a sense of a future waiting, a life yet unlived. There is fire outside the window, wanting to get in, get at the lights. 

Color and light. Light and color. Turquoise and lavender and raspberry spots float in front of her eyes; and outside, the raving, ravening, crimson scream of fire.


Now it’s the social worker, saying her name, down a long hall. Eloise always felt that names were secret, sacred, not to be said just any old way, but no one else understood that. They would twist her name with their mouths, throw it around like a dirty dishrag. 

That impatience: its echoes slap Eloise’s ears. Who let that bitch in? Or did she forget to lock the door? That sometimes happens.

She can feel her eyes darting around, avoiding the worker like desperate fish, when she makes the fatal mistake of trying to tell the worker about the lights that were souls. Her eyes are like stones.

And so the stone-woman’s power has Eloise back in lock-up, asking for cigarettes one by one, someone else lighting them; watching to make sure she didn’t put them out on her arms like some crazies did.  Not Eloise, though.


“I wasn’t always this way,” she says, when it is her turn.

And out the window, the view from that cube of a room is frosty tail-end of November:  grey, white, black, the wet dark brown of twisted branches against a sky that hasn’t seen blue since October.


Image courtesy of Subnixus



Published in: on August 30, 2006 at 10:41 pm  Comments Off on  
%d bloggers like this: