Night Watch

I am leaning against a parked car across the road from her apartment, listening to crickets and frogs sing a damp serenade, occasionally punctuated by the hiss and grumble of passing cars, all of which, because of the hour, are beaters piloted by drivers who don't have work in the morning.

The lights from her windows are color coded: incandescent yellow bedroom curtains; television blue living room walls; an occasional whiteness shining from the frosted glass of the bathroom window. I watch the shadows circulate between those lights, the opposite of fireflies, and think of the flowers and fairies she drew on the formerly stark, landlord-white walls of the bathroom, the moldy carpet in the hall, the stuffed animals piled on her bed and the Day-Glo star chart she painted on her bedroom ceiling in a fit of phosphorescent pointillism.

I feel the hunting knife in the front pocket of my shorts, heavy, cold and waiting. Wild Turkey whispers to me from my blood and the smell of it rises from my sweat. If gin is Dutch Courage, is bourbon the Kentucky kind? I light another cigarette.

A police cruiser creeps up the street with its headlights off, stops a few car lengths away and turns on its searchlight, blinding me. I hold up my hands and wait for the policeman to walk over.

“What are you doing out at this time of night?”

“Just smoking a cigarette, sir. My girlfriend won’t let me smoke in the house.”

“Have you been drinking?”

“Yes, sir. We tied one on tonight.”

“Where’d you get that shiner?”

“Sunday afternoon football got a little out of hand,” I say with a grin and a shrug.

“Well, alright, you just stay out of trouble, now, you hear?”

“Yes, sir, I’ll be in bed soon. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, son.”

He climbs back into his patrol car, shuts off the searchlight and pulls away. We wave at each other as he passes, continuing his rounds.

The wind picks up, rustling the trees, and an owl swoops down, startling me. It lands on the sidewalk and regards me with big yellow eyes that remind me of the cruiser’s searchlight. I have the sensation that the owl is trying to tell me something, to beam something into me with those eyes, but I can’t understand the message.

I look up at the windows just in time to see the television in the living room go dark. The bathroom light switches on, then off. The bedroom window dims from harsh electricity to candlelight softness. I think of those candles and the bottle of vanilla scented massage oil on her nightstand as I snuff out my last cigarette on the hood of her new boyfriend’s car and start the long walk home, the owl circling me in the sky.

This entry is part of my journal, published March 17, 2004, in New York. Inspired by a creepy boy from whom I “stole” a girl at university.