Chapter 30

Night falls. Or has fallen. Why is it that night falls, instead of rising, like the dawn? Yet if you look east, at sunset, you can see night rising, not falling; darkness lifting into the sky, up from the horizon, like a black sun behind cloud cover. Like smoke from an unseen fire, a line of fire just below the horizon, brushfire or a burning city. Maybe night falls because it’s heavy, a thick curtain pulled up over the eyes. Wool blanket. I wish I could see in the dark, better than I do.

Night has fallen, then. I feel it pressing down on me like a stone. No breeze. I sit by the partly open window, curtains tucked back because there’s no one out there, no need for modesty, in my nightgown, long-sleeved even in summer, to keep us from the temptation of our own flesh, to keep us from hugging ourselves, bare-armed. Nothing moves in the searchlight moonlight. The scent from the garden rises like heat from a body, there must be night-blooming flowers, it’s so strong. I can almost see it, red radiation, wavering upwards like the shimmer above highway tarmac at noon.

Down on the lawn, someone emerges from the spill of darkness under the willow, steps across the light, his long shadow attached sharply to his heels. Is it Nick, or is it someone else, someone of no importance? He stops, looks up at this window, and I can see the white oblong of his face. Nick. We look at each other. I have no rose to toss, he has no lute. But it’s the same kind of hunger.

Which I can’t indulge. I pull the left-hand curtain so that it falls between us, across my face, and after a moment he walks on, into the invisibility around the corner.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, recommended by the thoughtful and astute Emilee Walker

ps the book is such intelligent and good, good fiction

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