A Noise at Night

I don't know if it was a noise; a slight rustling or creaking or hissing, or a tether, a leash that I don't know about, drew me to the window late at night. I brushed aside the breezy curtain, and peered into a hazy midnight world, with a line of black trees that melted into one another like wet black ink that runs on a page. A blurred motion captured my eye, and in the late dusty light there was pale moth, caught in between the window pane and screen. She (and I was certain, somehow, of the creature's gender) slammed against the glass with frantic blows. Her wings swept against her prison walls like kisses, she was the mistaken fantasy of a child who still believed in fairies, and saw those fairies in ugly little beings meant to be stuck with pins. She was the lover, the wooer, the seeker of light. She was the refugee, the fugitive, the outlaw of the night sky, meant at any moment to be crushed by a bat or bird. And it struck me that she was a silver princess, the most fragile being I've ever seen, but as she beat her head against her glass castle, she possessed full conviction of her own strength.

We spent a whole session in English class on perception. And what I learned is that reality doesn't matter at all, the lens you use to view the world is the definition of things. I know a girl who thinks she has red hair. It's a dirty sort of rust color, I suppose, at least the way I see it, and everyone else, for that matter. Entire lunch periods have been devoted to converting my friend to the sad acception that she is, in fact, a brunette. I gave up this pilgrimage long ago, and have even indulged her insanity with the admission "Yes, it's auburn, I suppose." To her, her hair is red. She has just as much right to declare the color she sees, more so, for it is on her head. She sees red, and that has no less claim to the truth than our overly proselytized belief.

I could crush that moth between to fingers, it was as soft as still air and as easy to break as a strand of cobweb. I could pluck her from her dungeon, cup her between my meaty fingers while her indignant wings pounded their furious membranes against my palms, leaving a gray, strange smelling residue. I could, I could, I could. I could tell the girl that her hair isn't red. I could tell her every truth and lie that I'm not sure about. I could scream and shake her shoulders and slam my fist against her head until she hysterically muttered that her hair was black, no wait, brown, yet again, blonde. I could sneak into her room at night, and dye it a deep love-struck, rosy, fire-engine color. I could make her dream come true. I could show "Now that's red," but I wouldn't be proving her wrong, simply proving everyone else right. I could tell him that I loved him. I could kiss him, or slap him. I could leave a raw stain on either his mouth or his cheek. I could beg and crawl, and show my moth-like vulnerability. I could beat my wings frantically on his window pane. I could remain cold and hard, a frozen cheek, unwelcoming to tenderness. Nothing would surely change the way he sees me, the way he's determined to look at me. And what does it mean to insist to a girl the color of her hair? She's the master of her own head and I'm the master of my own eyes; so we're at unresolved odds.

I left the moth in between the sill and screen, to force her way out and inevitably get caught again in her quest for light, or to shrivel into a beautiful corpse and an empty conviction.





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