What Morning Is
by Lauren Becker
No one knew what to do when the lights went out. Some went to sleep because the lights were out anyways. Some went to bed but didn’t go to sleep. The time would go more quickly. Some ate the ice cream. The ones who were alone were mostly scared. Some ate the ice cream, but were scared anyways.
Some cleaned their toilets and swept their floors. Some could not go to sleep. Phones were dying, alarms didn’t work. Everyone had to get up and go to work. It was 12:13. Then 12:22. Then it was 1:00 exactly. Everyone had candles. Everyone watched the battery-operated clocks. There wasn’t much to do after the toilets were cleaned and the floors were swept.
Some watched the sky. The full moon had passed the week before. The sky looked orange far away. Where lights were on and cars crossed the bridge.
Some talked to people who were there. Husbands, wives, children, girlfriends, boyfriends. Some learned things. Some talked about television shows.
Some missed the microwave. Some missed the air conditioner. Some missed their mothers. Mostly the ones who were alone. Some missed people from a long time ago. Some missed people from now. Some missed the sounds of neighbors and radios and cars. Some became very sleepy and told their husbands or wives or children or boyfriends or girlfriends to wake them when the lights came on. Even at 2:35, or 3:02, or 4:57. Some could not remember how the night felt with lights.
Some were hungry, but not for ice cream. No one wanted to go outside. Anyone could be there in the dark that was always there. Some had not forgotten. There were cars outside. No one left.
It was summer. Just after solstice. Some thought morning might not come. Some forgot what morning felt like. Some slept a little. Some slept none. And then it was morning. And everyone remembered what morning was. Some complained they could not use electric toothbrushes and hair dryers and phones and televisions. Some wanted breakfast heated in microwaves or on electric stoves. Some ate the rest of the ice cream. Some went to bed and slept. Some went to bed and did not sleep. No one knew that some had been in the dark alone. No one knew they had forgotten what light felt like. No one knew they had not felt light for a long time.
I wrote this during a power outage. It was too dark to go to sleep, if that makes any sense.
After the electricity came back on, late, I went to bed. I woke with this Leonard Cohen song stuck in my head. It was there all day.
And who by fire, and who by water,
Who in the sunshine, and who in the nighttime
The song is based on a prayer said between the High Holidays, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The New Year and Day of Atonement. On Rosh Hashana it is written. On Yom Kippur it is sealed. Then a list, paraphrased in part by the Cohen song. Who will thrive and who will not. Who will die and who will not.
The song and the prayer impress by cadence. And by reference to the whole and to the one. And by the suggestion that each of us can change what is fated. And by the question of whether fate even exists.
I think the story picked up some of the rhythm of both, inadvertently. And some of the theme. The meaning of who we are and how we are shaped. Everyone, anyone, no one, some. How we interpret the same experiences in context. How we move among these things sometimes. How we pay attention or don’t. How we read things through the lens of fate or of choice. How we read things at all.
Lauren Becker is editor of Corium Magazine. Her collection of short fiction will be published in Spring 2014 by Curbside Splendor.