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Night in Saint-Cloud

by Melissa Goode

You are here as if I managed to conjure you after all—sitting in the dark by the window, shadowy and still. The drapes are open and the moonlight floods in silver–blue–lilac. Your chin in your hand, you look out the window to the river, the golden light of a faraway bridge. You startled me, I say. You turn, your face a blur, backlit by the too-bright night sky. A Miles Davis trumpet peaks and drops to a rumble. You don’t like jazz, or you didn’t, said it was too old for us. My mouth tastes oily and grapey from the wine bar downstairs. Chardonnay, Semillon, I don’t know. A bottle. I forgot to eat. They played jazz too, Chet Baker’s “My Funny Valentine,” stay little valentine. I will make toast and honey tonight and switch off the kitchen light so that my reflection in the window vanishes. I won’t bother with a plate, just sweep the crumbs from the table into my hand, into the bin. I can do everything in the dark now. My knees ache from the three steep flights of stairs and I get older and older. You don’t. You are the same—forty-four years and two hundred and ninety-two days. If I touched you now, I don’t know whether you would feel the same. You used to run hot, the blood surging beneath your skin, my furnace. It has been eighteen months since your mouth fell on mine, since you took me into your mouth. You are muscle memory, if I concentrate, if I let myself pretend, if I give in. I lean against the doorjamb, my head heavy, say, I drank too much. I drink too much these days. You smile, a shine of teeth, and then it is gone. I know, you say. I do not move. I stay here, as still as you.

Author's Note

This story is inspired by Edvard Munch’s painting of the same name. The light in the painting is ghostly and makes anything seem possible. This story is for Scott.

Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in The Penn Review, CutBank, Best Small Fictions, SmokeLong Quarterly, Superstition Review, Wigleaf, and Monkeybicycle, among others. Three of her stories were chosen by Dan Chaon for Best Microfictions 2019, including her story “I Wanna Be Adored” (CHEAP POP), which was also chosen for the Wigleaf Top 50 for 2019. She lives in Australia. You can find her here: www.melissagoode.com and at twitter.com/melgoodewriter.