Light in Three Tenses (2020)


Darian Razdar / 2020
From Urgency Reader 1 (Queer.Archive.Work, 2020)

“Tense 3” from Light in 3 Tenses

The pavement will be wet, the sidewalk sticky. In what will seem like perpetual darkness, few keep outdoors. The people of light will have staked their claim to the exterior world — outside the walls built by the others to seize that which made these ones free. And besides, the people of light will become too luminous to get close to one of these sheltered communities. They will shine too bright.

One of these folks — these nightcrawlers who will light their way with a sort of bioluminescence — will tempt fate, often. His name will be Solely, and he will share with his comrades the original decision to have relinquished control and walked out the door. They will share the collective decision of choosing life over spectacle, freedom over limitation. Solely, however, will be different in his seemingly small idiosyncrasies. He will not be an aimless wanderer, a drifter, a nomad, nor a migrator. Solely will stick around the same dim neighbourhoods, the same shabby haunts. As he sits on a forgotten stoop, too close to the captors for comfort, he will wait to see another glowing body pass and walk away. Solely will find himself drawn to the gatherings of the those locked indoors; he’ll remember that they are not, in fact, the shadows and silhouettes visible from his vantage point, but people much like himself. Only diverging in essence at the crossroad that was the original decision. Are we not so different, these people whose faces I barely remember, and my kin lit by the free spark of the light?, Solely will inevitably ask himself.

On one of these cool, misty nights, Solely will sit on one of his favourite stoops, his blue-gray light illuminating the atmosphere around him. He will listen as those inside the dwelling laugh, sing, dance, fight, argue, and tell myths of a time long past. He will know that at the centre of the room inside lies a glass cauldron, within which the light will be fastened securely shut. He will know that other aspects of the light will be bottled up and strung between walls and adhered to ceiling tiles. And that the people inside went on without caring too much about anything but each other. He will crave such camaraderie, but be too afraid of these people who so clearly fear that which lies at the core of his being — who so clearly fear his light. All the while, he will hum along to the muffled songs he can hear from his stoop.

This night, Solely will look up from his fingers due to a body’s glow that lingers just a bit too long. Lifting his brow, he’ll catch the eyes of another nightwalker standing in the middle of the street — aglow with a faint purple hue that will remind him of the old city’s night sky. The two bodies will stare at each other for a long moment, then the interloper will approach toward Solely, unwavering on his wet stone steps.

“What is your name?” Solely will be asked.

“Solely. What is yours?” Few people approach another in the process of being idle in this world — most meet on the move. Solely will be cautious of this one’s curiosity.

“My name is Violet Clearly.” They said sweetly. “Do you have a surname?”

“Solely is my surname. My first name is Silver.”

“Silver Solely.” Violet will repeat while connecting the fragments of the name. “I see you sitting here quite often. May I ask what you do here?”

He replied with the honest smile of sarcasm. “I sit!”

“Yes, I see.” Violet will slowly shift their gaze from Solely’s luminous gray eyes to the window of the dwelling, where seated and standing silhouettes will hold animated banter amidst a healthy orange glow. “Do you ever wonder what it’s like in there? Since we separated ourselves, it’s hard to know what really goes on in inside. But it’s sure easy to wonder.” Despite her age, Violet’s intonation was childlike in its innocent awe.

Solely will look back toward the building as well. “You seem to be interested,” surprised by his sudden companionship. “You see, I gather knowledge about these people while I sit here idly. And, sometimes I do wonder what our lives would be like if we had stayed. If I had stayed. Would we be happier without the responsibility of freedom? Would it be easier to get along blinded with power?”

“So you really know what’s going on inside there?” Violet exclaimed. Their eyes will glance back to meet Solely’s.

“I think so. . . Of course, like you said, we can’t be sure unless someone on either side were to open the door.”

Violet quickly retorted, “That who opens the door looses their light, and puts the rest of us all at risk! By living our lives together outside, we continue to choose freedom —  freedom of the light and freedom for our bodies.”

“But we do not live together out here. We drift, open to meeting every experience and any other person of light, but unknowing of the depth of a lasting relation. And, while couples and groups are rare, we have forgotten about collectives of the past.” Finally, Solely will have the chance to speak into existence that which was hereto stuck in his head. “Unless the door is opened, we are stuck in purgatory on both sides!” Both Violet and Solely will be surprised by this, his final assertion.

Violet, now, will take a step back. They will look Solely once over: thick black boots, short legs covered in dark lace crossed at the ankle, a dress that glittered by the light of their being, and a clear heart tied to a chainlink as a necklace. Their eyes will meet and hold for a final moment before Violet steps away. Walking down the sidewalk, their sandals will scrape the ground along the way.

The purple glow will be lost after a few minutes to the darkness of the dimly moonlit night. The calm drone coming from inside the dwelling behind Solely will then suddenly become a muffled roar, but when Solely will turn around, he will see the same tranquil silhouettes standing there on the surface of closed drapes. Solely will be frustrated by this previous interaction. His frustration will compel him to ask himself: Is my freedom not that I am alone, and that in this condition I may chose as I wish? This thought will resound within Solely, infecting his soul. Like Violet, he will be curious — but curious about taboo. About what will have been left behind but may still lie ahead. About history, present, and future. Solely, head in the palm of his hand, will muse on these ideas for some time after being let alone.

All of a sudden, he’ll lift himself off the stoop — using his arms to hoist the rest of his body, and then taking the five steps up to the large copper door. He will look up the door and that realize a light turned on a meter above him. He, too, will realize that he is dwarfed by the door — this portal to an uncharted future. Neck still craned, the light of his body will meet the yellowish lamplight vying for an escape. He will let out a long breath to see the mist of the air refract the hybrid, greenish light, glittering before his eyes.

Solely, then, will place a hand on the door and give it a gentle shove. The copper door will swing open and as Solely stepped over the portal his blue-gray light will not suddenly leave him, but will begin to seep out his pores. Knowing almost instinctively where to go, Solely will turn left and make his way into the dwelling’s salon. Here he will witness what was until now only conjecture. There will be people all in  suits of mis-matched colours and patterns wearing glasses of thick, opaque lenses, most of them sitting in plush, pink velvet armchairs scattered haphazardly around the glass cauldron of light. They will discuss in very loud voices about no subject in particular while the cauldron light churns from one colour into the next. In the back of the salon, there will be a group of five dancing closely, a swirl of arms twisting around each other, and a few others softly singing along to a tune that will not be not playing. Looking around, Solely will see the lights he imagined — laced between walls and stuck into the ceiling.

Striding into the salon, passing the loungers one by one and group by group, few will remark the outsider’s presence. Very briefly, one will slide their head in his direction, others will momentarily fall silent at the passing of his footsteps, and some will sniff at the traces of fresh air, only to resume conversation a moment later. Solely will glide right in front of their eyes, leaving traces of his being to float in the air like specks of dust caught in sunlight, and find a stool at an empty bar. There, he will sit and wait for one of these people to finally notice him. To consciously notice him. He will see a couple get up from their chairs, and he’ll feel a rush of expectation. But the couple won’t turn to the intruder, but leave up the staircase to what is, presumably, their chamber. Others will re-form their groups or tuck into a corner alone where their front is turned to face the mass of light at the room’s centre — it’s warm, dense glow spreading out across the whole salon. Solely will sit at the bar in silent amazement. An outsider inside, observing those who choose not to see. How could they not notice me? Shouldn’t they be furious I entered uninvited? As one they expelled? Or, at least happy to see my return? Then again, the front door will have been left unlocked.

He will sit there at the bar and his hand will make its way to the heart medallion draped along his collarbone — fingertips flirting with the form’s roundness and single, blunt point. After an hour idle inside the place that filled his imagination for longer than he will be able to remember, our Solely will notice that time here stands almost still. People moving, but no time flowing, no real change visible between when he entered the room and this instant now. Some will have moved, changed activity, or even left the salon — but time will be no factor. The tenor now will be indiscernible from the droning cacophony of when he first entered. Minutes and hours will fold together. Sitting at this lonely bar, he will realized that here, too, he is alone. But here, inside the dwelling where light goes to live in cages, where people mingle about without doing much of anything, Solely will realize that he goes unseen. Unacknowledged. Unknown. No malice shown toward him for entering uninvited, nor compassion for taking the faithful step. Apart from forgotten pauses or gestures in his direction, nothing shown toward him at all. Do they even know I am here? Among these people Solely will feel something he never before felt; he will feel invisible.

Such a dark realization will quickly unsettle him, the heaviness of his light spirit growing more somber. The light of his being slowly seeping out of him. After lingering in this timeless, stuffy, well-lit salon, Solely will retrace his steps back to the doorway. Finally, Solely will reach out to pull the copper door’s knob toward him, to remake the escape of long-told legend. In pulling the knob, he’ll feel a resistance. And in trying to push, the large door will not budge. After a few silent, frantic attempts to open this door, the knob will disintegrate in his very own hands. Solely will step back and see that the door is, in fact, burned shut.