Gaslight

Once I was in love with a man named Troy. Only he wasn’t a man yet then, he was still a child. Peevish at times, and waxing lachrymose at a glance, he drove me to tears as he ripped me to pieces, and then attempted to reassemble me in a way he thought proper. He had his own ideas about who I was, and since I didn’t know myself, I let him have his way. Full of self loathing since I can remember, I thought that maybe he could make me better, and that is never the way to approach love. Our love was ersatz, because really it was a war. But it wasn’t always so bad. In fact, at first, it was lovely.

 

One night in early autumn, an amazing fog descended over St. Louis Missouri. It was a beautiful fog that collected heavily in low spots on the ground, impenetrable to sight, so we decided to go for a drive in Troy’s little grey Nissan Truck. Troy could drive a stick shift, something that I’ve always found attractive. And so he drove, and I sat, admiring the fog, as we crept along Highway 70, going east to the river front.

 

Once there, we strolled along the ancient cobblestone of downtown St. Louis, past the riverboat casino, its garish lights blinking eerily in the rare fog. Despite the strange inclement weather, people were still walking up the entrance ramp to the casino, all of their laughter, and foot falls muffled by the humid suffocating air.

 

Along the St. Louis riverfront, there is a row of concrete posts connected at intervals by heavy rusted chains. We ducked this barricade, and wandered over even older cobblestones, towards the Illinois Bridge. There we found an antique gaslight, a sad muted orange glowing in the dim. A beacon of intrigue, we approached.

 

It was a real gaslight, and we wondered who came every night to light this delightful object, wrought of iron, and welded into a lattice work of strange Victorian art. As we gazed, I noticed a spider web in the center of a rusted curly-q, and pointed it out to Troy. The web was the work of a long gone orb weaver, the fading laughter of summer, covered in glistening beads of dew. And I said, “Those dew drops will become gemstones at midnight, and the fairies will come to collect them.” Troy embraced me then, and we kissed. I could feel a future with him beating in my heart. I thought forever would finally happen. I was 22, wasn’t it time? Now I am 32. Was it really that long ago?

 

We turned, stumbling along the increasingly jagged cobbles, until they crumbled away into mud, silt, and sand. We were standing at the Mississippi River, listening to it rush on towards the ocean, fast, and powerful, yet peaceful in its movement. We turned away from the Illinois Bridge, and kicked through the silt left by the rising, and falling of the Mississippi, until we stumbled upon something strange.

 

There on the bank, among other random bits of debris, was a place setting for one, constructed from pieces of several different broken plates, a cracked wine glass filled with pebbles, and a stained piece of cloth, folded like a napkin with a rusted serving fork, a small novelty spoon, and a butter knife, resting on top of it. An obvious shrine constructed by strangers, we decided that we must also pay tribute, and give an offering to whatever spirits haunted the river that night in the fog.

 

Combing through the litter on the bank, we found an unused condom, a white coffee mug with no handle, the mummified corpse of a fish, and an assortment of pieces of broken glass. We took these things to the place setting, arranged them on the plate, and set the coffee mug by the wine glass, filling it with pebbles. After considering our offering for a moment, we decided to leave something personal from the both of us. Being that our relationship was new, and that we’d both left others to be together, Troy left a key chain which read, “I love Canada”, with a red heart replacing the word love. His last relationship had been long distance with a girl in Canada. He set this on the plate. Around my neck on a silver chain hung a lovely fairy pendant given to me by my past lover. I unclasped the chain, slid the fairy pendant into my hand, and lay it on the plate next to Troy’s key chain. We stood looking at our contribution to whatever haunted the river that night, then we left, hand in hand.

 

Never in my life have I ever felt so connected, and so much a part of the nebulous existence of another person, as I did that night. I thought for sure that I’d found the final resting place of my heart, and that forever would surely follow. I could not have been more wrong for Troy, than he was for me, and soon after began a war lasting 4 years, and I have not felt so genuinely passionate since. But that night was magic, and still today remains a ray of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy imagination crowded with painful memories.

 

On the ride home the fog lifted, and we kept driving, out past St. Charles Missouri, just to see the stars twinkling between clouds lined with purple from the luminous glow of the crescent moon. And that night was perfect. We listened to Delirium, and made love in his truck.

 

I have since been back to that area of downtown St. Louis, looking for that one strange gaslight, where the cobblestones disintegrated into the riverbank by the Illinois Bridge, but I cannot find it.

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