Variations in Darkness

We travel the two-lane road for the first time tonight. You drive. Too tired to sit upright, I recline in the seat beside you. 

“It’s as black as pitch,” you say. I know you mean the night. The words are automatic, spilling from your lips without thought as you look across the moonless, starless sky. 

Maybe it’s true, about the blackness. I can’t tell because I have closed my eyes. I know I won’t sleep, but all the miles of looking at this road have exhausted me. Instead of looking I imagine the landscape.

It is part memory, part imagination – this vision of a road winding on and on through the trees with brief glimpses of sky as a turn becomes a straight road for a few feet before turning again. 

This road is made of pitch, I realize. A legacy of dead trees in the shadows of young conifers, perhaps the offspring of those who yielded themselves to the harvest that made this road. Does their proximity, like that of children visiting their parents’ graves, bring pain or peace? Or both, or neither?

Now in my mind the road stretches out to its own vanishing point. A ceiling of discrete clouds hovers to shield us from the emptiness of the night. Distinctive in their tones, each cloud keeps its own identity – the dark against the darker against the darker still, on and on into the darkest night, as black as pitch.

The car stops.

“We’re here,” you say, and in the seconds before I open my eyes, I wonder what I really know about you.