San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

The light of crushed sapphires

She tells you he’s not paying attention to what you two are doing. She says he’s so wrapped up in his video games that he’s unaware of anything else. You tell her it doesn’t feel right, even with the door closed and the radio turned up loud. There’s a slab of blue light at the bottom of the door, as though sapphires are being crushed down and incinerated.

She puts her shirt back on and sighs, and you can hear the synthetic laser blasts being fired in the next room, wonder how many times her son’s been forced to tune out the sounds in his mother’s room.

“We’ll have a couple drinks,” she says, and walks out of her room, and from where you sit on the corner of her bed, you can see him craning his neck toward the screen.

In the living room, he pretends not to notice you when you ease yourself onto the couch. On the screen, there’s a gun pointed at some grotesque figures with humanoid features. The boy pulls the trigger on the controller and the green bodies are blown apart.

She doesn’t notice you on the couch until she’s brought the drinks into her bedroom and calls out your name.

“We’re in here,” you call back.

She places the icy drink against your neck and the condensation drips down into the basin above your collarbone.

“Come on,” she whispers.

Later, when you’re thirsty and she’s asleep, there’s an eerie hum tunneling through the apartment, low and alive—prehistoric. You feel separated from yourself, and there’s that light again, tucked beneath the door—except this time, black shadows wade through, back and forth.

You open the door and wander back into the living room. The television pulses and her son lies quietly on the couch. In the kitchen, you pull open the refrigerator and search for something to drink, but all that remains is a couple of beer bottles, a few eggs and a moth’s body that makes you more sad than you’re willing to realize.

The pantry holds a single loaf of brown, tough bread, unsliced. You search for a plate and wonder why every kitchen hides its cutlery drawer in the most inconspicuous place, and suddenly the light flicks on and her son’s standing there looking at you while rubbing his eye with one hand. You say hello, but he doesn’t say anything back. Instead, he wanders over to the kitchen table and sits down.

“Are you hungry?” you ask, but he doesn’t answer. How can you blame him? It’s not like the other mothers you’ve dated—the fathers alive, but absent. This boy’s father passed away unexpectedly from stomach cancer when he was only an infant. You feel the drinks wringing themselves around in your gut, but you don’t want to puke in front of him.

When his mother told you about her husband’s death during dinner a few weeks back, you couldn’t help but feel guilty for some inexplicable reason. Not for the man’s death exactly, but for the boy’s orphanhood. Then again, you’re not some messiah for every unfathered son. Nor are you insensitive to abandoned children’s needs, though you’ve never had your own child and never pictured yourself as a father. People have always promised you’d be a decent one when the time came, but people make a lot of promises, a gift to give that doesn’t cost anything.

So you hold the loaf of bread out to him as though he were your own. When he reaches out for it, you hand him the entire thing. He cradles it awkwardly in his hands, as though he’d just been passed an infant.

But his tiny hands aren’t strong enough to rip away a piece. You tell him to hold tight to one end, while you hold tight to another.

Eventually, the hard crust pulls apart. You feast together on the soft insides.

When he’s done, you tuck him into bed and say good night. But in a few hours time, he finds his way into his mother’s bedroom, where she moves closer to you so he can be cradled on the far end of the bed.

There’s a cold coming on, getting colder. Because of how slight the increments are, you don’t realize how much everything’s slowing down. You can see your breath, like ghosts of things you knew you should’ve said but didn’t, escaping now to haunt you again.

The boy rolls over in his sleep. Their side of the bed feels hot, sticky and alive.

Your feet are cold, but you realize they’ve always been that way. There’s nowhere left to warm the icy things. The blue light below the door sweeps in at a glacial pace. When it arrives, you will let it take you. You will hold your place, be swallowed up and shut your eyes against it all.

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
The light of crushed sapphires