The Night Places4 November 2020
Botanic Gardens, 18:56
The office windows turn dark one by one like broken pixels. Small cars carry the light out to the suburbs.
There are eleven hours and twenty-two minutes to sunrise. The evening’s last joggers pass, women clutching phones like weapons.
Big W, 21:57
The boy announces the store will be closing in five minutes.
She watches his lips move just before his voice comes over the PA. He looks like he’s changed into the Big W shirt but kept on the same pants from his school uniform.
She goes to try on a t-shirt, but the change room is too tight and she gets out, leaving the t-shirt limp on the hook. She buys a chewing gum, and thanks the checkout boy, for something.
This McDonalds used to be 24-hour. The McCafe girl says are you sure you don’t want decaf but she says it makes no difference.
After the coffee, the gum. Nobody is around to smell her coffee breath, but still the gum seems providential, as if someone has the night planned out. Now the gum will make her hungry. The inevitability of a glaring petrol station supermarket, glinting chip and chocolate packets, future litter.
Hospital car park, 03:59
The other side of the world is bright.
Reclined in the driver’s seat, she eats Doritos. The sky is dark through the triangles and trapeziums of the windows. The moon has set, or perhaps there isn’t one tonight. Why is the moon called new when there’s none at all?
She sits up and puts on the radio.
“—joins us to answer the question. Many people wander, sorry, wonder whether—”
The hospital leaks warm yellow on the people smoking outside the auto doors. A shadow grows against the light, dressed in nurse’s clothes. Those are called scrubs. It walks toward her, through the downward cones of streetlights: is a shadow, casts a shadow, is a shadow, casts—
He stops in front of her car. She winds down the window, and as she leans out she sees the moon, not quite full, but close enough that a child would say it was.
She thinks, he’s going to see me and say sorry, I thought someone had left their lights on.