” The kettle whistled.
I took my tea to the back porch and sat down on the patio chair, a folding chair I picked up from the thrift store in town. I bought it a few years back with intentions of taking it with me on holidays. That night I unfolded it on the porch with a drink in my hand. The night was clear, the air was that soft warm summer air that closes your eyes dully over your eye’s black holes. I looked up at the stars with so much hope in my head, so many plans, so much I wanted to do. The neighbor’s floodlights lit up and made my eyes squint, made the stars hide. My view was gone; the spotlights ignited the backyard, the fences separating my neighbors, my body. This is ridiculous, I thought, on a beautiful starry summer night- we don’t get many of these in the Northeast. I didn’t want any confrontation, I just wanted to see the stars. I took a big sip of my drink and carried it with me to the neighbor’s house. I knocked on the door. No answer. After about the third knock, I could hear locks twisting and opening and mumbling behind the door.
A man and a woman appeared. Their eyes looked awfully tired and they stood there quite uninvitingly in their pajamas. They didn’t speak.
“Um, excuse me,” I didn’t know their names. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before. “Hi, I’m the guy next door- Benjamin Luxo-” they didn’t care. “I was hoping- it’s a pretty nice night out, the stars are all out, but I can’t see them with your house lights on.”
“Lookit, Mr. Lux,” the man started, “It’s three a.m. You’re knocking at my door at this hour on a Monday night with a drink in your hand and no shoes on your feet and you’re complaining to me that you can’t see the stars? I think you have bigger issues on your hands.” His wife did not speak but said everything on her face.
“What trouble is it of yours to turn the switch off?”
“We keep it on every night. Makes the wife feel safe.”
“It wasn’t on earlier. Look, there are only a few more hours of the night left anyway. I’ll watch your backyard! I’ll be your backyard’s bodyguard for Christ’s sake. There are only so many summer nig-”
“The light is on now and will be every night for as long as we’re living in this house. if you wanna look at the stars you’re just going to have to leave and go somewhere darker. Now Goodnight, Mr. Lux.” He pressed his arm up against his wife to nudge her back as he shut the door. She craned her head around his shoulder to squeeze in one more dirty eye.
I lifted my drink to her, in honor of women like her. In fact, I even announced a toast, “To all the men and women who forever need a light on to stay safe from darkness.” I finished my drink on their steps and walked back to my lawn chair.
It’s been sitting on my back porch ever since, the fabric broken in and sunken, the colors worn out pale. The hinges got a little rusty, making it difficult to fold up. This stubborn, lazy characteristic embodied the chair over the years, enough to make itself stuck looking at the same backyard for three years. “