I had never noticed it before. When I turn my car off, the little light indicating that the A/C is on does not just blink off but fades out. It slowly dies, like a candle when the wind is slowly sniffing it out and then the ember burns a bit more before the smoke starts. My monitor button does it too. I used to keep my monitor on all the time, in a way, just to avoid that little light from dying out.

The embers in my cigarette brighten up from a puff, then settle down, like coals from a cookout when you blow on them, the gray flaring up red, then reclining. Like any fire you build, poking the hottest wood to watch the brightest orange shiver the air around it, then go all ashy and dark again.

I think this is one reason halogen lamps became so popular. You didn't have to deal with stark darkness; now, you can slowly snuff the light out, your pupils opening in time. No one normally wishes to snuff out any light so suddenly unless they want to make a point with it, like a sharp goodbye instead of talk to you soon. I used to be in a big hurry to turn off the lights before bed because I didn't want to see myself, I didn't want him to see me. I wanted to be enveloped in a swift darkness that marked the night with a line you didn't see but felt. He knew what it meant, and he forgave me each night, and it took me years to get over it. But now I sleep alone, and I don't mind. I take out the lights one by one, room by room, until I've come to bed.

You would like to believe that my light goes out swift because I say good bye and turn the switch. You believe that my heart works this way, and sometimes you want it to. But it doesn't. It fades out too, it fights being blown out, despite my wish to shut it off. Snap, like a nickname for a girl. Like green beans in a bowl in the lap of an apron. Snap. Like the cap of a beer instead of the slow ease of a wine cork.

Lights fading out signify the end of something. Each play, each movie, each song fades out this way. Each thought in our heads and each ache in our hearts, even the aches in our bones linger. If it is abrupt it is because we make it so against nature, we strive to force the entry and exit of light. Clapping crickets in our hands makes us think we have caught them, that they will stop moving. But they don't, and neither do we.

Tell me, baby,
when I lost the rhythm,
the subway lurch
and one-handed,
strap-hanging melody
between piano lessons
and light lunches
at the Chinese restaurant
they knew us on sight at

or sitting on cold concrete
and moving to stay in the sun

There are rules -
fire escapes should be painted
and painted and painted
a particular green,
thick and slick as nature,
bolted to brick-face and
hanging like vines over the street -
no natural light but the light you bring,
flickering candles and instrumentality
that only goes flat when it's warranted
and okay with everyone involved,
a shortcut to that West Coast sound
from the early east-twenties

Tell me, baby, where that went;
Tell me why I don't read anymore

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