A drop of molten grease spills over the lip of the candle. It lands on a rocky outcrop of wax that has accumulated on the neck of the bottle, evidence of a thousand nights of conversation, of hopes and dreams, of aspirations.
We sit and we talk. We never look back. We never discuss where we've been, what we've seen and felt and experienced. No, that is behind us now. It is not a part of our present. Our present is about our future: where we would like to go, what we want to see and feel and experience.
The flame projects its light towards the ceiling, like our thoughts for the future. The light and shadows dance around each other and across the walls: flickering, whimsical, intangible, just as our plans. Nothing is settled, or permanent, or definite.
On all those other nights, dawn would bring a realisation. The increasingly definite rays of sunlight would remind us that there is a here and a now, and that we bear burdens and have obligations and responsibilities. By daylight, we would be forced to confront them; by candlelight they were but a whisper from another world. So one of us would snuff out the candle, leaving our hope-infused and dream-inspired conversations for under cover of darkness. They were not for daylight's ears.
But this night, this morning, it will be different; we both know this. The candle is growing smaller and it won't see out the night. Throughout the evening we have both been casting surreptitious, anxious glances its way. Without admitting it — either to ourselves or to each other — we both know what this means.
The first smears of sunlight are beginning to mark the cream walls with acute orange strokes. The shadows are fading as sunlight begins to envelop the room. The candle is starting to gutter, and as it struggles and stutters the sunlight grows stronger. Night's aspirational dance is losing to day's irrepressible march. The flame makes two alarmingly painful leaps as it gulps for air before it succumbs. There's nothing left, save the grease on the side of the bottle and a blackened, fragile element of wick, clinging to the rim. There is no candle to put to bed, no dreams to suspend in their animation. There is no more hope to burn and no more future projections to trace across the ceiling. It's over.
I can feel his hand over mine. Our eyes are adjusting to the new light, pupils contracting, leaving us feeling disoriented. Carefully, he looks towards me.
'Time to go?'
'Time to go,' I nod.