Brighten by Christopher Locke

It’s nearly morning. The sun climbs its invisible chord and slats the walls between the blinds. You too rise softly, so as not to wake your son sleeping beside you, and creep into the bathroom, unfolding the white piece of paper you keep in the medicine cabinet— beautiful brown powder more expansive and warm than a woman’s tropical embrace.

Acrid fluff and three quick snorts. Cold palmful of water then move to the cavernous living room. Windows surround you in accusation, yet look how beautiful the world is becoming. Settle on the couch and pick up the novel your wife was reading last week, before she left. Eyelids drop and rise. Repeat. The book slips from your fingers—in another time, you hear its quiet thump against your breastbone. A doorknob twists; small feet drum the wooden floor. “Daddy, where’s breakfast?” The words sour your face and you want nothing of language. He places his hand on yours. All those undulations brailled across your heart start their terrible unhooking, goodbye they call, goodbye.

You can’t bear any of it. “I’m hungry, daddy. Please.” As you keep your eyes shut, you see your own father. Before he waved to everyone eating in the grass on a red and white tablecloth near the trestle. Before he jumped. He fell soundlessly as a picture of him falling. Earlier that morning, he whistled for everyone to hurry, to pile into the running car. As you sidled past, he rubbed your back as if searching for wings. You continue to lie on the couch. Your son will not leave. And as the sunlight fully undresses across your face, your eyelids grow warm, then brighten, and you can finally see all the colors of your dreams.

Christopher Locke is the Nonfiction Editor at Slice magazine. His essays have appeared or will appear in a variety of magazines including Nowhere, Exquisite Corpse, Islands, Parents, The Sun, Bull: Men’s Fiction, The American Spectator, Ducts, and as a prize-winner in Georgetown Review. Chris has received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, New Hampshire Council on the Arts, and Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain). His second full-length collection of poetry, Waiting for Grace & Other Poems (Turning Point) and the memoir Can I Say (Kattywompus Press) were both released in 2013. See what Chris is up to at

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