Dirk Van Nouhys



 The Light Room


     A bright room, almost white. Bright cream. Bright as if the sun poured in but no sun seen. Warm but not hot. Filled with sunlight from somewhere, but no visible where. Apparently a cube, corners barely discernible in the brightness without shadows.
     Hands. Whose hands? Brown, veined tendons visible, insubstantial hair. Hands pressed flat, fingers spread against the wall. What arms press? Eyes seeing the hands, one and then the other, seeing the corners, the brightness, feeling the wall and how it does not yield to the fingers, to the palms. Warm, not very. Feeling the pressure in the wrists, feeling the down-press in the bones. A body felt leaning forward against the wall, back bent. The sensation of mass in space. Lifting back from the wall. Standing straight. A glance down showing a bright, curved surface, hard to make out like the corners, covered in cream-colored cloth, the surface of the body, it seems.
     Cupping the hands before the eyes as if to hold a mirror of water where an image might reflect. No thirst, no hunger, no tension in the bowls to piss or shit. Breathing quietly in a space well ventilated but with no breeze felt, no scent, no sound. Wait: the sound of breathing, of the blood in the ears, faint pounding, another, high, faint sound.
     Brown, bare feet, slightly parted, soles pressing the floor. The floor slightly warm. The feet, another part of the self, tendons, veins visible lifting the skin. Reaching down to touch them, finger tips just brushing, brown stretching fingers just brushing the tendons, sensations in the tips of the fingers and the skin, in the streching knee backs. Oh, to know, to know them!
     Bending, crouching, feeling the muscles and bones bending and gathering, sitting, rolling on the back.
     On the back, the knobby vertibrae on the floor, no feeling of the cloth on skin. Drawing up the feet. The arch of the back on the floor rolling up. Hands opening, grasping the feet. The brown, sinewy hands and feet joined in brightness, making new shapes together. Pulling the feet close, kissing them, lips feeling soft toes, feeling the lips themselves, rediscovered. Tears wetting the eyes. Rolling on the side. A feeling of being lower now, grasping the feet, kissing and kissing them, tears coming. The chaotic grunt of sobs, crying, bawling. Loosing the feet.
     The smell of sweat, the taste of tears, the ringing in the throat of sobbing bring a stream of memories: I was just a little kid running on the beach running after my distant mother, the sharper-than-sweat smell of the cold, flat sea, the black branches of seaweed waterless on the sand, the distant figures, running gasping for breath. I remember being in the forest, dark green, moist, musty, the array of moist rounded soft crumbling textures. I remember when I was caught, the hands pinning my arms, too strong for struggle, not screaming, afraid to scream, then in a tiny room like a box, dusty, coughing. I hear the voice of my owner. I eat his food. I come out of the box and dance stiffly at his command. I remember my beloved, remember imagining the touch of my belovedís cheek against my cheek, which never happened. My beloved watched me dance but never knew I saw. Now I remember imagining the touch.
     I roll to my knees and press the wall. It is not hard like rock, but it does not give. On my knees I work my self all around the room. It is all the same; it does not give, but with memories hope has streamed in. I stand and tap the wall. A quiet thumping sound. I knock all around the room. It is the same. Tears come again. It is the same. I fall to my knees again and press my head to the wall. More memories flow: I am walking in the woods hand in hand with...I canít see the who. Is it my father, my owner, my beloved? I see it as if it were a dream and not a memory, but with memories hope has streamed in.
     I begin pounding the wall. I work my way along the walls again pounding as hard as I can. The thud of the pads on the sides of my clenched fists pounding at the wall, not hollow but sounding. I begin to grunt with each effort, arching my back, heaving forward, my breath filling my lungs.
     The wall breaks; a gap opens with a thwuk. I stumble forward, half out of the room, the broken wall jams into my guts. Blackness and stars! Brilliant endless blackness in every direction, below, above, to each side encrusted with brilliant stars! My hands swinging chaotically before my drying eyes. Wind blowing out from the room. The blow to my stomach has knocked the breath out of me. I try to draw a breath. Nothing, no air; it has blown past me. Trying to suck in but nothing, slashing my lungs, like choking, nothing, pain in the lungs and chest. The blackness, space, stars, but eyes drying in pain. Straining my clenching chest to suck, but no breath, nothing to save me. Dizziness starts. I will die.

© 2010 Dirk van Nouhuys: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior permission of the author.

Dirk van Nouhuys is a native of Berkeley, with a BA from Stanford in creative writing and an MA from Columbia in contemporary literature. He is married with three grown children. He worked for decades as a tech writer and manager. A few years ago he devoted full time to fiction.

He writes short stories, some experimental forms, and occasionally verse, but mostly novels, which have been published only in excerpts or serially. About 70 items of fiction and a few poems have appeared in literary or general magazines. He occasionally publishes photography.

He recently republished as an e-book his 1986 translation of two Flemish novels, The Danger and The Enemy. The Enemy is about people exposed to radiation in a nuclear accident; check out: http://www.wandd.com/Site/D%26E.html. You can learn more about him at his web site, www.wandd.com.