Sunrise was an acquired taste. A bitter wash of gray on the horizon, scrubbing away the heavy night sky. A light brush of pink, and purple, and yellow, sweet almost to the point of cloying after the weight of the scouring that came before. A following brightness, fading through the last of the stars. Light that sept gently into blood and bone and breath, bright as mint. All of it drawn out, one insistent moment after another, to make it palatable.
Brance blinked into the growing light. He yawned. His tongue felt thick in his mouth, and his shoulders ached dully. Every thought was slow and flighty as a breeze, and constantly interrupted by the notion that shutting his eyes would be very comfortable. Laying down would be pleasant as well, but not necessary. He could sleep just where he was. And yet, after drinking in too many dawns, one more was hard to turn down.
He liked sunset better.
Sunset was a wilder thing. The sky suddenly burst from its placid blues to riot around the disappearing day. The workshops and boathouses broke open. The streets filled with folk happy just to be moving. Houses overflowed with candlelight and voices and the smell of dinner wine. Taprooms woke up. On one patio or another, musicians competed to drown out the stamping feet of their dancers. The rigidity of the day melted away with the light and the whole city seemed finally, finally awake. Even the things, which should have, perhaps, been left sleeping.
Brance liked to wander in the dark.
Up one street and down another.
He found long houses where the music played too loudly, and the drinks were always unrefined but very large. Some nights, he drank too much to easily use his feet, and he didn’t care. He danced until the room spun. He liked the flow of shadows and the brilliance of the lamps.
He found closed doors, and opened them into warm back rooms. He played card games with men happy to risk their money against his. He won, and he lost, and he liked it best when they played for pride, for grandmother’s sapphires, and for spun sugar. He liked the risk and the recovery, the secrets which seemed a little less secret in the secluded midnight hours.
He lost his shoes once, between Harker Street and the pier. He helped a boy steal back a large, black dog and traded every gilded button on his coat for flowers for a girl he never met. He paid too much for a horse with a spots on its side that looked like the Archer constellation. He talked all night about dead philosophers with a man with only the right side of his beard. He learned three chords for the guitar from a man who also only knew three chords, and butchered every song they knew in a tavern that hated them. He liked the corners that were carved out for the restless, the reckless, and the rudderless.
Brance slid between the night hours, all their edges undefined. Their beginnings and endings didn’t matter much when ten in the evening didn’t look too different from midnight, and midnight did not hold any more purpose than three in the morning. And then, slowly and suddenly, sunrise came to scour away everything from the night before.
A new day, washed perfectly clean. A little bitter from the scouring, a little cloying after the first swallow. After a few hundred of them, he liked the taste.
Last night, Brance had slept. He tumbled into bed while it was still light, after not having slept at all the night before. He thought he would it would be a quick nap, that he would wake to the noise and bustle of a fading day and catch a full night still. He woke to quiet instead. The floor was cold against the bottoms of his feet, and his body felt thick, all the things his mind had taken apart in sleep not yet put back together again. The hours seemed all out of order.
Opening his window, the breeze met him. He took a deep breath. He thought about shutting his eyes again.
The edge of the horizon, pressed down against the ocean where it glittered lazily was turning gray. No, turning pink. There was both, and he couldn’t find the line between them except to say it was creeping higher. Watching, Brance blinked, rolled his shoulders. He tried to imagine what was being scrubbed away when he hadn’t done anything at all the night before.
My friends are all thieves! They stole the first line of this piece so they could run off and write fictions of their own. Be sure to check out what everyone else did with their new day, here.