On Crashes in the Night


We were woken up by the crash of something large and fragile, not in the bedroom but somewhere close, definitely inside the apartment. The first inclination was to blame Dante or Zephyr, but they seemed equally perplexed as we examined the crystal decanters in the dining room and the earthenware collection in the living room and found all of these pieces intact. The orchids remained perfectly still — perhaps even indignantly so — in front of the window, and we resisted the temptation to contemplate The George Washington Bridge, lit up like a giant circus tent over the Hudson, as we turned our attention to the more remote areas from which we surmised the noise must have come. In fact, as we soon discovered, two shelves in the maid’s bathroom had collapsed under the weight of the twenty or thirty bath sheets kept on hand for the hordes of guests we know will never arrive–the gay recluse never entertains except in theory–which had fallen from a height of perhaps 12 feet onto a smaller glass shelf above the sink, itself left intact, but from which a small vase had been knocked to the ground, where it now lay shattered on the tiles among the heaps of towels, fractured shelving, and scattered cloves that had been contained in the vase. Though the damage was admittedly slight and took less than five minutes to clean up, we found it impossible to return to sleep as we questioned why the shelf–stable for so many years, and holding the exact same number of towels–had chosen this particular moment to free itself from its moorings. At three in the morning, it becomes difficult to consider such a question without a mix of terrible dread and expectation, as if it were our own life about to be unhinged from the walls of reality.

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