When she was a little girl, she would watch the darkness in her bedroom, hypnotized by the grey-pink flecks that seemed to dance in the air while she waited for sleep. One night, she climbed out of bed to tell her parents that she saw fairies in the corner of her ceiling. Her mother dismissed her, saying it was only a trick of the eyes, but a faint smile played across her father’s mouth as he tucked her back into bed. “We’ll talk later,” he whispered as he shut the door. They never did. 

She eventually learned those shimmery dots were the natural interplay of retinal fluid and optical cones. But part of her still preferred to believe they were dancing pieces of darkness, the living material of the night. “Science shouldn’t explain everything,” she told me. She often succumbed to earaches and ennui, and she would watch the sparkles in the gloom, the rods and motes that flickered just beyond her vision. “Sometimes I thought God lived in the shadows of the ceiling,” she said, and she would gaze at the high corners of the room whenever she felt overwhelmed, half-expecting to find an answer there. “Some habits come strange and never leave.”

And some habits are infectious. Years later, I would find myself murmuring to the fluorescent lights at the Gas ’n Go or the drop ceilings of the church basements where people insisted on living a day at a time. Like her, I would search for answers in forgotten spaces with cobwebs and patchy paint jobs.

This is the second episode of Interstate Scenes, a fictional collection of homeless paragraphs, remixed and upcycled bits from the past, and bloopers from the stories I’m writing.