We drove past the darkened restaurant, earlysummer, having left the park. I said "Mokehouse"—inside joke and looking for his memoryof a burnt-out letter, the name in doubt."No," he said, "it's Smokehouse again, all fixed,"and then a pause as we observed the sign.He signaled otherwise, noticing the sharedeffect of what was once defunct singly.The storefront was dark, but in the darkbackseat a growing mind grew luminous.Closing time opened a seam in his thinking."It goes like this," he decided, motionlessalert, intentional: ____________________."That's good," I said. "I think I see what you mean.Silence, right? Since the lights are off tonight?"Him: "No, that's not right." In the mirror he's seenshaking his head. Not that? Then what instead?"Is it nothingness? Or something empty?""No," he insisted. The sign's completely black.Saying the thing's not there is like a glimpseof its fulfillment. Lack is undercutwhen "lack" divides the air, comforting the ear.(Those, I confess, are my own betraying words.)His answer's better, and in the rearview mirror,was truer. Like the sign itself, still activebut less apparent. I barely saw his mouth,emerging from the shadows. It kept moving,to keep alive the broken functions [smokehouse smokehouse . . .]
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