An Eternal Night

By Joy Wang
April 27, 2024

Let me be free, let me want again. Let the sun shine down into my room.

I can’t even think in here.

My roommates jeer at the televised football game to my right, and a dog howls in shrill anguish to my left. And if I hold my breath, my upstairs neighbors’ climaxing moans will join them. The circulating heat of my bathroom fan hums with my sighs. I wiggle my toes, and I can feel the cool metallic edge of my bed frame.

Strapped to my scratchy bedsheets, I lie awake in earnest. My eyes are already sore from staying open too long in the stale air of my new room. The edible I took as makeshift melatonin has yet to hit, so I wait in this purgatorial paralysis instead. Fear dips my lungs into a congealing slop. If I don’t sleep now, I’ll stay a prisoner to this catastrophe of capitalism.

I turn my face against my pillow, and it’s as if the sun has been sealed entirely away from me. I imagine that it lies just beyond the thin plaster of my walls, its wayward tendrils of light stowed into the uneven bruises along the topcoat paint. My uncharged sunset lamp — bought on a landlord influencer’s recommendation — sputters out its final pitiful dying light. I watch as it groans and undulates painfully with the stillness around us, as if it, too, in its Amazon plasticity, has been extinguished by this never-ending room.

The management desk was so sure that it was going to be easy. “Most people hardly open their curtains anyway,” they had insisted, eager for me to jump on their last unit left: a windowless 4x4. The only affordable offer left near campus.

Now, with only a Sky Lite Galaxy Projector charting my night vision, I am greeted again by my forthright wall. In such a regime of darkness, its perpetuity stretches beyond all imagination; the four sides it is caged by cave into each other, and in their place, my wall will rage on for an eternity.

I poke at the fingernail indents left by previous inhabitants. The walls’ virgin renter-friendly cleanliness mocks me — untouched, unmoved, uninterrupted. Unlived.

I can’t reasonably relax under its glare, so I opt instead to exhaust myself in the only way I know how: I put my fingers between my legs. I’m gazing at the visible drywall in front of me when I cum, my fluids puttering politely into my hands.

But when I close my eyes, an orgasm-induced fatigue washing me anew, I realize at once that sleep can no longer be my sole intermittent escape. Instead: the hazardous melting plaster of my walls waits for me. I’m plunged into a churning, cavernous emptiness so deep I can no longer feel — even in my dreams, I belong only to this room. Desperation arrests my fraught mind so wholly, but I welcome it because thinking is the only reminder that I have a body. But even this stifling terror cannot plug in the gaping holes of my skin.

I shudder so violently that I fling awake. And now I’m at it again — I thrust into myself, over and over, until I can’t stand it anymore, until I am undeniably wrought with feeling, until I can never again yield to the night. My groin spasms from pain, the raw ache of motion striking through me.

I drag myself upward, panting from the exertion of fighting, and I pry my legs away from the magnetic force of my bed. I stumble straight into the corner of my desk — of course, a mere few inches away from me because how else will we both fit — searching for something more to anchor me down in my imminent weightlessness.

Swiping my hand across a littered chain of Tupperware and take-out containers, I grasp onto the only usable spork left, and I gorge on the moldy dregs of my leftovers. Campbell’s and Kraft and Jell-O roll down my throat until I start choking from my rush. I’m buckling in nausea, the most natural human inclination, and I think, Thank God.

But after indistinguishable foodstuffs soar heatedly through my throat, I’m dangling again in that goddamn murk. Cubes of moist bile drop steadily from my lips, and I panic-crawl into an interloping nether-space. The dimensions of the walls morph around me the further the square footage I stretch across; I can’t tell where I end and where this room begins.

The voiding darkness opens its great mouth under me, and I start falling through every dimension. I’m quick to scratch off my vomit-drenched Vans and Levi’s. They, too, cling readily to me, afraid, quivering, knowing that we are all that is left. But when I finally get rid of all that I own, they become nothing as easily as I have. I shudder, but I know better than to look behind me.

Now as bare as the day I first drew breath, I at last hold myself true, trembling in time with my heart. But I succumbed a long time ago to this room, back when I signed the lease, and my body can only follow suit. Blood surges, red-hot and angry, from my embattled flesh. I stop resisting my foretold failure at last, and the all-encompassing night sears straight through me.

Defeated, I lay my numb body down, now as heavy as the air around me. My skin and hair and nails fuse with my bodily liquids, and I sink into the irritated gray plaster of my walls.

But when I close my eyes, I dream of light. I’m staring directly into the sun, its incomprehensible enormity burning a purifying rod through me. I watch as it ambles further and further away until it shrinks permanently behind the cracked drywall. Night gushes forth, lapping at the retina-blearing magnificence. But it prevails: sunlight gets congested into the beads of air in the room’s interior paste and spun into the veins of haphazard paint layers. Empires will always fall.

My eyes fling open, and hope ignites through me. I smooth my fingers over the holes tried by past years’ tenants, and I know at once what I must do. I begin clawing furiously through the coagulated tons of regurgitated soup and ejaculation and blood that surround me. I can feel so intimately the licks of my heart stirring once more, and I know that I can nearly see it now.

I push myself to stand again, and I run across the remaining solid ground until I reach the edge of my eternal wall. It all begins roaring back into me, these spectres of touchdown chants and canine melodies. I hold my breath, the same yearning flaring within me like never before, and I tear open the infinite expanse in front of me.

And at last, at last — 

Layout: Emmy Chen
Photographer: Will Whitworth
Stylists: Reyana Tran & Mimo Gorman
Set Stylist: Evangelina Yang
HMUA: Jaishri Ramesh & Meryl Jiang
Nail Artist: Meryl Jiang
Models: London Tijani & Miu Nakata

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