Aurora Borealis

Roar a roar for Norah,
Norah Alice in the night,
For she has seen Aurora
Borealis burning bright.

A furore for our Norah!
And applaud auroras seen:
O where throughout the summer
has our Borealis been?
—Walt Kelly

Murphy is lost and does not know. He wakes up and simply does not know. Nothing looks familiar in the room where he spent the night. Is this the way it ends? You go to sleep and wake up lost, o lost? I mean, really, do you always sleep on a mattress on the floor? Are you at home or have you always been elsewhere, never at home? Hopelessly, inconsolably lost? The walls offer no clues. Posters for rock concerts you don’t remember. A digital clock stopped at 7:48:23. AM or PM? You don’t know. You hate digital clock radios. That you do know. The sheet that covers you is a dark purple you instantly despise. Jeez, did you chose this? Forfend! But what if you did? You have no idea why. Do you like purple in general or just hate this particular iteration? You don’t know. And iteration? What does that even mean?

Murphy sits up and holds out his hands. Are they even his? They have to be. After all, there they were at the ends of arms attached to his body. On his bare chest pink nipples wink. On his bare chest. The dimpled winking nipples make him queasy. Queasy with doubt. How could you live a life with nipples like these? No way. Could be anybody’s nipples, right? And the light coming in through the window making a brilliant polygon on the floor, is that really sunlight or just an illusion of light? Some weird hologram, an aurora. An elaborate practical joke, perhaps? A dream? Can you be dead certain that anything you see is what it appears to be?

Electronic twinkling from somewhere. A ring tone. Thumping guitar riffs. The opening bars of In a Gadda da Vida. You know that? But you know nothing of Iron Butterfly, Led Zeppelin, or any other mineral flying, my right? Now the cell phone on the floor beside the mattress vibrates. Murphy cannot recall having a cell phone. But if he did have one, why on earth chose Iron Butterfly for his ring tone? You just don’t know. Murphy just does not know. He picks up the phone and reads the name of the incoming caller. Norah. You know a Norah? Impossible too say. Taking a deep breath for courage, Murphy taps the green receiver symbol and cups the phone to his ear. He hankers for a voice. Any voice to remind him who he is.

Hello? A deep-throated woman’s voice you never heard before, saying, Are you there? Was this Norah? Murphy didn’t know, but he replied anyway. Yes, he said. I am here. Ah . . . is this Norah? Murphy! growls the voice. Is that really you? Murphy does not know, so you answer, I don’t know. We’ll see. Whoa, whoa, chuckles the rumbling voice. ’At’s you Murphy. Gotta be you. Murphy goes all icy and his hands shake, wondering, This Norah, she’s who? You say to the voice, Listen, Norah. Do I really sound like me? Like . . . did you really say my name’s Murphy? The voice claiming the name Norah says, Course you sound like you, hon. So sweetheart, where the fuck are you? Overhead whirs a cheap Chinese-made ceiling fan but you sweat, you always sweat. Where the fuck am I, Norah? I don’t know. Murphy, now quit messing with me. You’re a half-hour late already. I bet you ain’t even dressed yet.


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