Today's Story by Benjamin Wachs

This is a law of the universe, and a source of much of its tragedy.

Phases of the Moon

We were in the forest, but more than that it was hard to tell.  Every time I looked up at the night sky, the moon was in a different phase.  Every time I looked up at the night sky, the constellations above us had changed.

It was hard to tell what we danced around.  Sometimes it seemed a roaring bonfire;  sometimes it seemed a mossy boulder;  sometimes it seemed a graven idol with many heads.  The dance was difficult, absorbing, you could not ask questions and do it well.

She was sad, and I wished to ease her mind because she was beautiful.  This is a law of the universe, and a source of much of its tragedy.  I left the dance, I had to pull myself away, to walk to where she sat on a what might have been a log or a leather couch.

Her hair was black like a raven.  Her skin was tan like a child of the sun.  Her eyes were green except when they reflected the light of the fire, when they became red.  She was dressed for a cold night, which it was not.

“You should dance with me,” I said, and held out my hand.

“No one dances with anyone in the circle,” she said.  “We only dance.”

“Dance with me here,” I said, “where you sit.”

“Why?” she asked.  And there was no answer except “because you are beautiful,” which was for me, not for her.  I said:  “I hope it will make you feel better,” which was not a lie.

“I am thinking,” she said, “of a pair of cold lips that I once kissed a long time ago.  I am thinking of white roses.  I am thinking of a place I once lived where the seasons did not change.  I think I want to go back there.”

I pointed to the dancing that pulsed around what looked to be a lioness nursing her cubs.  “This is better.”

She shook her head.

“Do you not think I’m beautiful?” I asked, though I knew I should not have.

She shook her head again.  “You have nothing to offer me.”

I saw that this was true, and that I did not want to sit with her and dream of cold lips and pale flowers and seasons that never changed, though the truth is I might have if she had asked.

The bonfire flared again in her eyes’ reflection, and I turned and ran back to it, leaping in to the whirling throng and thrust and pivoted and swirled, until I would become someone else.


Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media,, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at

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