Things That Happen in an Eclipse

By Susan Harlan

I’m lying on my back on a blanket in the front yard, and I have my glasses and my dog.

My next-door neighbor is out front, too, on his porch, talking to some other neighbors who have walked over, but I can’t hear what they’re saying.

He is an old man. I sit up and call over to him, ask him if he has seen it yet.

No way. I’m not going out in that heat, he says, holding his white paper glasses.

I smile and say okay and lie down again.

I can feel earrings on my neck and the mulch of the flowerbed on the back of my head. The flowerbed needs weeding.  

My dog pants, and I pet her.

I watch. Sometimes I check the time: maximum eclipse at 2:41 p.m. Just partial, but still.

There is the occasional passing car. I wonder if they mind that they’re missing it.

Beyond my glasses are the shaded sky and the carpenter bees that put holes in my porch.

Wind chimes and cicadas, the sense of a shift.

Nothing is happening, nothing that I can see, without the glasses. Only in the glasses, it is happening.

I watch. Once, I hit my glasses accidentally, and for a second there is the sun, and I wonder if I will go blind but decide not to worry about it.

Now I know that I think of people in eclipses. Maybe this is what eclipses do. Maybe because you are under a thing you have never seen before, you think of things you have seen and known.

The sun becomes the moon and the moon becomes nothing, like thoughts passing over one another, on their way somewhere else.



open-uri20150201-3-2kdp0_profile_largeSusan Harlan’s work has appeared in venues including The Guardian US, The Toast, Roads & Kingdoms, The Bitter SouthernerThe Morning News, Curbed, The Common, Atlas Obscura, Literary Hub, Nowhere, Public Books, Jezebel, and The Awl, and she teaches English literature at Wake Forest University. Her book Luggage will be published with the Bloomsbury series Object Lessons in March 2018.

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