Arts » Arts Stories & Interviews

Headlights by Amanda Salerno


Here’s a piece where time is understood in the fragmentation and uneven flare of car lights passing through a room. Sleepless nights are like that. Significance shifts around and is often locked into one’s head broken only by a creak or a sudden light. Here it appears to be chronic. If you can’t sleep, check out the flash fiction blog at the Current. There are lots of stories to read. Lots of very good stories. The other thing you could do is write your own and send them to me: I’m looking for approximately 500 words. Send me the story in the body of the email and as an attachment. Enjoy and sweet dreams.

—Lyle Rosdahl

Headlights by Amanda Salerno

I lay in bed with my eyes open, breathing heavily through my mouth to imitate the sound of sleeping. I watched the shadows on the ceiling swell and retract from headlights spilling through the small spaces where a draft pushed the curtains from the window. A stray headlight slid its way across a mountain of down, fell behind the sleeping body next to me, and climbed the white bedroom wall. I slipped a leg out from the worn white comforter. Heat flew out to be replaced by cold, a biting chill that would have drained my body of tiredness if any part of me was tired. I shifted my body towards the center of the bed, turned my head over on the pillow. The bright red hair tangled on the pillow next to mine was stained black in the dark. “Are you awake?” I whispered into the folds of his black tee shirt, just quietly enough that I couldn’t be heard. His wide chest undulated in his sleep but otherwise remained still. I had always found watching people sleep, their jaws slack and eyes twitching, to be more peaceful and restoring than sleeping myself. Watching his long fingers, the thin stretch of burn on his left hand, the crooked nose broken in childhood, made my own eyelids fall lazily. Lazily, but never sleepily; my eyes made the distinction clear. Within seconds they were open again, staring once more at a black teeshirt, my mind clear and alert and unforgiving. I waited for the besiege of harmful thoughts. Fuck-ups, grievances, bad dreams, violent thoughts pommeled my consciousness until they were in the spotlight. I had reached that part of the night when I could no longer grasp at the reassurances that sometimes restrained my fears. They overwhelmed me, emptied and refilled me until I was composed of nothing but the fears that kept me from sleeping. The empty sound of silence rushed into my ears, muting the wind and the soft constant buzzing of electricity. My arms and legs felt endless and heavy. I tried to remember what it felt like to sleep. The black teeshirt next to me stirred as he tried to stretch but listlessly relaxed back into the bed. Freckled arms stretched across my stomach and curled around my waist, tugging me closer. “Nightmares keeping you up again?” said a drowsy voice close to my ear. I considered answering, but I was tired of talking about my nightmares. At least I was tired of something. I closed my eyes at the same moment he turned towards me, checking to see if I was awake. He watched for a moment, then turned back over; my eyes snapped open. I watched a headlight glide across the ceiling. --- Lyle Rosdahl, a writer living in San Antonio, edits the flash fiction blog & best of in print for the Current. He created, facilitates and participates in Postcard Fiction Collaborative, a monthly flash fiction response to a photo. You can see more of his work, including photos, paintings and writing, at Send your flash to

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