Bad Moon on the Rise


Our Daily Correspondent

Photo: Patrick Murtha

In the hours before the lunar eclipse, my husband and I were in one of those nightmarish, mammoth craft stores—shopping for some vellum, as one does—and I began to sing along with Dion’s cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” I sing a lot, and with great gusto. And if you’re doing Dion, well, you have no choice but to go full falsetto on the wah-wah-wah-wah-wonder part. I mean, anything worth doing, et cetera.

My husband looked slightly self-conscious. After a moment, he said, “It makes me feel funny sometimes when you sing along like that in public.” 

I was stung. Because, again, I sing a lot. By myself, too—it’s a spontaneous expression of joy in life. Or so I have always thought. First tears came to my eyes. Then, in short order, I became coldly furious.

“I wish you hadn’t said that,” I said with great dignity. “I’m sorry I embarrass you. It won’t happen again.”

And then he was immediately contrite and said he loved my singing, and it was his problem, and he envied my lack of self-consciousness, and he was so sorry, and please never stop doing it.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to, anymore,” I said, with a sort of disillusioned gravity. “I’m glad you were honest with me.”

Then I said I thought I’d better do the grocery shopping by myself and meet him at home, and I walked away in high dudgeon.

I was singing along with that Smash Mouth song “All Star” in the supermarket when it happened. I bent over to retrieve a coin and felt a sharp, ominous pain on the right side of my lower back. When I tried to stand up, I yelped in agony.

I managed to hobble to the street and find a taxi. When I got home, I took Advil and tried to stretch my back with a roller. It hurt horribly, but I figured that probably meant it was working. However, by the time my husband returned home it was to find me supine and exhausted, unable to sit, walk, or roll. He was terribly alarmed.

We agreed I’d see a doctor as soon as possible. In the meantime, he insisted I stay absolutely still, with a heating pad under my back. He put soft socks on my feet and ran out to get more painkillers. And although I was initially resistant, within an hour I was requesting pillow adjustments and a bite of the top crust of a baguette, dipped in pan sauce.

“But we have to see the moon!” I said in a panic. Out of the question, he said. And it didn’t matter, and we’d see the one in thirty-three years, health permitting.

“Just one look,” I pleaded. So with great difficulty, he helped me stand up. First he thought he’d carry me to the elevator, but this was more painful still, so instead I walked, very slowly, wincing like the Little Mermaid in the original, terrifying, Hans Christian Andersen version.

When we got to the roof, I very carefully lay down on the tar paper and looked up at the sky. There was nothing—just clouds. And then, a tiny sliver of moon. Bright, yes, but barely visible. And then, gone again—a huge mass of clouds was moving in and showed no signs of lifting. Several other neighbors showed up on the roof, stood around for a second, and then left, deflated.

The old man who lives in a sort of shack on the roof of the neighboring building—somewhere between magical and depressing, depending on who you ask—came out briefly, looked around, then went back inside and turned on a football game. It made me sad, because this was surely his last chance for a blood moon. On the other hand, he was ambulant, which was more than I could say.

It was all pretty disappointing. Then my husband started to sing.

“Turn around … ”

“Every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you’re never coming round,” I added.

We sang and sang. We harmonized on “now I’m only falling apart” and “now there’s only love in the dark.” We had never sounded better.

I don’t know what to do
I’m always in the dark
Living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever’s gonna start tonight

I wondered if it bothered the old man in the sort of shack. He lived alone.

It was hard to stand, and the brief walk to and from the elevator was painful. But after I was tucked up in bed with a hot-water bottle and some painkillers, I was able to sleep. And in the morning, I felt slightly but perceptibly better.

Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.