It was a hot, pitch-black night. Years had worsened my sleep and the closeness of the air deterred me from trying to sleep. Sitting on a stool in the hall of the boardinghouse, I was listening to the darkness. From time to time, some short steps approached, stopped, sniffed around and went away with the same light pace. Sometimes, I glanced at the image that the flickering yellow light of the stranger cast on the wall across the street. It was periodically crossed by the shadow of a mislead butterfly.
I had just lit another cigarette when I saw a figure moving about in the light for a minute. Then it disappeared. The window went dark, and I heard a door along the staircase and the rumble of someone hurtling down the stairs. A moment after, he was in the hall. I thought he was going to bump into me. He suddenly stopped, obviously surprised to meet a human being still living in that heat. When some men meet in a desert place, they have to exchange words to display their good intentions ; so I asked him :
"Where are you going ?"
"To take a walk. It's too hot."
"Is he reckless ?" I thought. I warned him : "Everything's closed. And no streetlights around here. You'd better stay put."
He muttered something to close the discussion. Once we had exchanged these customary words, each of us went back to his previous occupation : I listened to the darkness, he continued his way out onto the street.
My cigarette was the only light remaining in the night. I was absent-mindedly looking at its glowing red end. The silence had returned. My cigarette went out. A few minutes later, it slipped through my fingers and I began to doze.
The sudden appearance of the moon from behind a cloud illuminated the street and brought me out of my torpor. It was low on the horizon and made the windows into the black eyes of white-skinned houses.
Some time later – I cannot say how long – the young man ran back to the house and up the stairs to his room. He may have had an unpleasant encounter, I thought. I had warned him. He left town the day after and, I figured, he might not be back for quite a while.