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If We Could Only Dim the Stars

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If Meriwether was telling the story he’d probably start off by saying ‘Some unknown quality in the air set my mind against felicity that night’ or ‘The pangs in my breast as I entered the ballroom told me that the evening would not be as cavalier as wished’, but I’m not Meriwether. Actually, I was quite looking forward to the ball. I loved our son but I was heartily glad that he was old enough to be left in the care of servants for a few hours. This was to be the first evening since Meriwether was born that Julia and I went out and did something for ourselves. The ‘unknown quality in the air’ was raising my spirits in anticipation of good food, good company, and good music.

“Now I just fed him, so he shouldn’t bother you for at least a few hours. He might give you a little trouble latching but be persistent-”

“Julia please,” I said, smiling at Lottie, the negro wet nurse a friend of ours let us borrow for the night. “She’s raised three babies and is nursing her fourth, I’m sure she can be relied upon.”

“Well alright. You be careful, you hear? We’re not too far away, send a servant if you need to fetch us.”

“We’ll be just fine.” Lottie smiled reassuringly and held her arms out for Meriwether. After some fussing Julia complied.

“York, the carriage?”

“Out front, sir.”

“Well then darling,” I said, waggling my eyebrows. “It would seem our chariot awaits.”

Julia laughed and made a show of sticking out her elbow. I took it and she squeezed herself against me as we walked out.

Foreshadowing my left foot.

***

The weather was as determined as my mood to give me absolutely no warning of the events to come. The sky was perfectly clear with a rambling wind that took the edge of the June heat. Even the mosquitos seemed scared away by the festivities in the air. All her reluctance forgotten, Julia took me by the hand and guided me through the barrage of cursory greetings and small talk I was obliged to engage in, steering us to the front of the dance line.

Once Julia was on the floor she simply would not consent to be anywhere else, and I was reminded that new mother or not, she was full of youthful vigor. Perhaps in a few years I would have trouble keeping up with her but that night? It intoxicated me.

The song ended and Julia leaned against me. “I swear I haven’t had this much fun since our wedding night. I’m so glad you convinced me to come.”

“I am rather glad Lewis convinced me to join the Lodge.” I said. “The enjoyment of a dance is so heightened when your partners are, by requirement, intelligent members of polite society.”

“Speak of the devil,” Julia said, nodding her head towards the ballroom entrance. Meriwether was standing there searching. His eyes met mine and he brightened up. It made me smile to see how put together he looked. I knew it was the result of at least an hour of preening. Of course his vest matched his shoes and his hair was slicked back with a perfect part in the middle.

“I have half a mind to announce to the whole room that their governor gets the worst bed hair I’ve ever seen.” I said rolling my eyes. Julia slapped my arm and laughed.

“Well alright, I’ll find someone to chat with for a little while,” Julia sighed. “But Bill?”

“Hmm?”

“Please remind Governor Lewis that you do in fact have a wife, and she really truly does want to see something of her husband this evening.”

“We’ll have the last dance I promise.” I kissed her and set to the task of pushing my way through to my friend.

“Bill!” Lewis saidu, grinning. “I haven’t seen you in so long I was beginning to think that you no longer existed.”

“What are you talking about Meriwether; you see me all the time?”

“You’re quite incorrect the person I see is William Clark my agent for Indian Affairs. And from time to time on the weekends I get to see “Darling”, husband and father. My friend Bill is scarce indeed.”

“Uh-huh.” I said crossing my arms. “Well based on their behavior I must’ve assumed that the Meriwether at home was the adult and given him all my conversation.”

“A horrid mistake.” He smiled. “But come on really I’m so glad you came. Have a drink with me.”

I glanced at my wife from across the room. “Alright, but only one. You know this is practically the first time Julia’s had an outing since your namesake and she wants to dance.”

“Ever the amorite.” Lewis said. “Well don’t worry we’ll get you back before Madam gets restless.” His smile was far too tight. He turned to lead me into the drawing room.

“Julia.” I whispered. “Her name is Julia.”

***

“He really won’t work with you at all?”

“Not in the slightest.” Meriwether said, emphatically slamming down his glass. I was still nursing my first but Lewis was calling for drink number three. “It’s only getting worse.” He sipped from his new drink. “Letting that self-important prick wreak havoc here for a full year before coming to St. Louis was my worst mistake.”

“Careful Meriwether you know he’s here tonight. I caught a glance of him in the other room.”

“He’d do well to stay there.” Lewis said with a dismissive hand gesture.

“Talk to him. I can’t imagine he’d be so ill-mannered as to reject an earnest plea for sportsmanship.”

“Hah!” Lewis gave me a look. “That’s just the thing. We’ll have a “chat” and we’ll agree to respectfully disagree and treat each other with the civility that befits our positions, but give it a few days and it’s as if we never talked.”

“Well I’m sorry. It seems like a damn hopeless situation, from every angle.”

“I wouldn’t mind it so much if he only disagreed with me. I’m no Caesar and this certainly isn’t Rome. I can handle a little criticism.” I pursed my lips to avoid spitting the whiskey I had just imbibed into my friend’s face. Since when? “ But he insists on challenging my authority in front of everyone and anyone. I can’t decide to have turkey for lunch without a lengthy tirade on how unwise of a choice it is I’ve made and how ham would’ve been better, not just for my gastrointestinal track, but for the future of the country.”

“Let him quibble. What’s a Frederick Bates to a Meriwether Lewis?”

That earned me a small smile. “I could withstand his quibbling very easily if he would just stick to matters of policy. But what I’m being asked to withstand are direct attacks on my honor and the honor of my friends. He hates you Bill, rest assured.”

“We’ve barely had occasion to exchange much more than a good afternoon!”

“That doesn’t matter to him, it’s the principle!” Lewis took another sip. “You like me, therefore he hates you. Not to mention despite only ever treating me with bald-faced contempt he still feels entitled to the Indian policy assignments I give you.”

“We’ll there’s no accounting for hurt feelings.” I said. “He’s just an ambitious bureaucrat. Throw him a bone now and again to keep him satiated.”

“Hmpf.” Lewis downed the rest of the glass. “The new game is ignoring me as soon as the workday is over. He won’t even wish me a good evening as we walk out the door.” Someone gave us both more drinks.

“To Frederick Bates,” I said as we clinked our glasses together. “You know Lewis I ought to be getting back to my wife.”

“Well,” Lewis said. “I guess your one drink is over, and I’ve spent the whole of it complaining.”

I leaned forward. “Come back with me. Surely you can find a pretty girl to dance with that will lift your spirits more than whiskey and sitting alone.”

“Oh no,” Lewis said with a faraway look in his eyes. “I’m sure I’d just be in the way.”

“Well you wouldn’t be,” I said taking both of our mostly full whiskey glasses and depositing them onto a servant’s platter. I didn’t like how my friend’s gaze followed the liquor. “But if your mood doesn’t bend towards dancing then work the room. These people are your constituents after all.”

“Soon perhaps. I’m feeling a little unsteady, my malarial bouts are becoming quite hard to manage.” There was a lot I could’ve said to that statement but I held my tongue. I knew he needed to stop drinking and I knew perfectly well all the hardship that entailed. If Meriwether wanted to correct himself I would be there to throw my full support behind him, but if he didn’t? Well I just didn’t have enough strength to start that conversation. Not and be home by dinner.

I lingered at the edge of the room for a minute, looking at my friend. He seemed deep in thought and after a moment he got up and grabbed his chair to go into the other room. It was obvious to me after our conversation that he was going to do something involving Bates. I ought to have gone after him, made sure he and his whiskey behaved themselves and for more than just a heartbeat I considered it. But I could hear the music from the other room and I knew that I had left Julia longer than was kind. Besides, I really wanted to dance.

***

We got one dance together. One dance and then I was tapped on the shoulder by Pernier, who’s look told me that Lewis’ request to come at once was not to be ignored.

“Oh sir, everyone saw them.” Pernier said as he led me. “Everyone saw them.”

“Doing what?” I knew I shouldn’t have left him. “It was Bates wasn’t it?”

“Bill!” Lewis said as I came into the room. He was leaning against the wall, whiskey glass in hand and I was immediately sensible that the liquor’s effect had begun to show on his face. Lewis was never so poor a gentleman that he would slur his speech when under the influence, but he would become… unrestrained.

“Meriwether, what hap-”

He grabbed me by the arm and said in harsh whisper, “I need you to go into the other room and tell that ill-bred prickly pear he’s to meet me with his pistols at his earliest convenience.”

I believe it was at this point I realized the night was beyond repair.

I scanned the room. People were staring, and I knew that no matter how wretched of a state my friend might be in he always noticed. “Calm down.” I looked around the room. “Come on.” He let me lead him to two mercifully high backed and unoccupied chairs. I turned them so that they faced the the fireplace and not each other. He sat down looking a little dazed and I was doubly thankful that the fires hue masked the redness in his face. I reached for the glass and his eyes gave me a little fight,but when I didn’t remove my hand he let go and I deposited it on the nearest servants platter with a look I hoped conveyed that he was not to pester us with any more.

If anything my actions only made our audience gapes wider, but I hoped at least that it would shield Meriwether from seeing the worst of it. I sat down. “Now. Slowly and calmly let’s have it.”

“He refused to acknowledge me! In front of everyone! He just walked away! Oh Bill you must go tell him right now, for this sort of affront is simply not to be borne!”

“Meriwether I said calmly.”

He sighed and leaned forward. “I sat down next to him after you left, to as you said, work the room.” I kept quiet. I had seen the look on his face as he left the room and it was not the look of someone who merely wanted to socialize. “He was talking to some work fellows of ours and they were gracious enough to cut me into the conversation. I was perfectly ready to spend all of five minutes in an inane little conversation about the weather but he didn’t even grant me that. I barely finished ‘Isn’t this a lovely ball?’ and he was gone!”

“Gone?”

“He picked up his chair and walked straight across the room.” My face flushed and my mouth set into a line.

“And to think he calls himself a gentleman!”

“Forgetting for a moment the offense to me, to so abandon the men he was previously in conversation with was the very height of baseness!”

“What did you do?”

“I confess I was so shocked by this behavior, even from him, that for a moment I just stood there catching flies. And stares Bill, so many stares. My previous conversation partners didn’t know where to look. It seemed to me that the only course of action was to retreat here and calm myself.” He gazed at the servant with the whiskey tray and the man started a bit but I glared at him until he got the message to stay put.

“Calming rage with whiskey is like calming a fire with bellows.”

He clenched his hand in and out of a fist. “You didn’t have to feel everyone’s gaze on your back.” His eyes were pleading. “Really Bill how can I be expected to run a territory smoothly when my second-in-command won’t even suffer himself to stand mute in my presence?”

I wanted to go into the room and challenge Bates to a duel myself. I could feel my friend’s mortification, waves of it emanating from his person, could so see the unguarded look of anger on his face as his gaze followed Bates across the room, could hear the crowd’s whispers as he rushed out. He was right. It hardly was to be borne.

“But I shall have my honor restored soon enough,” he muttered. “I won’t have my reputation tarnished by that roach.”

“You’re too unkind to roaches.” I said. “They only look ugly and hide in dark places. That man buzzes about greater men and tries to suck the life out. He’s a mosquito.”

Lewis laughed. “Then please inform him he’s to be squished.”

I sighed. I very much did want to loose my friend on Bates. He certainly deserved it. But given Meriwether’s unguarded manner and red face, I found it necessary to check my passions and look to the actions that would best lead everyone to level ground. “I won’t do that.”

“What? I thought you were on my side!”

“I am on your side. I won’t let you Burr yourself.” His indignation was plain to see.

“I’ll find someone else if you’re too niggardly!” He shifted as if to get up.

“Listen to me,” I said, pulling him back down. “Now I’ve seen you shoot. If he accepts your challenge as he is bound to do, you will almost certainly kill him.”

“I do believe that’s the point.”

“Meriwether you’re too far into your cups to think clearly.”

“And I daresay that you’re too far into your wife’s skirts for you to think manly.”

If I’m honest I seriously considered leaving my high-strung, jealous ass of a friend to sort out his own affairs. But I didn’t do that. Instead I folded my hands in my lap and cocked my head. “That was beneath you.”

He couldn’t meet my stare for long. “It was monstrously uncalled for.” I didn’t lower my gaze. “I beg pardon from you.” I didn’t unclasp my hands. “And Julia.”

I shouldn’t have let him off so easily, but my ire couldn’t withstand the sight of his shaking hands, so instead I pressed my lips together and buried my instinctive reaction down deep. “Listen Meriwether, you deserve satisfaction, but the governor of St. Louis cannot kill his secretary in a public duel. You must hold yourself to a higher standard than he does.”

“And be denied honor.”

“And be denied the ridicule and scorn that the papers would dole out if you went through with this!”

“You’re asking me to do nothing!”

“He’s leapt into the mudpit Lewis and he’s waiting for you to jump down too. The thing about a mud fight is that the victor is as dirty as the loser. Dueling is not becoming to an Enlightenment man. It’s not becoming to a Jeffersonian man. If you do this you lower yourself and your career.”

He looked at the servant again but I grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him towards me. “Promise me you won’t go through with this.”

His face crumbled when he nodded and it didn’t feel like a victory. He buried his face in his hands. “They’re laughing at me Bill. Laughing at the governor who can’t even earn the respect of his supposed right hand man.”

“The respect of a mosquito is not to be desired.” I said firmly.

His eyes found mine through his fingers and he smiled. “Do you know you’re the only person in this city of mosquitos that’s worth knowing?” For a moment all is well. And then he retched.

“Damn this malaria,” he said, head between his knees. A servant was over in an instant. I stood up. “The Governor is quite fatigued.” The necessity of a speedy exit was immediately clear to me. I pulled Lewis onto his feet. It pained me to see how unsteady he was, but nevertheless I managed to drag him out of there.

“Please give my wife my apologies and inform her I won’t be home tonight,” I instructed Pernier, who was hovering by us. “But first, ready his carriage.”  

“I’m fine now really,” Lewis mumbled into the shoulder he was clinging to. “Go back to the party!”

“Come on,” I said, ignoring him, ignoring the stares, focusing only on getting Lewis Away. “We’re going to get you home.”

***

“Bill,” Meriwether’s voice pulled me up to the land of the living. “There are stars!”

I batted away the hands trying to shake me up. “‘S the middle of the Lewis you’re dreaming.”

“No Bill I’m telling you, there are stars.” He continued to shake me, and I was forced to kick off my furs. I shot him a deadly glare.

“There are no stars in this place,” I muttered, trudging towards the doorway to appease my delirious friend. “Nor sun, nor moon just clouds and rain, rain, rai- oh!” I blinked. There were stars. “No, Lewis I’m dreaming. You’re not real.”

He gave me an exasperated look. “I told you so. Are you just going to stand there opening and closing your mouth like a dying fish?”

That’s precisely what I did, staring up at the millions of billions of prickly whites dots. Surely stars in this place was as good a sign of the apocalypse as any horseman.

“Let’s go,” Meriwether said, grabbing my hand and pulling me away from the door towards the exterior of our fireplace. “We don’t know how long this is going to last.”

“Lewis?”

“Shhh you’ll wake the men.” He let go of my hand and immediately started to climb the corner of the fireplace, using the points where the intersecting logs overlapped as footholds.

“This wood is wet Meriwether you’re going to slip and break your neck!” I hissed. Nevertheless he continued to scale the wall, now having to use the overlapping wood that formed the body of the chimney as grips for his hands. Once his feet reached the top log of the baser part of the chimney he did a sort of Herculean step forward onto the roof.(if confused by this see Author's Note) “Surely there’s a less ridiculous way to view the stars?”

He peered down at me. “Coming?” I glowered at him for a bit.

“Yes.” I scampered up in the same fashion, Lewis offering me his hand as I took the final precarious step forward. I felt a kind of boyish thrill very unbecoming to the captain of a expedition. “You’re absolutely unhinged.”

“Look at how much better of a view this is.”

It was better. Unrestricted. “Perhaps, but you’re still unhinged. I’ll let you explain to the first man who sees us what his captains are doing up on the roof.”

“Why exploring of course.” I couldn’t help but smile. It was a pleasure to see his eyes so bright. Despite the perpetual moistness of the wood he took a seat.

“It is spectacular, Meriwether,” I admitted, going to sit down next to him. “It’s a pity about these trees though. I don’t think anything will ever top how the night sky looked on the plains.”

“Oh no this is my favorite,” Lewis said. “Look at how the stars shine through the trees. This is it. This is the night sky on the Pacific Coast.

“Well shit,” I said laying myself down. “When you put it like that.”

Lewis giggled and threw himself down next to me. My friend never giggled. “We really did make it.”

I rap my knuckles against the roof. “We’ve still got to make it back home.”

“We will.” Lewis said. “We didn’t come this far just to fail.” It struck me as odd how close Lewis was to me, as if we were huddling for warmth. I let it be. It was nice.

“Incredible.” Lewis sighed. “We spend three dreary cold months getting to hate this place and within weeks of our departure it provides us with a night like this.”

“How did you know?” I asked. “When we all retired it was pouring.”

“I couldn’t tell you.” Lewis replied. “I just sort of woke up.”

“Hmmm.” I turned my head so he could see me and raised an eyebrow. “I’ll bet you just had to take a piss.”

He nudged me playfully. “I could have you court martialed for such behavior.”

“You just try, the men would mutiny.” I did believe him. If anyone could instinctively sense a clear sky in this strange place it would be Lewis. “You were out here a while by yourself weren’t you?”

“A very little while,” Lewis acknowledged. “But I wanted you to be here with me.”

“Well I’m grateful,” I said. “I would’ve slept right through it.”

We fell silent then, just enjoying the view. There is some exquisite quality in the middle of the night that only those willing and awake can enjoy. Usually I don’t partake, but that night with the stars above and my friend at my side? It was unavoidable. The undercurrents of the darkness blew through me and I was humming with the keen and almost existential certainty that we were all very much closer to understanding the galaxies above than anyone realized.

“Bill?” Lewis shifted and I felt him grasp my hand hard. “Do you think this will be enough?”

I was still too awash in the night to fully grasp his meaning so I laughed and turned to tell him ‘Of course. How could this not be enough for any man?’ but there was a sort of desperation in his eyes that gave me pause and brought me hurdling down from my place in the night sky, brought me back to William Clark.

How well I understood him. It was enough for me to lose myself in the stars, but Meriwether? He couldn’t help but wonder about his place amongst them. And with a mind as demanding as that, could anything ever truly be enough?

“Meriwether,” I said squeezing his hand. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a man less built for enough than you.” His eyes reached straight into my soul, begging me to fix this, to make it right. “And so much the better for us. If this is what you’re capable of achieving to try and reach that place, think what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Yesterday it was bestriding the mighty & heretofore deemed endless Missouri. Today it’s staring up at the sky  next to a boundless ocean. Tomorrow will be something wondrous.”

“What if it’s not? What if this is the end of my remarkability?”

“I won’t make false promises Lewis. I’m as a blind as the next man as to what the future holds. There’s only one thing I can say with confidence.” I put my other hand on top of his.

He responded in kind. “What’s that Bill?”

“You, Meriwether Lewis, will be remarkable until the day you die.”

He closed his eyes and smiled, nodded his head slowly. When he opened them again his eyes were searching. “If I could only remember one moment in this entire expedition,” he said, “It would be this night.” He gulped. “And it has nothing to do with-” he gestured to the sky above, “Any of this.”

“Hmm?”

“Only you.” And then Meriwether did as one might expect.

He retched on his own shoes. Again.

***

It’s the same sky , I thought, as Meriwether ruined the inside of his carriage. It’s the exact same sky.

“Look at the stars, Meriwether,” I told my friend when he was recovered enough to straighten up. “Aren’t they magnificent?”

Instead he remained fixated on his own sick. “They’re faded. Everything is faded here.”

I put my arm around him and pressed my body against his to let him know that I wasn’t and we didn’t speak anymore.

***

“I um, I haven’t had to entertain in a very long while,” Lewis said as we made our way up the staircase. I didn’t catch the feeble warning until it was too late and we were standing in his little parlor. The last time I had visited him here was when I helped him move in.

“Good Lord.” The full force of how much distance had come between him and I was scattered around his apartment, suspended alongside the dust particles in the air. It smelled like liquor. The candles I rushed to light were reduced to nubs, and the bottles. When I think on the bottles I might weep.

“I, ah, yes.” Lewis’ tired form looked at me somewhat abashedly and moved to pick up a  few of the empty laudanum  bottles scattered around the room. “Now don’t get yourself upset, it’s not as bad as it looks.” Once he had a few in his hands he looked around in a sickeningly comical display of confusion. “I just need them for the malaria.” Eventually he settled on putting them all clumped together on a side table and seemed well enough satisfied. “It does give me such bad dreams.” His smile was so pathetically disingenuous all I could do was nod.

“Alright Meriwether,” I said, “Let’s get you to bed.”

“You don’t believe me,” He shrank away from my touch. “You don’t believe me!”

“I know you’re ill I promise,” I said, advancing slowly. “Sleep will help.” From the look on his face I might’ve been the grim reaper coming to take him to another world instead of another room. “Hey! It’s just me.”

“I’m not remarkable anymore am I,” Lewis said, “Tell me true Bill is it all gone? Are we gone?”

“You’re as remarkable as the day I met you.” I said. I meant it. “And you will never be gone from me do you understand?”

He sunk two inches as he let out a breath. “Well alright then.”

“Bed. Now.”

“Mmmhmm.” Calmer now, he pushed past me towards his bedroom. I followed him in.

“Where’s the bed?” The room was Spartan in comparison to the rest of the apartment, besides a few books and bottles, the room was bear, save one buffalo robe spread on on the floor.

“Bill, that’s our bed,” Lewis said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. He lurched forward and he dropped onto the robe, far faster than I could catch him.

“Meriwether?” There was no reply. He was asleep. “Right.” I said, looking at my friend’s barely visible figure, painfully small when compared to his empty room. The nearest candle was in the kitchen. “Right.” I ran my fingers through my hair. “Right.”

So I did what needed to be done. I got my friend’s boots off and placed them by the door. An old song of Julia’s came to mind, and I found myself humming the tune to myself Young men will do’t if they come to’t I rummaged around in his drawers until I found more candles and replaced those that needed it. Lewis’ study door was cracked open and as I touched the doorknob I had a visceral sense of dread and foreboding. I did not need to know what behind that door. I shut it. By Cock, they are to blame. I opened the window, tried to shake out the dust from what things I could. You promised me to wed, Lewis didn’t stir as I lit a fire in his bedroom’s fireplace; even though the June night was quite mild I couldn’t stand to see him in darkness So would I ‘a’ done, by yonder sun. I picked up the bottles in his room and put them with the ones in the rest of the apartment. An thou hadst not come to my bed.

I had just about finished sorting the laudanum bottles from the whiskey bottles and the one or two full bottles from the empty when I heard the clocks chime twelve. It occurred to me that this was when I was supposed to be coming home with Julia. My son was rather finicky about his mealtimes and I believe it was the specific thought, Meriwether’s going to need a drink right about now that did me in because right after I just started to laugh.

“Shit.” I said, laudanum bottle in hand. “Shit.” I was laughing so hard I had to steady myself against the wall. “I’m losing my fucking mind.”

I couldn’t tell you how long I was like that, curled against the wall gripping the bottle and laughing like some Bedlam escapee. That Lewis never woke was certain but I cannot vouch for the neighbors.

Despite what Lewis thought, the stars were very bright and for some reason that pulled me out of my delirium and gave rise to bile in the back of my throat. My eyes flicked back from Lewis’ sleeping figure to the stars and I couldn’t stop thinking about that one magical night what seemed a million years ago. The William Clark of that night knew that there were going to be nights like this. He knew and he made the decision to love Lewis anyway. More or less, I was still that same William Clark, and despite everything, I still loved him.

God I didn’t want to. But as long as those stars existed I couldn’t find it within myself to hate the fallen man in the next room. No such restrictions applied to the sky itself. All at once I stood up and strode over to the window. I threw the laudanum bottle in my hand as high as possible, desperate to knock at least one of those insufferably bright lights out. The crunch the glass made as hit the ground was invigorating and I rushed to grab the others, lobbing them as high as I could manage. “Come on!” I screamed. CRACK! “ Dim!” CRACK “Dim” CRACK “Damn” CRACK “You” CRACK! Dim! CRACK!

YOU DIM YOURSELF BASTARD !” Some disgruntled civilian shouted from an unknown source.

Years later, I’m profoundly grateful that none of my targets hit their mark. But then and there I would have sold my soul for any one of those lights to disappear. Then maybe I could’ve gone home. Maybe I could’ve apologized to my wife. Maybe I could’ve made love. I guess the skeeters were just so thick I couldn’t get a clear shot.

When all of the bottles were gone I grasped the windowsill and, panting, craned my neck, trying to observe any sort of change. Nothing. If anything the sky was was brighter. I backed away.

“Alright.” I said, wiping my eyes and squaring my shoulders. “I surrender.”

I trudged into his room. None of it had roused him. “Incredible.” I shook my head. I sat up against the wall, near the fire.

Asleep on the buffalo pelt like he was I could pretend he wasn’t changed. I could pretend in a few hours first light would come and we would be getting the men ready for the day. Perhaps Lewis would smile.

I came back to myself in bits and pieces, by remembering my friend. Lewis shaking my hand so hard it was liable to fall off the first time we met for the expedition. Lewis’ face completely serious and absorbed in recording the details of the the latest species. Lewis dropping his shoulders and waving manically when I came up the river to find him already with with the Shosones and half-Indian in manner and look. Ensign Lewis with his nervous smile and quick mind. My remarkable friend Lewis waking me up so we could watch the stars.

I could love such a man and not go mad.

“If you refuse to dim the stars don’t let him dim his,” I murmured over and over, head bowed. “Don’t dim his, don’t dim his.”

I stayed like that until morning.