Blue Light

By Don Mitchell


The hard things happened at night, sometimes in the dark, sometimes lit by a yellowish bed lamp, or the light from another room.

But right now she’s telling me about blue light, because one time the light seemed bluish, but how could that have been? Light isn’t actually bluish, is it? she says, It’s yellow, really. Maybe she’s thinking blue because she remembers blue flames.

So probably it wasn’t blue light, but more an infusion of blueness, a perception, from the blue flames she could see in the space heater, which she can see into because she’s on the floor in the kitchen, she’s sure of that, well pretty sure, at least the blue flames imply that’s where it was, because that’s where the space heater is. Or was. Is, who knows anymore?

I’m kinda losing it, she says to me, I mean, um, time. I don’t know when it is right now, I mean, when I am, but it’s blue then, it’s blue and it hurts, you know, they’re hurting me. One’s sitting over me like you just did, ah, you didn’t mean anything and how could I know this was gonna happen? But you did and now.

This. Blue. Shit.

She looks at me in the room, not my kitchen but my bedroom, we’re on the bed, and I know she wants to give me her blue light, so it can become mine. So I can feel it with her, or see it. So I can be on that kitchen floor, if that’s what it was, or when.

So I can go there. Me, the guy who semester after semester tells innocent freshman, The spectacular evolutionary advance of even an early language is that it permits shared consciousness. You can invite me into what you know and take me places I’ve never been. And show me what’s there.

Ah but now we’re not talking flint, chert, obsidian, chokecherries, blueberries, hackberries, carrion, fresh-kill, glacial light, mesa light, storm light. We’re talking blue light.

I know she’s going to take me, the me who’s sitting on the bed looking at her, she’s taking me back where the blue flames were, no, are, were, it doesn’t even matter, and I see in her eyes I’m no longer the me I know, but some other me she knows or doesn’t know for sure.

She’s transformed me into that person, too, and for a moment I think, Well allright, maybe this can help her work it out, yes, maybe symbol of, or standing in for so she can get ontop of it, but then I think if she takes me there, if I go along, how will she tell it? Through whose eyes will I witness it? Please, hers. Not the guy’s.

Tell me what you see.

It’s dim, but when I turn my head I see blue. One is my father  (she never says Daddy, Dad, Pa, Pop, only My father, only he, his, him, not before this night, and will not after it) but I can’t see the other one, too close, I couldn’t move my head, he’s sitting on my chest, he broke my collarbone, I don’t know who it is.

Only pain, his knee, choking, blue.

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DON MITCHELL is a writer and ecological anthropologist, born and raised in Hilo, Hawai'i (where he graduated from a public high school -- in Hawai'i, that's important). He has published academic works, poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and both published and exhibited photographs. He recently published a story collection, A Red Woman Was Crying, and is working on a novel set on Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea, where he did fieldwork. He lives happily in Hilo with his college girlfriend, a poet and yoga teacher, whom he lost for forty years but, lucky for him, finally found.

24 responses to “Blue Light”

  1. Okay, by the end of this piece, I had a dark fearful feeling in the pit of my stomach. What I find compelling is that you’ve captured the way a terrible memory surfaces in surreal detail–but you did so as a witness to the return in another person. Your willingness to be there as the past became present was an act of tremendous compassion. And the sparseness of the telling takes the reader into the the power of image, what emanates from it. Very poetic.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Thanks for commenting, Ronlyn. I’m glad it had an effect and, true, that’s the effect I wanted it to have.

      When I’m done writing about being the other in another society, I’ll write about being the other in my own society. Perhaps the most difficult part of being that other is popping in and out of that state, like some sort of elementary particle.

  2. Joe Daly says:


    The tension here is pretty uncomfortable, which I think is what you wanted. Unlike Ronlyn, I didn’t see the end coming until it was upon me. Less is not just more- it’s brutal. Well done.

    Been too long since you’ve been around here, Don. Good to see you back.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Thanks, Joe. As I said to Ronlyn, I’ve been wanting to tap some darker things I’ve run into.

      I was looking at some kind of brutality, although I don’t think I would have put it that way.

  3. This piece has a nice shift from what I thought would be difficult between them, to something that has happened outside of these two people talking. And by the end, I also realized that what they share, the blue light, will now also “a hard thing” for them. Something shared that will make life not easier but more difficult. beautifully told.

    • Gloria says:

      I loved that this man was willing to go with this woman to this place, though it would obviously be hard to bear, because he thought he was strong enough and because he thought it would make her stronger. Beautiful, painful, rich with love.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Yeah, Stefan. Thanks. The blue light becomes a kind of touchstone — going there is uncomfortable but it’s almost a base.

  4. When Don Mitchell’s on the board, it’s a good day at TNB. A raw little piece makes it even better. In a just world there’d be 50 comments here before breakfast.

  5. Gloria says:


    While this is a magnificently rendered snapshot, it really begs to be a longer piece. I could read this scene – and others like it – in this voice at this pacing and in this style for many, many pages. Brutally but terribly compelling.

    Beautiful writing.


    • Don Mitchell says:

      Thanks, Gloria. From time to time I work on this material. There’s a lot of it, and I’m glad it worked for you. This fits into a much longer piece called “Ruthless Despair,” which is raw and brutal, but it does have love in it.

  6. Quenby Moone says:

    Good grief, Don. This morning started out a little raw.

    This is so nuanced and the tone is amazing. Light is yellow, not blue, and haunting and strange. You have crafted a scene in the same way that directors of photography do: with light, shaping space, creating the tone with subtlety and shadow and well-lit corners.

    This was quite lovely.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Those are great comments, Quenby, and helpful too (going forward . . . I’m not done with this material at all). I don’t think I planned to craft it in that way — explicitly, I mean — but you’re right.

  7. Irene Zion says:

    This was powerful, Don.
    Bearing witness at such a fundamental level makes for intense reading.

    (I never questioned whose eyes you would be using. That was a truly creepy twist.)
    test test test

    • Don Mitchell says:

      About whose eyes, yes. It would have been awful to have seen it through anyone but hers or mine. “Bearing witness” is also something for me to think about. That’s what it is.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      I thought I could go in and edit out your “test test test,” as was possible before. But I can’t find a way to do it.

      If anybody else wonders what that’s all about — Irene’s comment went to comment jail several times.

  8. Zara Potts says:

    I love the way you’ve captured this. Oppressive and gloomy and blue. As others have mentioned, it’s so poetic and yet tightly contained. It’s always a pleasure to read you, Don Mitchell!

  9. Great stuff, Don. A masterful study in mood and tone, with that incredible pivot at the end.


    • Don Mitchell says:

      And mahalo to you, Tyler. I’m glad it worked for you. I still think about your Missoula piece, which gave me a lot of pleasure not just because it was a great piece, but because I’m still thinking about big town/small town/central place and all the rest.

  10. Erika Rae says:

    Oh – this is so different than what I’m used to from you, Don. And I like it. Such power in this small piece. You did it, Don. You granted permission to your consciousness and shared it beautifully. Well done.

  11. Don Mitchell says:

    Glad you read it, Erika. Granting permission is an interesting concept. I’ll practice more of it.

  12. Yeesh. I think I would have preferred to read Hot Pants again. Much more appealing to the mind’s eye!

    But it can’t all be sunshine, I guess, and the world has more than its fair share of blue light.

    “and I see in her eyes I’m no longer the me I know, but some other me she knows or doesn’t know for sure.” Haunting, my friend. And very true to the situation.

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