The Significance of Sunlight

by Bob Thurber

The rooming house—a three-story Colonial big as a church—was on the corner of Euclid Avenue and Thayer Street, in a bustling section of Providence's East Side, a tough spot to find parking so late in the afternoon. The woman who managed the place didn't live there. Her name was Lilian White and she lived in an apartment above her real estate office two streets over. On the phone, she had agreed to meet me on the wide wooden porch of Seven Euclid Avenue.

She showed me two rooms, one on the second floor, one on the third. They were furnished the same, carpeted with mismatched squares of rug remnants. Both had wallpaper that belonged in a funeral home. The third-floor room was smaller, with a single window cut into the sloped roof. The shared bath was filthy and the community kitchen a grimy mess. While I measured my height against the room's slanted ceiling, Mrs. White explained that the third floor was cheaper, so I said I'd take it.

She wouldn't accept a check, even with I.D., so I had to take a walk to find an ATM, pull out cash, then go back and pay the lady. She refused to take my money until I had read a list of rules and signed a piece of paper stating I had understood them. She penned a receipt and handed me a key for the room and another key for the downstairs door. After all of it was settled, I drove back toward home. If I hurried, I could still make dinner. That is, if Donna had found the energy to cook.

I drove Hope Street into Pawtucket and ran into a snarl of rush-hour traffic near Blackstone Boulevard. I witnessed two minor accidents. I sat behind a fuming truck and listened to a van blasting "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying." The van had tinted windows so I couldn't see inside. I tried to remember which group sang that song, then the truck roared its engine and started moving again.

The closer I got to familiar streets, the darker it became outside and the more my excitement wore down, u