#369: The Smiths, "Louder Than Bombs" (1987)

You say: The world will end in the night time. You know this because the world hides truths, is dignified, proud. At night, you say, there will be fewer eyes to see the world fall apart and spill its secrets—you’re not talking about the nickel-iron alloy sitting at its center, nor lava, nor magma, nor magnetic fields; not those kinds of secrets. These are other secrets—things you and me can’t even imagine. When the world ends in the night time, those things will be obscured by shadow, illuminated by only the moon’s thinnest light. So yes, you say—when the world grows weary and ends, it will be at night.

In bed, everywhere around us, we feel the stillness of our house. The quiet. When I shift toward you, you turn to face me and the bed sags a little in the middle. Your face near my chest so I can feel you breathe. My mouth against your hair. I imagine your DNA dissolving in my saliva’s enzymes.

I say: Sleep or sex?

You say: What kind of question even is that?


You say: The world will end in the day time. That, you say, makes sense, is when men’s work threatens the very construction of our planet. You say, it is the drills and bombs that will end us all, end everything, that it’s only a matter of time before humans stop the Earth in its orbit and we fall into the sun, or break into giant pieces, become asteroids, circling, circling. And what then, you say? What will become of us all, dying in the day time, all our secret horrors realized—mortality will stop being an abstract, will become a real, tangible thing we will all wear on our faces as we all die in public.

You ask me: are you happy?

I say: No.

You ask me: Are you sad?

I say: No.

You say: Do you remember your dreams?

I say: Not for a long time.

You reach across the bed, grab my hands that have been folded over my chest. You say, You’re cold. You say, It’s that Eskimo blood in your veins.

I say, I’m not an Eskimo.

You say, I meant like the song.

I say, Oh.

You say, I don’t know.


You set the needle on the record’s edge and light a cigarette that we will pass back and forth in bed. After an initial first static burst, there comes a harmonica. You go to lift the needle, set it down after the first song, but I ask you to stop. This is our ritual, Side D of the Smiths’ Louder Than Bombs, bleary and exhausted, low-lit and smoky. Except “Hand in Glove.” We skip that one most nights, but tonight, I want to hear it.

You ask, Why?

I say, Because the sun shines out of our behinds.

You make a noise that I don’t recognize.

I say, Are you ok?

You don’t answer but continue to make the noise and then I understand you are laughing.

On our copy of the record, the songs after “Hand in Glove” sound gritty, are worn down from repeated plays. Tonight, we don’t notice because God, how sex implores us. We let ourselves lose ourselves.


You say: Is there any point ever having children? You say, not just us, but in general. But also us. And in this nighttime world we inhabit.

I say, Are you trying to tell me something?

You say, No. You say, but if I were, what would be the point? You say, This world. You say, I don’t believe in mothers. I can never be one. You say, This world. But, you say, to think of a little boy…

I say, Or a little girl.

You say, No. How could we do that to a child?

I say, Do what?

You say, Raise it.

I say, She could be a poet.

You say, Or she’d be a fool.

I say, That’s Morrissey talking.

You say, We’re all Morrissey when we talk.


You say: What I do know is we’re here and it’s now and that’s the only thing, for now and for always. You say, the world will go on, or it won’t. We’ll have a child or we won’t. We’ll remember our dreams or we won’t. You slide over so your body is against mine and pull the top sheet and blanket up to both of our chins. Your head is on my shoulder and you say, Take me, I’m yours.

I don’t know if you mean this or if you’re quoting lyrics again. I say, You mean, take you?

You say, What else would I mean?

And I don’t know if it’s the right thing, right now, in the stillness of this empty house, as winter cold creeps in around the windows, but I feel your warm body beside me and know that it’s the only thing, has always and will always be the only thing. This house feels big, the neighborhood, city, state, country, bigger still. I feel exhausted and I say, This world. I say, I’m tired.

You say, But first.

You say, Please.

I say, Maybe there is another one.

You say, Another what?

I say, You know.

You say, Another world?

I say, There must be.

You say, But here, now.

You say, Please.

I fold into your warmth.


—James Brubaker