Lisa had a headache. If Alice were around, she would certainly say her daughter needed more light. Lisa leaned forward over the book she was studying and pressed her fingertips to her temples. More light. When she was little, the family had flashlights that strapped on to your head like miner's lamps for when the unreliable reservation power went out. In the complete darkness of a desert night, the lights were so bright they couldn't see anything else, so a parent or a sister walking towards her was like a hot white ghost. She needed one of those lights for this project. Religion, she had learned, was a discipline with too much small print.
The library table was scratched. The lamps above it and at either end were beautiful, gold and green glass globes like fruit, but not real illumination. A man near her had clipped a small plastic travel light on to a page of his book. Lisa needed a lantern. A lantern and a path. A path and a guide. White light and a ghost. She had been advised both to chose a thesis topic that fascinated her and to chose one that she already pretty much understood.
She scratched the top of her head with the fingers of both hands until she was sure her hair was standing on end. Bobby had advised her to use her imagination. Unlike the Talmud scholars whose tiny words she was trying to read, he believed in original work. Words that would change the world or startle it at least. Like a 19th century explorer, she wanted to discover a place and put her name on it. But those places, she reminded herself, had names already. From the page in front of her, she read Rabbi Hunna said, in the name of Rav Yonathon of Breslav, … She yawned. …as it is written … She closed her eyes. It was supposed to be a conversation, all the dead guys, all the living ones, always talking, on and on. How to get in? How to make anyone listen? She felt the cool of the thin sheet against her cheek and in a dream pressed her ear against the page. All around her, the sweet murmurings of library life went on.