Clean Well Lighted Place

A Clean, Well Lighted Place is a story of lights and shadows, of the coexistence
of ”being” and ”nothingness”. An old man sits outside the cafe, on the
terrace, where all the tables are empty except then one he sits at. He hides
himself in the shadow – the perfect hiding-place, a hide-out for a person who
wants to remain invisible and unnoticed to the people he observes. They – the
observed ones – do not even feel his presence, so close and tangible, although
there are some who know all about him. The undisturbed and untroubled peace
of night is his ”prime time”. He feels the difference then. To a deaf person
silence of the night brings relief and consolation after the day full of
”noise”. That relief he encounters in the shadow, under the tree, the leafs of
which protects him from the electric light, although he is one of these strange
people who feel the strong need of light in the night. The ill-will and
aversion of one of the waiters towards the old man and, on the other hand, the
mercy and sympathy of the other is the picture how shadow and light
interpenetrate each other, although they stand out for completely opposite
values. The younger of these two has a wife waiting in bed for him, and is not
very willing to stay in the cafe through the whole night, waiting until the last
person pays the bill and goes home. That is why he is so upset with the old man,
who – being already drunk – asks for another and another drink. The hour is what
matters to him. He wants to go home, to “hide in the shadow” and to
find some kind of peace of mind. In this way he seems to resemble the old man –
they both avoid light, for both of them the shadow has got more to do with their
lives than light. The older waiter appears to be the one who assumes a more
friendly attitude towards those people who stay late at the cafe. His deep
conviction that there are some who need a light for the night is so strong that
it does not allow him to close up early enough because there may be some one who
needs the cafe each night. And the fact that there are bodegas (basements) open
all night does not influence his way of thinking. This is this cafe that is so
attractive to people for it is clean and pleasant. And – what is probably more
important – it is well lighted. All such a cafe needs is light. But he also
mentions shadows of the leaves – the shapes created by light – by which he
potentially means the place hidden in the shadow, a shelter for all those who
need light in the night but observe it being covered by shadow. Light is
“being” while shadow is “nothingness”. Those who needs light
are “alive” ones. Those living in the shadow lock themselves in
“nothingness”, their escape from the reality. An old man is a mixture
of both. On one hand he stays “alive” late at night sitting in the
place full of light but on the other he secludes himself in
“nothingness” since he prefers sitting in the shadow, hidden, covered
and theoretically absent. For the older waiter the reason for staying late at
the cafe and the fact that he does not feel like sleeping, though it is almost
dawn, is as simple as illness. At the end of the story he says to himself
:”After all ( …) it is probably only insomnia. Many must have it”. The
conclusion that as a matter of fact the whole story is about nothing but
suffering from the particular disease.