A 25-year-old woman sits in the dark and watches her son prepare for bed. A curtain splits their one-room house into two separate spaces. The shadow of her son against the curtain reminds the woman of her son’s father, an old lover who disappeared years ago. As the boy tucks himself into bed, he wraps his mother’s red scarf around his neck. This is the scarf the woman uses to attract her nighttime patrons.
The woman is a prostitute, a woman stuck between the daytime and the nighttime. During the day she tempts men and at night they come to her house. In order to keep her activities a secret from her son, the woman put up the curtain to separate his bed from hers. Before she lets in her suitors, she blows on his eyelashes and touches his face to make sure he is truly sleeping.
Tonight, a doctor named Emmanuel is the visitor. He comes every Tuesday and Saturday and brings flowers. He has a wife, but claims that she isn’t as beautiful as the night woman. On Mondays and Thursdays, Alexandre the accordion player is the visitor. He likes to make accordion sounds in the night woman’s ear when they lie together. Now with the doctor, the night woman takes pains to make sure they don’t wake up her son. If the boy does wake up and see them, she is prepared to tell him that the ghost of his father has returned from heaven.
She doesn’t need this fabrication tonight, though. She and Emmanuel finish their business, and he leaves at dawn. Before he goes, he calls the night woman an avalanche and a waterfall.
After he leaves, the night woman sits outside and smokes a dry tobacco leaf. She watches a group of women walk towards the marketplace and thanks the stars that her days are her own. She goes back into the house and hears her son waking up. He asks her if he has missed the angels. She slips into his bed, tells him the angels have a lifetime to visit them, and then she rocks him back to sleep.
A very short story, “Night Women” has a dreamlike feel to it. This is partly because most of the story’s content consists of stream-of-consciousness-like observations and musings from the narrator. Her mind jumps from one subject to the next, and she sometimes spirals into tangents. This is similar to how the content, setting, and/or characters in a dream can quickly change. For example, one moment the night woman is thinking about a firefly that is buzzing around her house, and the next moment she is likening love to a childhood lesson about shoes.
The use of ephemeral imagery and figurative speech further develops the hazy, dreamlike atmosphere of the story. The woman describes how shadows “shrink” and “spread” over the curtain dividing her and her son (Danticat 81). For a brief moment, her son’s shadow stretches into the silhouette of a grown man, before shrinking back to his own size. When describing herself, the woman says she is stuck in the brief time between day and night, in the fleeting moments of amber-colored twilight. Later on in the story, she compares her son to a fluttering butterfly that momentarily rests on a rock: at any moment, he could fly away from her.
The woman’s love for her son fuels most of her actions. She has sex with strangers to provide for their living, at great risk to herself and her body. She tries her hardest to hide the truth of her nighttime activities from her son, in an attempt to preserve his innocence. All of these actions are acts of love. Although her vocation makes her stand out from other parents in the Krik? Krak! stories, the night woman’s commitment to and love for her son remind us that she too is a mother trying to provide the best possible life for her child.