Falling Asleep at Dawn

I fell asleep at dawn today, an alluring habit I try to resist, yet despite all of the health consequences lying in bed, watching the sunrise through the slats in the window-shade, continues to be one of my favorite things to do.

There’s something wonderful about watching a new day break and being one of the only people to witness it. Everyone else is still sleepy, foggy with lethargy still, but me, I’m alert. I’ve been busy, moving about, doing things while everyone else rested.

And of course it’s silly. I’ll be sleeping as they do their morning things, take their dogs for walks, sip coffee, drive to work. But they don’t get to operate in the same sort of secret, they don’t get to surprise people with what they’ve been doing.

“Yeah, I cleaned the kitchen and reorganized the magazines. Pretty cool, huh?” I can say and you’ll look around the house and be impressed by all I did while you were asleep. The wonderful deception of the night sliding by quickly when the only thing you’re doing is staring at the backs of your eyelids makes it look like I did the work in the blink of an eye, rather than doing the dishes with as much spite and anger towards the grime as possible and dragging the task on for over an hour. The nasty process gets to be hidden, jammed into the hall closet, under the bin of hats and gloves, and the final product shines. I am capable of magical perfection.

But it’s not just the pride and anticipation of pleasing others that makes falling asleep at dawn so lovely. It’s the joy of lying, swathed in new, fresh light. It feels gentle and easy, the aggression and uncertainty of darkness is being steadily replaced. I don’t have to doubt what’s hiding in the corner or whether I locked the back door. Things feel innocent and pure, nothing can go wrong, I am totally safe, and all I need to do is close my eyes and focus on my breath until I slip away.

Driving East at Sunset

Yesterday’s post, which was full of pictures, seems to have gotten caught in the mysterious land of ones and zeros that lies somewhere between my iPhone and this blog. So until I can figure out how to retrieve it, we’ll all just have to imagine that it exists. You can pretend for a little while, right?

Today, we drove home and watched as the sun went from beating directly overhead to setting at our backs, as our small silver Prius raced forward into the darkness and towards home.

At first, I thought it incredibly sad that we were running away from the light, that there was perhaps some tragic metaphor about losing something as we travelled home, but as the hours dragged on, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing remotely negative about heading into darkness.

After all, isn’t that what most of life is: racing forward into the unseeable unknown? We have our comfortable habits, the way we always like to do certain tasks, but even in our routines, there is an element of uncertainty.

When I ride my bike, I travel the same route, at the same time, three times a week, fifty two weeks a year, for exactly 5.32 miles. And yet, each time I set out, something different happens.

Sometimes the chain pops off, sometimes a bus decides to nearly run me over when I legally have the right of way, sometimes I get distracted by cats and crash into stationary objects. When I leave the house in the morning, I don’t even know if I’ll make it back alive or unhurt, as small as those possibilities might be. I may be caught up in a familiar pattern, but there is nothing guaranteed about the results at all.

And a large and a little cynical part of me doesn’t understand why we choose the rising sun, the beginning of daylight, as a symbol of hope and renewal. Time exists as a circle and has no end or starting point. We got to make them up. So why didn’t we choose sunset and darkness as the beginning? Why is January the first month of the year?

I continued staring out of the window, counting down the hours until I could crawl into bed and write in my journal, trying to convince myself that it wasn’t stupid, juvenile, or ridiculous to think about the metaphorical significance of traveling east at sunset. And soon the sky turned from purple to plum to navy, the stars began to appear, tiny pinpricks of bright white, and I went back to watching the speedometer, lulled into an almost meditative quiet by the rabidly changing numbers on the digital display.

In other news, sleeping in the bathtub isn’t all that bad if you’ve got a pillow and a blanket, and you somehow decided that it would be a good location to sleep when you woke up at three in the morning. (I spend a ridiculous amount of time sleeping in the bathroom when I shouldn’t. It’s quite strange, and I’m not sure why I seem to do it with such regularity. My bath mat and I seem to hang out together for a few minutes in the morning several times a week.)

In Which Ella Declares Her Love for the Night

Oh for goodness sakes am I tired. My eyelids burn, my head is heavy, and I want nothing more than to lean over, bury my head in the pillows, and just sleep. For hours and hours and hours. But it’s not exactly an option.

It is night, and I hate to waste it sleeping. These dark hours are my favorite. It’s as if I am the only one alive in the world, and I can do whatever I want without anyone ever seeing or knowing. I do my best writing after midnight, and I’ve grown accustomed to the clock showing one, two, even three in the morning before I drift off. But the exhaustion is worth it just to have those quiet hours where it’s only me and the crickets chirping.

Perhaps it’s because bad things never happen in the middle of the night, and you don’t have to deal with all of the sucky parts of the day. You’re running away from them, but this time it’s okay. You can’t be expected to fix an argument or stop being so depressed because everyone’s asleep and every place is closed. So it’s okay to pretend that everything is alright and that you’re gonna be okay.

And the cats are always up. They climb up on my bed. All three of them. Rolley fur-balls, nuzzling their wet noses and mouths against my hand and settling down in the most inconvenient places, forcing me to contort my body in order to share the bed. But I don’t mind. I think they might be the best companions in the world. But people are still pretty good, too.

Sometimes, you don’t have to share the darkness alone. Sometimes, there’s someone there with you to talk to and say things you never would if it were light out. The night makes life feel a little more safe to let down all of those barriers. I love talking on the phone, leaning halfway off my bed, seeing how close I can get my head to the floor before I overbalance and have to grab at the sheets to avoid falling. I love talking to people at sleep-overs until the wee hours and when they fall asleep in the middle of an answer, leaving me wondering how lucky I am to have friends like them.

But most of all, I love how not so many people like the night as much as I do. It’s my time, all for me, and it’s rare that I ever have to share it. I get to be horribly selfish with absolutely no consequences.

But as much as I’d like to, I can’t stay up until all hours tonight. I really ought to go to bed. Because tomorrow morning, I’m going on an adventure.

I’m taking my self to MoMA and to a book launch for Maureen Johnson’s In the Name of the Star. I might go my favorite book store and to nerdfighter MJ party. Maybe I’ll take some pictures to share. I’ll write in a park and make up stories while I’m riding on the subway. It’ll be amazing.

But when I come home, it’ll be dark again, and I’ll have these wonderful hours just to be, exactly the way I like it.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

It’s Cold In the House Tonight

It’s cold in the house tonight. I’m wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, and I still find myself twisting my hands, trying to warm up my fingers. My nails, which have gotten a little too long again, are lightly scratching my skin, making the hand-wringing a tad uncomfortable, but I can’t write if I tuck them under my legs. So I let my fingers become a little stiff and keep tapping away at the keys, pausing every few sentences to rub them together again.

I can’t help but think back to sophomore year and those winter nights when I would stay up until three or later in the morning, doing my homework. I’d line up small tumbler glasses on my desk, filled with ice and various flavors of Vitamin Water, and every time I felt my eyes drooping, I’d grab one and chug it, letting the cold, sugary liquid jerk me back from lethargy. My cheeks would flush from the cold and exhaustion, and I would cry and cry and cry. Because I was fifteen and too young for this stress. There were too many classes and too many activities and too many people to disappoint and too much sadness.

Sometimes, I’d sneak out of the house at one, two, three a.m., walk up the hill to the street sign, sit with my back against the freezing metal pole, bury my head between my knees, and try not to think for ten minutes. But pajamas, even when paired with a ski jacket, are not enough for thirty degrees or lower, and I’d be driven back to the house with a runny nose and a mind that was racing as much as it had been when I had left. Frequently, I’d think about just sitting down on the floor of my bedroom and screaming at the top of my lungs, but every time I’d open my mouth, a whisper of a scream would come out, and I’d feel as silly as Pushkin’s hisses, which are more air than menace.

As I sat at my desk, I was freezing and burning all at once, and my head would pound. Yet I managed to keep it together through those nights. The work got done. I got my A’s. My extracurriculars were Ivy worthy. It looked like I’d be able to go to Yale. And somehow, I was weirdly happy despite the cold and the stress.

But I’m eighteen now, and sophomore me, as perfect as she was, has long been abandoned. The cold now just means that it’s another lonely night where I feel empty and oddly poetic. But there isn’t anyone to share it with. No one to message paragraphs of essays for critique, and no one to gripe about homework to. It’s just me, the cats, and my laptop.

I like my quiet, but cold nights like these are supposed to be spent communicating with people, saying things that you would never say if it were light out and your toes weren’t beginning to go numb. The magic of the darkness, the way you feel more anonymous and safe to let your guard down a little, is lost without anyone to share it with. I love those conversations when you suddenly get to actually know someone, not just their pretty exterior, but the things that scare and upset them, and discover your shared demons. I haven’t had one of those talks in ages.

Maybe I’ll call George and talk to her for an hour or two. She’ll surely listen to my theories about Billy Collins, and I’ll be able to unload some secrets.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.