There is something beautiful about the silhouette of a tree branch against the distant light of a lamppost. As I stand on my balcony, listening earnestly and repetitively to the lyrics “take this sinking boat and point it home, we’ve still got time,” the stars are dim but present, reminding me of an unreachable and incomprehensible mass of space that no physics lesson will teach me to understand.
If you walk out of your front door past 2 o’clock in the morning, the streets will be empty. A chill could run up your spine with a hint of danger or mystery or whatever you may attribute to a world deceiving you with its emptiness. You can sing out loud, talk to yourself, or just smile and take in the world finally at peace with the day’s occurrences. No matter how long the day, the shades of darkness will overcome the light’s reign of control over your life. And you can finally just live. Breathe. Take everything in. I smile at the thought of words that I could say to you, to make you understand, to tell you that everything is confusing but the night is helping me figure it out.
Maybe I say out loud the words, “this is more than I expected. I think you have changed my life.” But anything spoken falls on the melting snow and suffocating leaves, withering away like the memories I replay over and over in the hope that they’re not forgotten. But they will be. The sun will rise again and I will forget a little bit more, and a little bit more, every day, until a fantastic memory I have of you will no longer exist in some little corner of my brain.
It makes sense that we operate in the daytime. That we force-feed ourselves coffee and share the pain of morning together, just mortals passing by each other on the way to whatever obligations we have, never to run into the strangers that share little slices of our lives. We exchange glances of inquiry and unspoken words of understanding, this connection that exists briefly and disappears with the flip of a calendar.
And yet, it’s these very things that make the day so unbearable. As I sit next to you, I feel safe. In the daylight, you are real. You speak to me, and make me smile, and make me laugh, and run into me on the street, our paths intertwining and becoming just another precursor to being-on-your-way, another event that happened before something more significant in your life.
With the moon shining, this city becomes a different place. Without all the certainty, the schedules, the plans, the meetings, the meals, the to-do lists, the stress–the night envelopes us with promises of mystery and intention and serendipity. You become more. The reflection of the light in your eyes makes me feel at home; the guiding signal of a porch light contained within unbeknownst to you. I become hyperaware of your presence, as if the darkness becomes walls enclosing us, and when you talk to me you linger on every word, as if there’s some kind of meaning I should spend hours trying to decode. When we are together, you are making an active choice to subvert the expectations of regular visiting hours. Our moments shared are in exchange of free time, daring the world to comment on the lateness of the hour.
There’s a swingset in the park near my childhood home. I used to sneak out of the house and run down the street, sitting on my swing which lacked the label of ‘public’ when I was its only inhabitant. I laced my arms up the chains, imagining a future full of nights like that. Being able to choose where to go, what to do, and what to think about. The night hid me from reality, providing a necessary shield to letting thoughts get completely out of hand.
I say things out loud to myself that I wouldn’t have the courage to do, like grabbing you by the shoulders and distracting myself with the almost unnoticeable grin on your face, talking myself down from doing the incredibly stupid. Because unfortunately, with the protection of night, we too are mysterious. We become the objects of thoughts of others, the last-person-I-try-to-think-of-before-I-sleep people, or the targets of a daring inebriated man’s rather forward request, hiding behind the night and what we assume it entails.
So I keep staring out over the balcony, wondering how many times I’ve stood and just thought your name, smiled at the memory of being with you, and thought about telling you how I really feel. But this is pointless. It will never be spoken over breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, or after when we laugh about our days and all the things that happened inbetween.
I want you to be the thing that happens. I want you to be the guiding light when somehow I’ve lost my way on the street where I live. I want to smile and see the twinkle in your eye, and wonder if it’s the night sky or if somehow I made you feel the way I do.
Embrace the night. Nothing is more willing to give you the time of day.