I'm never sure what to do on the nights when it's past midnight and the world is sleeping but I am not. Some nights I watch the clock tick slowly and wish myself to feel tired. Other nights, like tonight I am restless, like a runner waiting for the startgun at the beginning of a race. My mind gambols around playfully, toying with topics, a kitten on a mat, swatting away.
I love that I am alone. I love the sounds of silence. The way that I feel like I am stealing something from the night that is all my own that I don't have to share. I love the way that night tastes on my tongue when I don't have anyone around to see it, and I love the way the night sky glitters knowing so few people are seeing what I'm seeing.
Occasionally an unwelcome logical thought like the fact I will likely have to get up out of bed in 5 hours pricks me and makes me uncomfortable. Squirming on my chair a naughty girl waiting to go into the principal's office, I mull it over before something distracts me. Something magic about this witching hour, something about the crackle in the air.
Once upon a time when I lived at college this used to be my hour, when the sensibles had dropped off and gone to bed, I would prowl around outside, rugged up so as not to be deterred by the cold, in search of other nightdwellers. We would meet and have that same knowing look, often gratitude marked on our active faces that we'd found each other. Nights filled with mind expanding conversation. Nights filled with endless games of spirited 500. Nights filled with easy quiet camaraderie as we just gloried in the presence of another.
Something about night just heightens everything. Every encounter becomes more intense, every conversation more meaningful, every playful game more spirited. After midnight is when Phil is at her silky, velvety best. Her laugh, her quick wit, the way her mind snaps, the way she even moves is imbued with something stolen from the inky darkness. I never felt unsure about myself at night, never felt that cloying worry of teenaged girls that they are not enough. I knew Phil was always enough, she practically purred in your belly.
I've tried going to bed early on nights like this. Tried in vain to lie still so as not to wake LH as he softly snores, having failed to keep up with my Voltaire inspired conversations. Have laid there, eyes trained on the sky outside, searching for my favourite star, and felt my soul move even as the body lies prostrate. Felt the cool, gravelly texture of the bricks on the windowsill as I grasp them, and then as it digs into my knees. Felt the grasp of my hand on the edge of the window even though my hands are next to me on the pillow. Heard my footsteps on the ground, smelt that sweet tangy night air, that ephemeral scent that is always gone come morning. Felt the breeze play with my hair as I look around the darkened yard, felt the tickle as a tendril brushes my ear.
Still in bed but outside at the same time, eyes adjusting to the darkness, pupils dilating until they are almost catlike in the dimness. Far off I hear LH snort a little in his sleep as he rolls onto his side, and I feel a guilty pang, as if I need to return back into the room with him, where I am lying slumbering, but I am so light and so free outside. I undo the latch to the gate, lifting the heavy gate as I do so making sure that the bolt does not shout. I marvel at how cold the steel bolt feels under my hand, how the brush of the treated pine gate scratches at the skin of my palm. Imagining is one thing but I can feel it under my palm, and yet I am in bed.
The leaves rustle in the trees ahead, and I look behind to where I should be before venturing further. The first night I did this I was so unsure I stopped at the window, afraid to go past that physical barrier. It is many nights now and I have finally left the yard, and am lost as to what happens next. I listen to LH's breathing for a while, feel the warmth of the quilt on my chest, then go back to where my mind is exploring. I sit down on the concrete steps out the front of our building. The coldness of the concrete invades through my pyjamas and into my thigh in that biting way that cold concrete does. I'm sitting outside my house in my pyjamas watching for falling stars and shivering slightly from the breeze. Theres no one out here with me. I'm all alone. But how can there be anyone with me when my body is still in bed?
I love the secret thrill that courses down my back at the strangeness of this. The power of it, of having such an incredible secret. Like the first time I knew what an orgasm was and knowing no one else knew but that it had been so monumental for me. I'm completely dissociated from my body, feeling sensations that are not possible for me to feel, looking at things that I cannot possibly be seeing. And I'm awake. This is not a dream.
Eventually I become tired of looking for meteors and satellites, and I reluctantly return my mind to my bed, where I'm curled up, hands tucked up on my pillow like a little girl, hair splayed and covers up to my chin. It takes a little while to settle there, to comfortably have my thoughts in the same place as my self, but once we're synchronised, I can finally sleep, my hands curling up under my chin as I snuggle down, wondrous at how far I made it tonight and wondering just how far I will be able to go next time.