By Nathan Hopp
The city is dead.
No, its heart is barely beating, barely breathing under the starry blanket sky. I can feel the weight in my eyes, and grasp the sharp headache every time I walk. I hear a scurrying squirrel run by me for a midnight snack. I smell the stench of sweat and car exhaust on an empty, neon street. I can taste the moisture of early morning spring in the cool air.
Walking outside my apartment in the dead of night always relaxes my muscles. Insomnia is a problem for students and Average Joes, for those who dislike breaking tradition or routine. Wake up, go to work, kiss the boss’s rear, get drunk after you clock out, then cry yourself to sleep while watching television static. You have a hobby to keep yourself sane or stand out. You yearn for time to do one thing or another. Did you know we spend one-third of our lives asleep?
My feet may be sore and my ankles crackling like burnt bacon, I feel alive when the city is asleep. In the distance comes the echo of a police siren, and I smell the stench of oily garbage bags piled in hidden alleys. I discover the bliss of peace and quiet, and step into the next block.
Walking down another deserted city street, the lights of nearby lamp posts turning nearby puddles into colorful neon. A fast food joint open for twenty-four hours is tucked in the crevice of two office buildings, its chairs and seats empty as a lone employee sweeps the clean floor. I pity how exhausted she looked, and don’t bother to have a burger. Instead, I meekly wave and watch her smile.
Deeper down the road, I encounter a homeless man sleeping on a park bench, and feel the wet grass soak my ankles. I didn’t fear anyone taking advantage of me, mostly due to there being nothing on me, and instead focused on the clear air around me. Nearby across the playground wet with moist air, I hear cars and people coming to life. I hear office workers, lawyers, and indeed food joint employees too tired to serve bratty customers in the morning. As daybreak comes, and I watch sunlight creep up my shoulders, I sit on a nearby swing and sigh. I felt so tired, and felt so alive at the insomniac quiet.
It is like dreaming.
Except I sometimes do wish.
I never wake up.