Friday, August 3, 2007

>On Night

Wind slipping through the leaves of the maple tree. A dog passing by my apartment, metal tags jingling from its collar. (Is it pooping on my lawn again? The worry dissipates.) A neighbor slamming a car door, the alarm’s “wheep wheep” telling the owner, “OK, all is safe.” Lulling us all into safety, at least for one night.

Inside, the fan humming on the desk. A sax solo --- discordant, staccato --- burbling from the stereo. The sound of the computer whirring its mind. I turn them all off to hear --- or, rather, to NOT hear --- the well of night, its absolute silence.

It’s 2 am. The time of night I most revere. Especially now, summer, as the dark cool of the outside leaks slowly inside my office, by osmosis, replacing the apartment air stagnant and thick from today’s 87 degree day.

Night. The world is asleep. No one calls. No one sends me email (unless this “Penny Madison” and her ilk and messages such as “re: hot teein suycking double fuukd & faciall” count).

There is no one. And I need no one.

That is the lie I tell myself, anyway, as I click and clack, my fingers making love to my keyboard, and the last lighted rectangle of window from my visible neighbors winks out. Two am becomes 3, becomes 4. And I am still going.

Writers are told --- lo, the cliché is shoved down our throats --- that the act of writing is the ultimate solo act, an expression of “oneness,” a primal state of loneliness. No one craves and despises solitude more than writers. At 4 am, this myth feels most true, I think. I believe it. I’m seduced by its me-against-creation heroism, me alone plucking words from the stratosphere, me in tune with the croon of the cosmos --- even when I know it’s partly hogwash.

I’m getting a reputation for these late night writing marathons that turn into all-nighters. I work on deadline, and I leave the deadline to the absolute zero of the last moment. 1,200 words will be due on my editor’s virtual desktop at 10 am, and at midnight I’ll have not even started. I’ll take a bath. I’ll make myself some scrambled eggs and toast. I’ll have some chocolate, a beer or brew up a Bodum-ful of coffee. I’ll eat my eggs in the tub, read a newspaper from two weeks ago. I'll hear the faint murmurings of a late Red Sox game from my left-hand neighbor’s open window. Ah, someone is alive out there. But I will outlast him. He will sleep, and I will stay awake.

Still in the tub, I take a nap. I wake. My eyes readjust to the lighted bathroom. An idea comes to me --- a lead, a line, a kicker, a string of words for a poem I’ll never finish. This idea has come from the night. Issued from it, from the place where thoughts are born, the tunnels of the cerebellum, from the black sieve of stars and restless moon pensive in their transit over Somerville and every dark corner of the world.

Night. Who needs the sun? A new day? I prefer to struggle with the old one, to wring from it every last drop of wisdom and procrastination.

Back to my desk. To work. To race the arrival of dawn. To fight the bluish and birdish cacophony of tomorrow.

--- Ethan Gilsdorf


Whitney said...

Ethan, I love this post! I used to be a nightowl, but now sadly I'm morphing into a morning writer, which is odd. You and Sonya should hold a contest to see who stays up the latest on deadline...
Thanks for guesting!

barbie said...

Remined me of my college days. Ahhhhh!

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