by Robert Scoville
©2007 Robert Scoville
Sleepless again. I lay in bed, eyes pressed closed, but they want to open. I relent and look over at the clock. The dull red light faintly burns two thirty-seven into my searching eyes. Only two minutes. How much longer had it felt? The soft sound of my roommate breathing touches my ears. I think of him, resting peacefully on the lower bunk. My legs itch. I try not to move, not to shake the bed. I can’t stay here.
As smoothly as I can, I lift myself out of my sheets and drop to the floor. My legs absorb the fall so much I end up crouching. I glance at my roommate to make sure he’s still sleeping. Good, he is. Rising again, I take two silent steps to the door. Why do we always close it? Oh yeah, because the guys in the other room stay up later. I put my ear to the door, trying to hear any sound from the hallway. Nothing. They must all be in bed.
I open the door. It creaks a little and I cringe. My roommate shifts a little in his bed. I hold my breath, heart pounding in my chest. The dull red glow now reads two thirty-eight. I wait until it says two thirty-nine. Then I step into the hallway.
The hallway opens up into a larger room. All is dark save the pale blue light of the moon shining through the sliding glass door. I approach it, careful not to step on anything. These guys rarely put things where they belong. This time it’s just a few out of place blankets and pillows to climb over. I get to the door and slide it open. It makes a low rumbling sound. Cool air rushes over me.
I step out onto the balcony. Stretched from corner to corner is a large twine hammock. Another reminder. I step over it to get to the railing. The cement cools my feet, distracting my mind and I look.
The city is beautiful at night, buildings and streets reflecting the moon and the stars, air crisp and cool, sharpening the view. Down the street, I see a light on in a room on the third story. I wonder who lives there and what they’re doing up. There’s a picture on a mantle. Shadows move across the wall, but the angle is to high. I stand on the ledge to get a higher view. I reach out, holding to the wall for support. I still can’t see.
There is a noise. I look around. People are walking from the other end of the street. I get down off my perch, and step back. I watch them as they pass. I hear conversation. The cool air heightens my hearing, but distant noise of cars makes what they’re saying unintelligible. Where are they going, I wonder. I watch them to the other end of the street until they turn the corner. I look back to the window. The light is still on.
It must be late. I creep back into my room. The clock now reads two fifty-five. My eyes begin to droop. My heart is still racing as I climb back onto the top bunk, careful not to shake it. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Why do my legs itch again? I try to ignore them. Now my palm itches… and my back. I grumble and scratch those and other places that insist on itching.
I lay back down, breathing evenly, my heart racing, a dull thud-thud-thud of blood echoes in my ears. I think of the window. There were shadows. Who in their right mind would be awake at three a.m? I glance at the clock. Okay, not quite three a.m., but it’s not really my fault.
My heart is quiet finally. The only sound is of my roommate’s breathing. His nose whistles as he exhales. It’s a tiny high pitch sound. There it is again. And again! Blast, can’t I think of anything besides his breathing? Oh, now my legs itch again.
I get out of bed and leave the room, less carefully. I go back to the balcony and look for that third story window. I find it, but the light is out. Well… at least someone is getting some sleep. I wait a while, ten, fifteen minutes? Hoping someone else will walk down the street or turn on a light. That would at least give me something interesting to look at.
The city is so beautiful at night. The stars, the moonlight, the distant sounds. The stillness. Everything is still, except for a faint distant buzz. Like me. I would be sleeping if it weren’t for the buzz in my head. Thoughts, feelings, questions, pondering, all keeping me awake. A cloud passes a little over the top of a building and blocks a piece of the moon.
Good, finally something to look at.