It is in the small hours when I am roused from sleep. Sometimes there is a clarity to the waking. A restlessness. I want to GO. To do something. To take a ride, to eat a bowl of cereal, to read a book. The shadows don't make sense in the clash between the kitchen light, the streetlight, and ambient night. I look towards the bookshelf. I take down a photo album and, once I get past being pissed about the pics where I am fifteen pounds high, I am lost in it. I am back in time and remembering that time has passed. A lot of it. Like a steady drip that becomes a roar until the drywall rots and crumbles.
Sometimes my cat will find me, confused that I am in his time. But he is happy to see me. Always ready to sit on a warm lap. I try not to turn on the computer. I think of all the people who write in the small hours and I feel guilty, but I don't want to write. That's not the way I do it. I wonder how much of my life I wasted trying to do things the way other people did them and failing. I won't let that happen to my girls.
I'm silly about it really. When my oldest was just learning to use scissors she would hold them upside down and get corrected until finally I couldn't take it. "Let her hold the goddamn scissors any way she wants!" And then I realize the anger is out of proportion and it's not about scissors anyway, and never was. It's about me.
But the small hours give me a kind of magic sight. I sit and watch the girls sleep, so limp and free of worry. Tiny little people with sweet breath that sits on the night air and makes you feel like laughing out loud. I look into four tiny brown eyes, and the love I feel in the small hours is almost crippling. I want to wrap it around myself. I want to throw it as far as I can, scared of its power. I want to keep it in my pocket forever.
My wife is sleeping and this makes me happy. She doesn't get enough sleep. She doesn't complain. I look out the window. I used to live in a city that was never quiet. There was always something. The small hours where I live now are silent and empty. I stare out the window at the moisture collecting on the tops of jolly rancher cars and I wonder.
Years from now, I will be an old man. I will have written more words than most people, but that will be all I contribute to the world. I hope my girls will want to hang out with their old man. I hope my wife will get more sleep.
In the small hours, my brain is slow and sensible...
I sit on the edge of the bed for what seems like ages. I pet the cat and listen to the breathing apartment and wonder what fate holds in store. Because there is so much to lose and so much to win. And I don't deserve it. But I hope to hell things keep going my way. I lay back on my pillow and think about time and money and all the things I don't have enough of. It all seems pretty stupid in the small hours when the house is filled with love and bemused shadows.