The blare of car horns, the scream of police sirens, Destiny yelling obscenities at her pimp. These are the sounds of my home at night. It’s not pretty, but the muffled background noise heard from the fifth floor is as warm as apple pie. The sound reminds me that my city is alive, that I’m never truly alone, and these comforts are what ease me to sleep every night.
Out here, there is nothing but the song of a cricket somewhere off in the distance, miles away from here. I can’t sleep in these conditions. The silence is distracting. Somewhere between dusk and dawn, I gave up trying and left the tent. Zipped it behind me and started walking through the trees. Without street signs or familiar landmarks, I was walking blind, but it was better than laying in my sleeping bag, staring at the ceiling. I walked through the darkness, through the forest, vaguely remembering a clearing a few hundred feet from camp. I needed to see the stars, for them to remind me that there’s life everywhere and that even out here, miles away from where I’m from, I’m not alone. I can sleep when I know these things.
When I reached the field, I laid down, my back to the grass, eyes to the stars. These aren’t the stars from home. The black of the sky was so beautifully blemished by a million flecks of light. These freckles seemed to dance, suspended from a ceiling of dark, with every blink, as though caught afire with life. I held my arm toward the sky, reaching for everything and nothing. My hand disappeared in the darkness. These stars, this darkness, are nothing like anything I’d ever seen before. Home has stars, but those stars could learn a thing or two about lighting up the night sky.
I inhaled, filling my lungs with oxygen, fresh and more pure than I’d ever known. The air was clear out here. The air at home is thick with smog and imperfection. Perfect. I can smell the life at home. Every corner is marked as property. The sidewalk belongs to Destiny, the street belongs to traffic, and my apartment belongs to me. But this air is different. It’s clear and clean. It smells like freedom.
I could forgive the crickets their song for stars like these and air like this.
Somewhere between dusk and dawn, I opened my eyes. The stars had disappeared and the sun was peeking through the horizon, staining the black sky.
There is night time dark and then there is rural night time dark.