At night

by Christie Chisholm

by Christie Chisholm

Sometimes at night when my face is fresh and my chin still damp and I need my glasses to see, when I tuck into bed, when the light clicks off, and I am left with whatever darkness the night has in store, sometimes I am lonely. 

I will reach my hand toward the heat of my dog and search for a soft, round place to rest my palm. When I find it, I let my hand rise and fall with him, and the night is a little less lonely. 

I used to reach that hand toward a pillow, to the place where another head might be if it were another night, a night that has been or a night that could become. I would look to it, and remember, and imagine. The loneliness would blossom. I am glad that now, instead, there is another breath to calm that traveling hand, a breath that is so soft and so round. 

Sometimes at night I am lonely, and there are two breaths beside me. The dog on the floor, the person in bed. I feel guilty when I look at the dog, because he doesn’t know why tonight his place has changed, and because I know that he is the one who will stay. 

Sometimes with someone the loneliness is bigger. I am lonely at the sight of them because I know they will be leaving, or because I want to be alone, or because I don’t know how to be in this. Alone is simple. It’s harder to screw up alone. And I am never really alone, because there is the softness and roundness to reach to. 

Sometimes the person makes everything bigger, and we are bigger, too. We are giants of happiness. We stomp across the landscape with our joy, shaking the earth as each foot taps the ground. We are mountains, we are oceans, our swells and life so loud.  

Sometimes at night I am grateful. The smooth of my sheets and the rustle of my bed and the crispness of a good day. 

Sometimes at night I am weeping. For the people I miss, for so many reasons and in so many forms. I wail for what they left behind.

Sometimes at night my heart races. I wish I knew what it was racing toward. 

On those nights, my chest is a dark and wild place.

I am restless.

I am lonely.

I wonder if I am broken.

I check the damaged world, count to 10. Ten is a good number. Not all numbers are kind. 

How many times does the pulse pump in my wrist? Is it normal? How many times will the smoke alarm flash? Is it lying? Sometimes people just die for no reason. In the night, in the quiet, no chance to ask for help. How do you ward off the silence?

Check the world. Count to 10.

Those nights don’t come around anymore. Sometimes at night I remember how it felt waiting for daybreak, before the fear lifted. It was like living life in thirst, forgetting there was a thing called water. And then, one day, you drink. Finally, to know what it is to sleep in the night, and only sleep.

Sometimes at night I still feel it rumbling, like a train miles away, thundering in the distance. I know one day it may come, rip through whatever home I have built. But for now, it stays quiet, it rumbles meekly.

Sometimes the night is enough.