Night Owls

It is eleven o’clock at night. 23:00, EDT. I am not quite right. I’ve been Doing Things all day. Things to make the house livable, painting, tiling, gardening. The gardening is the only thing that feels like it’s changed anything. I am not quite right. I tell the roommate I am going out.

But it’s 11:04, he tells me. I tell him that I know. People in their right minds don’t go out at this hour, he insists at me. I don’t say anything back, because I am not right. The door closes and I can still hear him sputtering.

Some months ago, a cop stopped me on the street and told me people my age weren’t allowed out at this hour. Last I checked, the only curfew is the one that bans those under 18 from driving at this time. I had showed him my ID, and he uncomfortably told me that decent folk don’t go out at night. I guess that means I’m not decent folk, that I’m not right. I have proof.

If I were right, I wouldn’t sing to the waning moon (it’s not even full), or steal through empty lots to the banks of the canals to watch silent birds hunt fish in the shallows. I wouldn’t go arranging the pieces of broken bottles into sunbursts and spirals on the side of the road or ponder the deadness of US 41 at 11:26 pm. US 41 is dead. I can count to 80 between cars. 146 between cars. 312 between cars. I stop at 600. Decent folk don’t find whole neighborhoods of cats to follow them through the streets at night: an orange tabby, a blotched black and white, a smoke grey kitten, a dun-colored spotted one. They are completely silent except when I pet them: they purr. Good citizens don’t take hunks of limestone and scrawl obscene limericks on the sidewalk. I suppose, at least, that I am a good citizen, because it was a half-hearted sonnet instead. Good girls don’t yell at the bums on bikes who get grabby as they cycle past, but I do. I swung at him, too, my mouth brimming with cuss and venom, but he staggeringly pedaled on.

If I were right, I wouldn’t be restless, they tell me. Restlessness is wrong. Wrong, wrong. Shame. Do you want to be mistaken for a whore? Do you want to stroll right into danger? Do you want to end up dead on the side of the road? All of these right thoughts are born of fear. Knowing one’s narrow place. I know my place. It’s wider than that. It’s on the street corner at midnight, trying to tie a prayer ribbon to the light post 7 feet up. It’s in the tree down the road trying to coax the screech owl to my hand. It’s along the street two down from mine, planting pretty cats-eye marbles in rows along their driveways, and then melting into the night. Because I can. Because no one else will. And these are small necessary things.

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