I’ve never been an early riser, despite my best intentions. I only rise early when I am forced, begrudgingly, by one reason or another: a child crawling all over me, the endless chattering of birds while camping, an alarm that signals I have to make the hour and a half long trek to teach, my shift at the food coop, or the need to get a TB test read.
That last one happened last week. The kids haven’t been sleeping well, which means neither of their parents have been sleeping well, so when my alarm went off at 7a — although I recognize this is not early for others — after I had fallen asleep at 1a, I was not pleased. However, while I might not be a morning person, I have always been one of those people who is immediately alert. Wake me up in the middle of the night and my eyes will snap open and I’ll have a lucid conversation with you. Wake me up earlier than I want to, and I will still have trouble falling back asleep even if I can, because my mind will immediately race with thoughts. It’s a blessing and a curse, depending on the occasion. On this one, it was the former: I had to get moving, in order to commute into Manhattan to check the TB test I was asked to take for my midwifery program. I was going to a clinic where I had spent a large portion of my afternoon two days earlier; I was hoping getting there as soon as they opened would decrease my wait time and allow me to get home with minimal disruption to Andy’s work day.
Despite not being an early riser, I absolutely love, adore New York City in the morning on the now-rare occasions I am forced to be out and about early. 7:30 isn’t exactly the crack of dawn, and I know there are millions of people commuting to jobs at that hour, but for some reason it is still remarkably quiet here. Now, I live in a relatively quiet quiet neighborhood in Brooklyn anyway, but there’s something positively still about it at this hour, and I relish walking with the houses — no doubt filled with bleary-eyed people, or still sleeping people, or children bright-eyed and bushy-tailed nagging their parents to wake up; people waking up next to someone they’ve just started waking up next to and smiling internally, a little giddy despite being tired; people getting ready for their last day of work before they leave for a vacation; mothers wondering at what bizarre afternoon hour their teenagers will wake up as they pour their first cup of coffee; a nurse putting his things away before he tucks into bed — rising up next to me. It’s not like the stereotypical peace of waking up in the forest, but there is something magical, to me, something not more peaceful but equally peaceful in a different way, about waking up in a world filled with people who are there and yet not there, who are still in their small spaces while you’re strolling through the bright blue, and yet somehow gray, light of the morning. You’re walking down that wide sidewalk right under them, right next to them, and they don’t know it, because they’re starting they’re own day.
It gives me that Whitman-esque feeling, a “Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul,” quiet kind of euphoria.
The quiet on the street at 7:30 in the morning belies what’s going on under the ground, of course: the subway is always crowded at this time, chugging people along to work, spitting them out in masses at the hub stations, like Union Square, which is where I got off to get my TB test read. But even as I walked up the stairs with that great wave of commuters, we dispersed like spokes on a wheel to the various exits when we got up to the platform, and when I entered the usually bustling Union Square, even that space was quiet at 8:10 in the morning.
The clinic was relatively empty, I was in and out with a negative TB test in only a half hour, and both trains I needed to return me to Brooklyn came almost immediately, allowing me to get back into my still-quiet neighborhood by 9:15: all-told, the entire errand took less than two hours, most of which was spent reading and daydreaming on the subway: one of my very favorite activities.
And then, as I walked home, just before I turned the corner up my street, I nearly stepped on this note:
Smiling, I continued walking. A few steps later, I noticed another:
I don’t know Faith or Alyssa, or, or their mom. But I think I love them just the same.