Mid-November. Morale is low. Light snores drift upwards from the first floor of Lamont all the way to my desk which is overlooking the rest of the stress-ridden students. It’s 4 a.m., mind you. The lighting is a buzzing glare trapping me at a wooden table, like a mosquito in amber. My heavy fingers start to slip off the keys as my head bobs, signaling it’s time to unfurl myself and venture home. I shake off the sleep long enough to stand up. A quick zip and unzip of a bag, a defeated goodbye to the kind gatekeeper at the security desk, and I slip outside.
I get a shock of invigorating air, a feeling of relief from the stale smell of the library. In this walk I’ve trekked too many times, I realize I am seasoned to the paced shuffle of daytime duties. the perpetual crossings of Mass. Ave. The cars grow mechanical faces with flashlight eyes, the streets turn into conveyor belts. Buildings lean in over your head and exchange glances with one another. Or maybe that’s the sleep deprivation.
There are no cars now; the wet road of Mass. Ave. shoots forward like the path of a rocket. Without a break in my pace, I begin to cross to the other side of the street, but then I take a cautious pause halfway through. Now that the bustle is gone, I feel I’m not supposed to be outisde; things are too calm. I savor the street lamps bouncing light off the asphalt, the buildings shut down, the absence of any sense of urgency. The red brick, I notice, looks as tired as I am. It’s not so bad to be up, lingering in the street.
I picture myself taking a seat on the centered white line, without fear of approaching cars. I’d sit there cross-legged, stiff-backed, regally on the dark pitch. my mouth would crack open in a smile and deep cackles would burst out, relentless like black bats flapping out of the cavern of my mouth. I’d howl wide so as to swallow the lights in the buildings, the iron in the gates, the people asleep in their beds. Chunks of Mass. Ave. would fly up like meteors, the lampposts would topple, signs would be wrenched off the buildings. I would turn into a statue honoring myself in stone. My arms are thrown in concrete victory.
Beep, click. I’ve already swiped my ID into Adams. My footsteps echo through the the dining hall’s quiet grandeur, the rhythm keeping me in time and propelling me forward. I glance to the back corner, and my friend’s face takes me by surprise. I force my feet to change course and sit down. A wry joke, a gentle sigh, an acknowledgment. She’s feeling crazed from lack of sleep too. P-set? Essay. Same. What time? Too soon. We chat about class tomorrow, laugh at our shared misery. The humanity of the interaction reminds me of my own.
The clock reads 20 past four o’clock by the time I make it to my room. I know the constant rush and shuffle awaits me when I wake. But I know there are people to move with me when I have to keep moving. As I sink deeper into my bed, I am filled by the peace in that victory.