Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Confessions of a Reformed Night Owl Part 1: Setting the Scene

Let me set the scene for you.

I once saw a man walking a rabbit. He had it on a leash. It was early morning, that time when the wise people of the world were tucked in their beds. At that moment it seemed like the three of us, the man, the rabbit and myself were the only things awake in existence.

I was a night owl at that time. Always had been. I felt about the daytime the same way a claustrophobic might feel about elevators. I created my life around the night. My work, my personal life, my hobbies, all were purposefully developed to keep myself inside during the day and out at night.

I live in a small town and it does limit what I can do in the small hours of the morning. Nothing stays open past midnight. The normal activities that occupy people's lives during the day aren't available to me. I needed something to occupy my time, so I took up walking as a hobby.

This is America. Walking isn't normal. People who live in suburbs or small country towns don't walk. Those few that do are usually deemed to be weirdos, misfits, or criminals. Really, the negative assumptions are understandable. America isn't made for walking. It's made for driving, but I don't drive. I walk.

Most of the time there's nothing really to see, or at least nothing out of the ordinary to see. There's plenty to see on my walks, but most of it won't be interesting to you. For example, do you care about the way the ground lights illuminate the old Presbyterian church during a fog? Would you care to know about the habits of the raccoon's in Wilson Park? There are other things, though. Things that I've witnessed that you would be interested in.

I look in windows -- because of course I do. I don't stop and stare. I don't peep. I glance. As I walk past a house I will glace at the windows. Usually I see drawn curtains, hiding dark rooms. That's to be expected, of course, but sometimes I see people and snapshots of their lives.

Often those lives consist of a strong diet of television and late night snacking. The ordinariness of wasting time is a sin. Sometimes, though, I witness things less mundane.

The rare occasion when I tell someone about my nighttime walks, they always want to hear the juicy stories. Have you ever seen a murder? Do you watch people having sex? What's the scariest thing you've seen? I have answers to each of these. No, I've never seen a murder, though I've witnessed other crimes. I have seen people having sex. Then there's the answer to the scariest thing question...

The scariest thing used to be the time I saw a man beating his wife in their front yard. I still remember being surprised that there was no dialogue between the two, just the animal noises of physical effort and pain. I was dumbfounded by the brutality.

A motion caught my eye and I saw a curtain move aside at a nearby house, a man's face momentarily pressed against the window. I saw him roll his eyes at the scene. By that point the woman was on the ground, like a lump of dough, and had ceased to fight back. The neighbor closed the curtain.

It was as if the neighbor was immune to this act of violence. It was like he was beyond caring, like his chief complaint would have been the noise and the interruption to his sleep. Of course, I didn't personally intervene, either, though I did call the police.

That scene used to be the most disturbing thing that I had come across. Then I met her.