12 Hours of Daylight

I. I had never seen the streets so empty or heard the city so quiet. Exhausted from all the talking, I try to make myself as comfortable as possible in a sitting position in order to sleep. I am in this strange, suspended, resting-but-still-conscious state with my head hanging to one side when someone whispers, “Look!” I complain and cover my head with the blanket. Someone tears it off and, before I can get grumpy, I see a glint of the morning light on the horizon. The night pulls up and away like a curtain and no one says anything for a long time.

II. The power was cut from our apartment. Too many months late on the rent. I awaken to sunlight bearing down heavy and bright in our room. I panic. I can’t be late for school. Mom motions for me to get back to bed. Instead, I anxiously knock on Uncle’s bedroom door. He sleepily answers and soon enough we’re in his decrepit pickup truck. I hardly even know this man, and he’s not even my uncle. It it only later I understand that the string of strangers who came to live with us were renters. When we arrive I find an empty campus. I am an hour early, and I am embarrassed. My mom says to me when I come home later that day, “Don’t ever do that again.”

III. The entire house is bare. We are sleeping on the floor of what used to be the master bedroom. Or, more accurately, we are trying to. Technically we were supposed to have moved out a week prior so the construction workers could prepare for demolition. None of us can sleep. We can’t tell it it’s because the floor is so hard, the house is so cold, or we are otherwise uncomfortable with the imminent change about to happen. The three of us toss and turn like spinning cylinders of a conveyor belt. Before we know it, birds are chirping incessantly outside the window. We can hear the clunking of a truck carrying various metal tools coming around the corner. It is time for us to leave.

IV. The clouds are spread thin and I can see the sun in its purest form without having to shield myself from its rays. It is a perfect pale disk. I don’t know when the veil of clouds will run out, but I cannot look away.

V. It is summer and I am miserable. I am sitting on the front porch holding myself where stronger arms used to hold me. Neighbors chatter about pasta recipes and power walk down the sidewalks as children scurry to piano practice or soccer camp, and there is a lawnmower buzzing in the distance. The world moves on and I sit very still, head ducked down because everything is so damn bright.

VI. I wipe sweat from my brow as I jump out of the car. He is there out on the driveway. He says, “I didn’t even miss you,” although we both know that’s a lie. I walk past to get what I need from inside his house. I see that heat waves are rising from the street, and decide not to linger longer than I have to. I do not look back or say goodbye.

VII. We lift our hands, we photosynthesize. We photosynthesize not knowing whether it is even going to be our season to grow.

VIII. We are very young. Others go to tease the newest lovebirds among us. As I hear someone say, “Hold her hand!” I find a nice spot to lay on the grass and face the sky. I get a bad sunburn on my nose the next day.

IX. It is a time when I have forgotten my keys to the house. I sit on the front porch feeling sorry for myself. The sky is patchy with clouds and it alternates between excruciating heat and bitter cold whenever a cloud happens to pass over the sun. I watch as my neighborhood intermittently descends into darkness and is strangely illuminated. I pray for longer periods of clear skies. I curse the darkness.

X. It is summer and I am happy. I spend an entire day in the hammock in the back, cradled in warmth and a good measure of creative energy. I feel loved.

XI. It is much hotter inside the car than outside. I am about to burst with what I want to say to the driver, but I am nervous. Instead, I say nothing and flip down the front mirror. I do this partly for shade, partly as a distraction. He looks at me as I look at myself.

XII. We are walking to the parking lot when she stops and says, “Okay, I know this is so lame, but isn’t that sunset just gorgeous?” We look up at the sky, all sherbet  colors and swirls, then say in unison, “That’s not lame at all.” We three savor the moment, and soon it’s time to go.


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