I’m lying in the dark, brain whirring. Too much Borges before bed.
There’s a dog baying at regular intervals somewhere down by the river—a canine foghorn. There are crickets, and the wash of cool night air already filing the room. I’m on the edge of going under when I hear the faintest echo of a Great Horned Owl.
It jolts me awake. Ears pricked. Eyes wide. After a moment’s hesitation, I climb out of bed, unlatch the window, and slip into the garden.
There’s no moon in the sky—just a riot of stars, all dull amber and icy blue. I pause, the night chorus seethes around me and then: the owl. Resonant and distant. A warm, mournful sound from the end of the drive.
I pace the gravel in the dark and I am eight years old, flush with the freedom of having snuck out after bedtime, certain I am running away to go on adventures only to stop, as I do now, at the edge of the road. I am wrapped in the scent of pepper trees and dust, soles pricked by scalloped oak leaves. The owl sounds again, but it’s across the street, lost in the tangle of houses that was once an elaborate bed and breakfast.
I remember hovering on the edge of this curb, young and dreaming, aware that everything in the dark was held in a kind of suspended animation. A sacred in-betweenness. I wanted to go further, perhaps even knew that I could, but I was too enthralled with what was here. Every time I’d walk back to my room, or whatever part of the property I was nesting in at the time, and return to bed, as I will now.
Perhaps that was what I came looking for in the dark. Not the owl, but the reassurance that slipping out would still grant entry to this surreal and weightless darkness. Would let me pass my former selves in the drive, circling farther and farther from the cradle, always coming home before dawn.