“While collecting the stars, I connected the dots.
I don’t know who I am, but now I know who I’m not.
I’m just a curious speck that got caught up in orbit.”
—Sleeping At Last, “Jupiter”
I’ve been leaving my window open the past few nights.
My apartment in Jackson only had windows on the first floor, and we couldn’t open them because one of my cats, Mikail (the adventurous little turd), would jump through and go on a two-to-three-day adventure. It had happened many times before. Even though he always came back, I worried that one day, he wouldn’t. So we left the windows closed. Here, in Virginia, I have no such inhibitions.
My dad doesn’t turn on the AC in our house unless it gets hellishly hot, and maybe not even then. He’s become a real penny-pincher in his old age. Still, it’s not a huge problem because Virginia summers are mild, and when my room gets stuffy, I just open a window.
This works best at night.
Nighttime here is a different universe. The air smells different, sweeter. Temperatures drop ten to fifteen degrees or so, and the whole world goes quiet—the occasional nocturnal animal the only sound to be heard in the darkness. It’s magical. When I am awake during this time, I feel as if I have slipped into another place, another dimension. My family members, my friends—no one I know exists here. It’s just me and the slumbering mountain.
Last night, I came home from my second job as a barista out in Blacksburg, feet sore and stomach achingly empty. I devoured a turkey sandwich lathered in tomatoes and Italian dressing, a gourmet salad from McAllister’s on the side, and then found I could no longer keep my eyes open. So I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and fell into bed. A combination of things had spurred me to this point of absolute exhaustion—my online teaching job, which now had me up at all hours of the early morning; the relatives who had just left a few days previous; and my barista job, which included all manner of rushing and running and standing for long hours. By itself, none of those things were a problem. Together, they all culminated to drain me of all energy until I couldn’t even think.
I’ve never quite believed someone could fall asleep “the moment their head hit the pillow” until last night, when I experienced it. My window was open to let in the cool air, and as I was violently pulled into unconsciousness, the only thing I heard was the sound of the wind across the quiet mountain-top.
I woke up fourteen hours later and felt better than I had in weeks.
So things have been good. Busy, but good. That’s the only reply I have when people ask me how I am. Busy, I say, which is the truth, and it’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted to stay busy, to earn as much money as possible this summer, and my wish has been granted. The only slow time I get comes in fits and bursts—a quiet night playing games, reading, or writing; a sleepy Sunday afternoon spent at my older brother’s house; a chance to hike through the cool, dark woods covering the mountain; and so on.
Time has become strange; I no longer seem to think of it as a string of events. Instead, I surmise that maybe the Doctor was right when he said it was a “big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey … stuff.” The calendar on my phone and the one in my bullet journal exist simply to keep everything in my head sorted rather than strewn haphazardly everywhere. Despite them, I still feel haphazard. I always have, I suppose, but it was easier to ignore while swept up in the rigid schedule of school.
I still haven’t gotten used to calling myself a graduate.
People still ask me if the fact that I’m a graduate has registered. I believe I mentioned before, many times, that I don’t think it will until I don’t go back to Belhaven in the fall. The non-return will be bittersweet; I loved Belhaven. I loved the people, the classes, the general atmosphere, the sense of independence I got from being there, but I would never choose to go back for more.
Senioritis hit me hard my final semester, and I found I was quite done with college—mentally, physically, and emotionally. I am done with being a student or a graduate. I want to be devoid of titles tacked on like frilly trimmings to define me in the absence of school or college. If I am labelled, I want it to be with something along the lines of Christian, teacher, or explorer. I want to just be me.
Sometime in the future—soon, hopefully—I will realize my dreams. For now, however, life is good, and I’ve found I sleep best when I have the window open to let in the cool breeze of the night and the sound of the wind over the mountain-top.