Unexceptional Nights

A Strong Pull for Such Wee Hours

I finished The Remains of the Day today, and was no less excited about it upon finishing as I was at this time yesterday. In the close of the novel, the title is crystalized in an exchange with a character on a Cornwall pier extolling the virtues of the evening. Some say the evening is the best part of the day. I would tend to agree if only in that the evening gives way to night. I've been feeling a familiar pull recently, one that has always had a habit of making itself known. It is the pull of my warped internal clock, the one that would love for me to live on a schedule of noon to four in the morning. Over the years I've been pretty successful in keeping it in check, conforming myself to the more genteel hours of conventional life. Every once in a while though, I let my guard down, and like a caged rat my true internal clock bolts for freedom.

There is something I love about being up late. Even indoors, the stillness is somehow invigorating, the silence of a sleeping house somehow tense with potential. The hairs on the back of your neck are always primed to jump up at an instant's provocation. The creak of a shrinking floorboard can hang in space for minutes, its barely detectable echo rippling through the air like a pebble breaking the stillness of a pond. All of this I never cease to appreciate, but it is the night beyond, the night outside, that really draws me. I love the feeling of empty streets at night. To many, and probably with quite good reason, they are unsettling, perhaps slightly sinister. Maybe it is even a bit creepy to stress too adamantly the special quality of streetlights versus sunlight. Yes, it is the absence of people that lends stillness to this particular kind of night, but that's not to say that I draw delight from the absence of people, per se. Rather, there is something in the way we react to the dark that I find so satisfying. It's that hyper-attunement of the senses, a certain crisp clarity of thought, even perhaps a "spirit full of a joyful wickedness."

The other night I was fortunate enough to witness one of the last proper rainstorms of this year. It was late and I had resolved to take a walk around the neighbourhood, to gorge myself on the intoxicating smell of leaves. As I walked from home, the light drizzle became heavier. My sweater was not built for this kind of weather, so I turned back, walking faster as the pace of the rain picked up. I made it to the front steps and waited. The rain grew harder still, with raging sheets coursing down in an almost rhythmic succession. It was as if someone had given the order to have the trees stripped of their leaves as discreetly as possible. As the torrent subsided, I half expected some kind of cleaning crew to follow with shovels for the soggy leaves. Instead there was only quiet and mist.

It was an excellent night, a night much like tonight, the kind of night where you feel like you could run forever and never grow tired. Where your feet would strike ever lightly upon the ground as your strides grew faster and longer. All it would take would be a firm gust of wind at your back and you'd leave the ground entirely, soaring over fences and rooftops. It is on nights such as these that one sees the possibility of taking the shortest path, leaping from point to point. Nothing good can come from perpetually embracing uncertainty, to live in the constant knowledge that we can't be sure the sun will rise tomorrow, but sometimes it is worth thinking about.