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It’s 11:45 p.m. on a cool summer night. My bedroom window is open, letting in the cool breeze from outside. The moonlight spills in from the window and tries to fill the room, pushing the darkness into the deepest recesses and corners. The rustle of the leaves whispers the most beautiful lullaby, joined by the constant whine of the cicadas, all begging me to close my eyes and sleep. I cannot sleep on this night. Sleep evades my unconscious grasp as a butterfly would evade the small fingers of a playful child. My thoughts are filled with images from the week, though there is nothing I would love more than to erase the images from my memory completely. I am losing my battle to find sleep, and along with the battle, my sanity. I sit up in bed and decide to escape.
My family is sleeping peacefully in their rooms as I step out of my room. My footsteps are as silent as a cat stalking its prey. I move with grace through the family room and then down the 12 stairs, making sure to step over the ninth to avoid the horrible squeak of the old floorboard. I slip past the screen door separating the upstairs from the downstairs, having to swing the door closed quickly to avoid more creaking, but not so quick as to slam it shut.
I look down the hall before I move another inch. There are lights on enough to illuminate paths to get from room to room. The television is on, but its sound has been muted. There is a dripping from the faucet in the kitchen, which normally would be so faint, now seems to echo in the silence. Our three-legged cat scampers from the hall into the bathroom, spooked by my unannounced presence. There is a humming from the computer that easily covers any sounds I make. My shoes lay next to the front door, and I sneak over, pick them up, and sit down on a chair a few feet away.
In silence, I lace up my sneakers. I move back through the kitchen for a quick glass of water. I hesitate for a moment, making sure that the house is still in its slumber before turning on the faucet to cool water and filling up my glass. I plan on a short run, but my throat seems to fear the worst and tries to savor each moment the cool water splashes down into my stomach. Taking one last listen, I head for the door.
I step outside and begin walking and stretching, preparing for my run. It’s a rather short run, measuring only seven tenths of a mile, but it always helps me clear my mind from anything that is bothering me. Running at night allows me to be alone and enjoy the beauty that is around me, though there are many things I cannot even see. Tonight, the moon has decided to show its full face, illuminating everything around me in a pale white.
I know everyone in the town will be sleeping, and no traffic will be moving about this late. Even during the day, these dirt roads often remain undisturbed. I start off through a dark alley with a canopy of trees lining both sides. There are only small spots of the ghostly light able to squeeze past the leaves and branches of the barrier above. The short alley gives way to a more open road, and I pick up my pace slightly. I pass a few houses that have a light or two on until I reach a turnoff onto another road, leading away from the center of my small town towards an open field.
I stop short of the turn and take some slow deep breaths, absorbing the cool air into my lungs. The roar of cicadas is the most prominent sound in my ear. I focus to hear the sound of a dog barking on the other side of town as the cool breeze licks across the back of my neck, causing me to use my hand to wipe of the few droplets of perspiration. I take one last deep breath, and I take off on my run once more.
I fall into a steady, powerful rhythm, allowing my arms and legs to move in a smooth, consistent motion. The wind rushes past my ears, and the dirt road screams as my feet push off, sending rocks spiraling backwards. My pace continues hard and strong until I reach the end of the road. I slow down to a walk and catch my breath as I approach the open field.
A few steps forward brings me to the top of a small hill that overlooks the land that surrounds me. I found this spot on accident one afternoon while riding my bike, and continued to return here whenever I needed to get away. Its beauty seems to be magnified when the moonlight shines down upon the vast field.
Tonight it is easy to make out the tree lines on the north and eastern sides. The brome looks like the ocean as it sways in the breeze. I can see a fawn bounding towards the northern trees and just catch a glimpse of two more prancing behind it. As soon as they entered my sight, they vanished into the trees. An owl hoots in a nearby tree, and a bird whose song I do not recognize calls out in response.
I sit down in the cool grass to continue to admire the beauty. I feel the origins of the night time dew as I run my hands through the grass, rubbing the water onto my exposed skin to cool off. I remember the very first time I visited this spot during the nighttime. It was a night much the same as this one, and my mind was very troubled then as well. My grandfather had passed away that morning, and I took the news very hard. There were very few people in the world that I felt as close to as I did Pa as all of us grandkids called him. I just wanted time alone to think, but everything in my house was only a painful reminder of what had occurred. Going on the run allowed me space away from painful memories, so I could focus on remembering the good and work on getting through the tough time.
The cool air has the desired effect on my weary and troubled mind tonight, just as it has on all the runs previous to now. It seems as though with every droplet of sweat perspired from my body, a worry was cast out of my mind and left behind in the breeze. I know that many would think my late night expeditions as troubling or dangerous, but when I need to get away, there is nothing better than my midnight runs.