August Nights This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 22, 2012
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Lying awake in the early hours of the morning became a normal thing as the hazy July days faded to cool August nights. I wouldn’t call this insomnia; sleep was something I welcomed, something that always came easily. Sleep, for me, was therapeutic. It brought me silence, peace; there were no thoughts, no words, no faces. Just black. Dreams never happened anymore- they hadn’t for a while.

At four in the morning, the only source of light was the streetlamp casting a pale yellow glow on the narrow road and uncut lawns. The other houses were dark. No one ever seemed to leave a lamp or the TV on by accident. I wondered if these homes truly had occupants, if the neighbors I saw by day were merely a lie, a trick of the light. The streets were as equally empty, except for the still, murky puddles on the sides and low spots. Everything seemed to die and disappear. To me, it was impossible that even at such an hour a town could be so devoid of life.
My room smelled of rain and a certain earthiness, like decomposing magnolia leaves. I rolled on my side and brushed a piece of hair from my neck. The bare skin was sticky, yet cool. Open windows could only do some much to alleviate the heat if there was no breeze outside. For the second time that summer, the upstairs air conditioning unit had stopped working on a regular basis. Its sweat would drip through the ceiling on the nights it came on. Steady, monotonous, almost like it was keeping time.
Though it was dark I could make out silhouettes in my room. There were clothes on the floor, crumpled and inside out, or piled on the desk. The clock blinked a grey, digital 4:37 AM. The mirror, almost ceiling length, had a trim that would shine like gold if the lights were on, instead of like muddy oil. Posters had a different texture- they looked smooth, not rough like the walls. Books of varying heights lined the shelves, titles unrecognizable.
Tracing the earbud cords with my fingers, I found my iPod under the pillow next to me. The screen was cracked- two lines across the top that extended down the sides- and covered in fingerprints, the most noticeable above the repeat sign. That was how I spent those empty hours- listening to music. It seemed better than tossing and turning, restless, on satin sheets.
Even then I was alone. Not just in my bedroom, but in that still world beyond the walls and windows. I sighed. Nothing was different. Time moved so slowly when I waited for the song to change, the minutes to become hours.

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