You wouldn’t expect to find serenity playing Pokémon Go outside a church at midnight. At least, I hadn’t expected it. Yet, as my cousin and I locked eyes and threw our heads back in laughter, it was there. The joke wasn’t even that funny, some silly pun courtesy of my twin brother, but in that moment it was everything. The sounds of our joy faded gently into the summer wind, mixed together until they were indiscernible.
We had walked the several odd miles down to the church well over an hour before then, our phones fully charged and flashlights lit. Usually I don’t mind the dark, but out in the backwoods of Michigan, it was a different kind of darkness. It enveloped our figures like waves over the ocean floor, and it wasn’t long before our Grandma’s house disappeared into the void.
Despite its valiant effort, the slim illumination offered from the moon did little to cut through night’s black veil. Our flashlights allowed us to see our feet, but not much more. I felt safe, though, with my brother and cousin. Soft indie rock flowed through my phone and into our footsteps, which mirrored the gentle, unhurried beat. When glancing up over the thick cone of trees that enclosed the small, dusty country road I glimpsed a blanket of stars.
It was enrapturing to the point that it almost pained me every time I had to look down at my phone to catch a Pokémon, because that meant I had to tear away from the living painting that appeared before me. It was the image movies were made for. The walk itself takes about 20 minutes, and by the time we made it to the shambled church, our Grandma’s house was well beyond eyesight. As we stared at the worn face of the building, a light inside flickered, and suddenly the ease we had walked down with was burdened with angst. We decided to walk to the front of the church, as it was adorned with a small, illuminated sign.
It also just so happened to be the only Pokestop in the area. Comforted by the occasional passing of cars and steady light, we sat on the lawn for over an hour catching Pokémon and enjoying the company. Eventually we didn’t need words, just being together was enough. Though none of us voiced it, we all realized that with college quickly approaching, this may be our last adventure together, and we wanted to enjoy every minuet aspect.
I think it was that understanding that brought us to serenity. It’s funny, looking back at those moments it felt like time had slowed. Similar to how, in teen movies, the frame suddenly freezes as the hot protagonist enters, hair blowing in the wind. Some parts of me wish it could have gone even slower. That we didn’t have to grow older and distant from each other. That we could sit on the lawn of a church at night and play games and never forget this bond, this connection that transcended way beyond state lines. But perhaps part of the beauty in serenity is that though it ends, we are left with this shining gift shrouded in memories.
The walk home, however, was anything but serene. Our phones were near dead, along with it the streaming music and glaring flashlights. We began to notice that the soft indie rock faded into snapping twigs and foreboding wind. The beautiful fog that had risen from the nearby farmland was now a picture worthy of The Walking Dead, and our footsteps quickened along with our heartbeats.
Then, as suddenly as the fear began it had stopped, replaced by warm laughter as my cousin began to form finger puppets on the road. Serenity had returned. Gleefully distracted, the final flashlight’s glow began to be contested by the growing light from my Grandma’s porch. We all exhaled, and though we were relieved to be safe, we found ourselves stationary by the end of her driveway, reluctant to end our adventure.
Despite traveling all that way for barely any Pokémon, it felt worthwhile in a way I still can’t really explain. There was no extraordinary feat, nothing overwhelmingly exciting occurred, and yet whenever I think back on that night I am flooded with something indescribable. Therefore, the closest word I can think of is serenity.
No video game, nor amusement park, nor superficial engagement has ever brought me close to the feeling I had on those late night adventures, and I couldn’t be more grateful.