Of Starlight and Solitude | Teen Ink

Of Starlight and Solitude

April 29, 2019
By Anonymous

I’m 30,000 miles underwater and I’m drowning. Or, I would be, if my lungs had remembered they needed air to breathe. Everything's sort of peaceful: murky, muted. The water runs over my thoughts and whisks them away with the current. I didn’t need them down here anyway. The night sky moves outside my window, and I imagine myself reaching up towards it.

There’s usually a book, and there’s always the moon. It starts when the sun goes down. I can feel it in my bones and in my soul that it’s going to be one of those nights. There are hugs and goodnights and the assurance to my parents that I’ll try to get some sleep, but my room has me in her gravitational pull, and I can’t keep her waiting any longer. So I order my aching feet upstairs, force them in front of each other. A heavy feeling lassos my heart and tugs. School tomorrow, foreboding and awful and terrible. It can’t happen yet, so I keep it at bay the only way I know how: an all-nighter.

They’ve become a habit, and I’ve developed some tendencies. First, I pick a good book, one that’s been shoving its title to the forefront of my thoughts. All my favorite books have been read in one night. Second, I ignore the clock. It’s no longer my friend, counting treacherously down until my time is up. Third, I look at the moon. She’s known me all my life. She knows what's in my heart. She might be the only one who does.

My world narrows. I become more human. The pieces of myself scattered across Sugar Land, across high school hallways and roadways and sidewalks, move quietly over cold, tired suburbia and greet me at my windowsill. The homework sitting in my backpack shrivels up, or falls apart, or spontaneously combusts; all I know is that it’s not getting done, and the thought of that fills me with a fierce, desperate feeling of victory, like I’m fighting back against the armies of administrators who think they have a say in my future. In the morning there will be talk of Chemistry grades and English quizzes, the voices of my peers thudding softly against the dull ache in my heart, chipping away at me. I’ll have to picture a lighthouse in Iceland or a cabin in Alaska. I’ll have to go somewhere else, see the Northern Lights from my balcony, live simply in my mind with my books and my fireplace and my cable-knit sweaters. I’ll have to pull another all-nighter.

Sometimes, when the room is flooded with warm lamplight and there’s a train moving steadily to far-off places, I think I really could do it. I could fold in on myself like origami, paper-flat, and sink down into the page and the words and the story. Run between the ink and find my eternity-place, a quiet spot to exist forever. I’d close the book behind me, let the cover fall with a muted finality. Look for me on the shelf: I’ll be hidden. I’ll be home. I don’t have to go to school tomorrow if I’m not here. And the moon shines so brightly that I convince myself it’s possible.

There are all-nighters when it’s not so alone. When a friend of mine is staying up late to study, and the laughs from our Skype call fill the empty space. When I message my Decathlon team, sharing parts of my book and thoughts about anything, reminding myself of my found family and of our siamese hearts, forever beating in time with each other. I lean out for love and they catch me. I was wrong about the moon. She’s not the only one who knows me.

There are all-nighters when I feel like I’m sinking. Like my feet got stuck in the bank of the muddy Mississippi, and I can’t do anything but watch as the current climbs over my head. On those nights, my intentions are painfully obvious, and my book feels like a flimsy distraction from the fact that I will be drained the next day and I will have late work to accompany my headache. And I think about the other kids my age, protagonists of their own stories with hopes and dreams and fears that are unknowable, and I wonder what they long for when it’s 3AM, and they have a project due the next day, and the riverbank is pulling them endlessly down, and the only two things in the world are their head and their heart. Somehow, it makes their voices seem less acerbic in the morning, less like a scalpel and more like a tentative, outstretched hand. I hear the panic and the worry and the wavering doubt behind their probing questions, and I want to meet their hand with my own and run away to somewhere cold and quiet and free.

Inevitably, sunrise drags itself across the sky, pulling with it an ensemble of soft colors and thin clouds. Things look different in the daytime, and reality seeps back into the corners of my vision, fuzzy and not quite real. I’ve finished my book; I knew I would cry. I bet it’s all my brain will be able to think about at school. I shower and dress on muscle memory, already looking forward to the afternoon nap I’m destined for.  I know what stretches out before me. I feel a delay in my reaction time, and a heaviness collects behind my eyelids. I’m hungry and hollow and worn out.

But my heart is fuller than it was last night.

The author's comments:

Sort of a definition essay. I hope it rings true for others. Thank you for the consideration!

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