Treating my Raynaud's means I have to take a medication that causes very vivid, movie-quality dreams. I borrowed one from last night for this.
Pulling up a steep driveway into someone's quiet evening, I am an annoyance on four wheels, my headlights breaking a twilight reverie as my victims sit sipping drinks from white mugs in the semi-dark. My directions are a bit off. Eventually I find where I am supposed to be, a home filled with my displaced family.
I find myself baffled by their daily routines and wonder why the real toilet paper is on a hook so high on the wall. It's to keep it away from my cousin, who had meningitis as a baby. They have rolls upon rolls of a special toilet paper, made just for her, that is supposed to be easier for her to use and encourage her bathroom training. I hate it. It is thick and feels like ace bandages or gauze in my hands as I peel the rolls trying to figure out what is wrong with them. No wonder she doesn't like to use it. I wouldn't either.
Everything in the house is covered in bits of patchwork ruffles, tiers of clashing patterns softening all the corners. My mother is there, watching programs on a small portable TV while she makes beds and smooths out quilts she has made. "I wish I could quilt, I never had a knack for it," she says as she unfolds the heavy, cool fabric. The tiny stitches are delicate under my fingertips. The quilts are fine and dark, the patterns intricate, the blocks cut and sewn into perfect symmetry. I think they are beautiful.
I help her make beds. She tells me I should watch the show. She thinks I will like it too, so watch, watch.
Later I'm driven to the city, where I'm supposed to spend the night all alone. Dropped off downtown with a coat, a scarf and a handful of worldly possessions, I huddle near a closed car wash or laundromat, watching from a distance the Night People as they walk by.
It's scary but after some time I begin to explore the sidewalks, peering into the windows of places that are only open in the middle of the night. The denizens frighten me, but at least they are human. Some are quirky, some are poor, some are tough and marked with ropes of colored ink that cover their limbs like a second set of clothes. They are all different, but they share the same dark eyes that speak of loneliness. Their bodies are hunches, slouches, and angles in the cold florescent light.
They are the Night People, and they are comfortable in their skins, shifting and drifting and stalking with confidence to their positions. I cannot guess where they are going. They have places to be, because it is Night Time, and Night Time belongs to the Night People.
I leave my things in a locker and walk along the city blocks. I am hesitant. Everyone else knows what they are doing, and where they will go. Everyone else has a Place and a Plan. I am different. I am aimless.
A narrow door reveals a gathering of people with long, pale faces at an even longer table. They turn their heads to examine me with those dark eyes that whisper to me I am alone, I am alone, I am alone. Many of them smoke, wisps of poison wreathing their heads where they sit. It makes me want a cigarette. After a silence during which I am certain he has seen and weighed my very soul, the man at the head of the table motions casually for me to sit. I join them and they continue with their business. I have been absorbed.
I pass the rest of the wee small hours going from place to place, observing what people do in the night. When the dawn comes and the streets are lit with something other than sodium-arcs and shop lights, Day People begin to appear on their morning routes and there are so many of them I can only see one face for every twenty that pass. They move in currents and tides so unlike the individually significant journeys of their nocturnal counterparts.
Gradually the Night People are purged by the push. It is cold outside so the people huddle together when they aren't rushing, rushing. Clustered in groups of two or three at the corners of great stone buildings, the remnants of the Night People smoke with the Day People, together in their vice. Harried businesswomen and leggy men in uncomfortable women's shoes and bargain feathers share lights and the dirty looks of passers-by, but mostly they're just part of the scenery, like everything else.
It smells like donuts, cold air and high rises.