A summer night at midnight.
I cannot sleep. I open the door and step outside and walk around my yard. I decide to sit down on an old, broken, lawn chair, that has been a fixture on the patio for as long as I can remember. The night feels as sullen and as melancholy as I do.
The patio is shrouded in the sticky, summer haze. It feels strange tonight. It is empty and cold, on this sweltering summer night. It occurs to me, at this quiet hour, that this is the very same patio that once, on many warm and sunny summer days, had been the scene of gatherings of family and friends; of cookouts; and a reservoir of many happy memories. On those joyous summer days, it was full of sound and life. Now it seems dead and unhappy. It is nothing at this hour but a dark, silent reminder of days that have come and gone. Days that will never come again.
A train whistle in the distance is muffled and forlorn. It leaks through the humid, hazy night as if enveloped in cotton; with a sound as fragile as a dream, and as piercing as a siren. Its engineer unaware that I am thinking of him, sits at the controls of the engine -oblivious to my prying thoughts. I wonder if he has a family? I wonder if he’s happy? I wonder how long he will guide that thundering locomotive through this steamy, summer night? How many hours has he been working? What is he thinking? I wonder where he is going tonight. I wonder if he thinks about all the souls who live and sleep in my little town. I wonder if he even notices little towns like mine at all? He must pass through hundreds of sleepy towns, just like mine, every night.
Just past midnight on the first day of August. Nothing reminds me of the passage of time more than the passing of seasons. But, it’s August first. Autumn is still over six weeks again. No season is passing from one to another. It’s just another month, not another season. But still autumn approaches with blinding speed – and I know it.
I think about June and July and wonder where they went. Summer seems so short. It comes and goes and before I get a chance to know it. It makes me want to drink it in and savor it – and make it last. I want to fill up on it. I want to be full of it. I want it to save it inside me for those bitter January days that lie just ahead. But, I can’t drink enough of it to last a week, let alone five months. Summer is like love. You can’t ever fill up on it. You can never have enough of it. You cannot store it up for that proverbial rainy day. You can try to savor it while you have it, and when it is gone you will remember it with a yearning that wells up from deep within the soul. Love, unlike summer, need not end. Summer ends on September 21, at least according to the calendar. I know I should savor summer while it is still here. But I’m not smart enough, I guess, to know exactly how to do it.
Earlier tonight, I went for a walk, and for the first time I noticed the sun going down earlier. Much earlier. And, it bothered me. And, I know why it bothered me too. It has nothing to do with the time of the sunset. It has to do with my selfishness and my recognition of my mortality. Such fitting thoughts for a melancholy midnight – alone on a patio, surrounded by muffled summer sounds oozing though a warm, oppressive haze. This patio has seen better days – and nights.
This chair is uncomfortable. It’s broken and worn. Still I sit in the night and try to touch my own melancholy so I can understand it. But, the need for sleep keeps nagging at me. I need to sleep, but sleep will not visit me. At least not yet.
One of these summers, I know not when, I’ll be thinking these same thoughts and worrying about the cold days of winter that lie just around autumn’s bend. I’ll be worrying about winter and the cold winds – and being uncomfortable as I force myself to take walks even on the most awful of winter days. But, when that particular summer comes, the winter will come for the world, but it will never come that year for me. I won’t be in this world anymore. So that summer I will waste the melancholy for it will not matter. Winter will not come for me. I will never see another season.
These thoughts dissolve into others: I wonder if it is a blessing or a curse that man is the only animal that is aware of its own mortality? Is it a good thing to plan for and think about our own demise? Or, do we waste so much time worrying about it that we give up too much of our lives? And on this warm summer night, it occurs to me that we don’t have much time on this earth to begin with. Thinking about our eventual demise seems such a terrible waste. I wonder if everyone does it? I do it too much. I wonder if I am typical or whether I’m different. Sometimes I like to think I’m different. In this case I like to think I’m typical.
Another train whistle shatters sad silence of my thoughts. It’s a little past 1:00AM. The night sounds of crickets and frogs and bugs turn up the volume of the melancholy night. I open the door and go inside and leave the steamy summer night behind. A summer night that will never come again.
I wonder if I will sleep tonight.