Awareness comes slowly to him, in the darkness. Waking up is something akin to swimming up a waterfall, and he blinks his eyes open to see the first graying of dawn, over the hills, gleaming in the sky outside his half-open window. The sight brings memories, memories of morning's first light in summers past, and though it's barely been two dozen summers the memories seem to go on forever. Memories of nights spent before a glowing monitor until the light outside appears once again, of endless hours of writing, papers and poems and stories and letters to friends, all in that netherworld that appears somewhere after the late news and disappears with the sunrise. And walking out his front door, standing on the porch as the dawn comes, listening to the birds, so quiet, and yet somehow cacophonous when placed against the stillness that came before. Memories of midnight walks, two a.m. walks, five a.m. walks, feet crunching on asphalt and gravel. The world is always silent, shut down and motionless in the wee hours, and he would go out to walk in the silence, relishing in the cool night air, walking into the forest, away from the buzzing orange streetlights and the world, to watch the stars between the tree branches. Memories of nights spent alone, in silent uncaring darkness, staring out his open bedroom window to watch the sky lighten, the book beside him lying open, forgotten. Staring at nothing, the incomparable show of existence spread before his unseeing eyes, feeling like he is the only person in the entire world. A gentle, cool breeze brushes his face, in from the window, filled with the scents of trees and summer and the great living world outside, and she moves closer to him, her back pressing gently against his chest, feet brushing his shins, seeking warmth, still sleeping, moving as instinctively as the squirrels he used to watch playing, for hours, on the branches outside this same window. He pulls the quilt up, over her shoulders and his, and slips his arm around her stomach, fingers sliding lightly over the soft cotton of her shirt, a motion that is unfamiliar yet totally natural. She turns her head, slightly, and he can see her blink, her eyes trying to open, hair tousled by sleep, cheeks dusted with freckles, half-awakening at a touch that was not wholly expected. His head comes off the pillow, just barely, almost of its own will, to brush his lips across her cheek in a gentle kiss, and she settles, wraps her arms around his, making a soft, loving noise, curling against him, as they fall asleep again.

Copyright (C) 2000 Garth Melnick