Feeling in the Night
From the start, he did not like working the swing shift. It seemed as if the hours between four and midnight should be filled with something else. Maybe the time would be better spent with his family, or reading, or listening to NPR. Maybe just relaxing. There should be something to those hours other than work.
After a few weeks, he began to enjoy the ride home. Still not the work, or the hours — just the ride home. The first night he felt it was after a hard rain. It was one week before Christmas and it had been blistering cold when he had arrived at work. When he got off and went out to the parking lot, it was wet and quiet and cool. The freezing rain had made the parking lot shine with a fresh glaze. The small grass dividers between parking lots glowed a fresh green that they could not muster in the daytime. Everything looked so clean.
As he drove out that night, on the access road that led to Route 1, the little road that hardly anyone used except for the people who lived in the little box houses to one side, he rolled down his windows. It was about 12:30 in the morning. Everything was quiet. Cars were in the driveways … streetlights were on … front porch lights were on. Everything was so orderly. This was the time for everything to be in its place.
The night was clear now and the moon was out full. The moon and the orange lights and the white lights and the large parking lots looking freshly painted made for a pretty picture. It seemed that he could think clearly now. That he could think about things with some perspective.
It got so busy during the days, being a father, being a husband, being a worker, paying bills, trying to keep track of expenses, keeping up with all the health care bills and paperwork and crap. He had so little time to think anymore. Day to day to day, just an endless succession of decisions made on the fly. Everything was by the minute now, the information age was a timely age, everything had to be done quickly. Speed was more important than quality now. One had to be on the ball, both at home and at work, there did not seem to be any downtime these days. It was all up time, time on the move, time to get something done. If you were done paying the bills, finished recording the expenses, completed the health care paperwork filing, logged on to your email, dealt with your voicemail, read your postal mail and the newspaper, got your stock quotes from CNBC, well, then, it was time to take care of your infant daughter while your wife went to work. Breakfast to be made — lunch to be made — diapers to be changed — clothes to be washed, dishes to be washed — and you to be washed. Jump in the shower. Then it was time to go to work.
But now, it seemed that all of it made sense. There was a clarity in the night. The cacophony of the day and the workplace had given now given way to a funereal calm. And he could think. Clearly think, not rushed thoughts. Route 1, that rotting route of daytime death, was almost empty. He made all the lights. Even the Beltway was almost a magic carpet ride.
Pulling up to his street, he looked at his watch and saw that the ride home had taken a full fifteen minutes less than the ride there. His street was quiet, too. He saw his house, dark, except for the front porch light. It shone like a beacon over his front door.
He parked the car and stood by the Christmas lights, glowing, twinkling and smiling. He looked around and heard nothing and saw nothing. Everything seemed ... so arranged. He thought of his sleeping wife and baby and he was happy. Things appeared different now. It was all good now.
He went downstairs with an old John Steinbeck novel and sat in the easy chair and began to read. He decided he would start driving home slower after work. Make it take a little more time. He had gotten a lot done on the ride home tonight.