What if

I’m not even supposed to be here.
I woke up in my bed on a dark, northeast Wisconsin morning. My bedroom window, cracked open, let the damp morning air seep in. I hustled into running shorts and to the bathroom to move my toothbrush around my mouth and down to the kitchen to pack lunch. I tried to minimize the weight of my steps on the carpeted floor, cautious of the resulting creeks and bumps which might cause my housemates to stir. I moved not 1, but 2 cars into the street. Making space to back my car out of the garage and down the driveway and into the cold, crisp, dark, leafy morning. Black streets. Black sky. Headlights all around. Quiet but not empty, the streets of Green Bay at 6:30 in the morning.

Being outside alone in the morning reminds me of standing in library stacks. The insulated hush of morning, the muted space between the shelves. Reverent. Respectful of the time our brain needs to wander, to search, to leak incomplete snippets of thoughts. Undetermined time and space.

I follow the dark curves of the road. I walk through a lighter campus, leaves on the ground that mark my steps, not a soul in sight, but a distant humming, minds starting to perk, mouths starting to move, an expectant feeling rising from the windows of the dorms. The day is coming.

I am cold in my shorts. I pull the hood close around my ears. I think I am cold, but I know if I stop thinking I am cold and just feel the cold, it will be more comfortable. I will just be in the space. I maintain a steady pace, getting closer and closer to the lights of the gym.

I am not even supposed to be here. Am I in Michigan, getting up to write a paper, going to a job analyzing responses and reports and numbers? Am I waking up in a still-new apartment on my own? A different kind of quiet completing my days?
But I know that this isn’t right. If I wasn’t supposed to be here, I wouldn’t. If that reality I spent months building was supposed to actualize, it would have. Maybe the quiet strikes me so because it does not fight me. It does not push me away, it welcomes me in, and I step into it. I breathe into it, and I feel it absorb me up. Takes me over. In an hour I will walk back the way I came, wet from my sweat, flushed from my exertion. The dark will be gone, the leaves will be swept, and the quiet will be pushed back to the very corners of the day, biding its time to swoop in again, to fall around my ears again, to wake me up and carry me through.

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