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Dancing Alone at 3 A.M.

I’m a night person. That means I don’t go to bed until somewhere between two and three in the morning. I bet it’s usually around three. When I’m working on a writing project I write between ten and three. But when I’m not working on a book, I am either watching TV, reading, or listening to music until the early hours.

3 a.m. is a magic time. I sense that my half of the world is asleep, or at least most of it is. It’s being alone in a very good way. It’s a kind of freedom, though perhaps not liberation. Sometimes as the time approaches three and I am listening to music, I dance in the middle of my study or the living room. Perhaps a little air guitar. I do this because I know that absolutely no one will see me. My wife is dead to the world at that hour. There is virtually no chance she will see me, and if she did, I’m confident she would never let me know. Dancing alone at three in the morning is sublime. I should emphasize this has nothing to do with being intoxicated. At 3 a.m. I’m always as sober as a Sunday morning. Yes, I guess the dancing is liberating.

If I’m watching TV I’m more susceptible to sentimentality. I abhor sentimentality, except when it’s 3 a.m. I can be reduced to tears by a sentimental sugar coated film that I would not even contemplate watching at 9 p.m. Indeed, I would mock it without mercy at 9 p.m. Is this detour into schmaltziness good for me? I don’t really know. I’ve learned to accept it, however, in my defense this acceptance took years. As with the dancing, I would never watch these horrible cheap morality plays created to manipulate my emotions and not nourish my mind and spirit if I knew someone could see me watching. Just last night I watched Morgan Freeman, a failed, forgotten writer, drinking himself to death be transformed and resurrected because he spent a summer next-door  to a divorcing mother and her three delightful children. My God, Freeman was also in a wheelchair because of a drunk driver running a red light years ago. My tears flowed like a revivifying river as Freeman stopped drinking, started writing, and learned to love again as the girls hugged him back to life. Oh, and he had a dog! An old dog! I sincerely hope these Disney moments are not liberating.

Often though, as the clock pushes close to the magic hour I am sitting quietly in a comfortable chair just thinking, and remembering. What’s fascinating about these early morning remembering sessions is I have no idea what episode or people of my past will surface as half the world sleeps. Last week, I was sitting in our snug (a small room with my big brown chair, bookcases, a small cabinet, and art from around the world on the walls). I had set my book aside and dimmed the lights. And then, for no rational or irrational reason at all, a girl I knew when I was a boy came to mind. I did not remember her name, but I did see her face both clearly and vaguely at the same time, if that makes any sense. I suspect we knew each other at the time of puberty, but the relationship was not burdened with sexual tensions or romantic fantasies. It was just a very nice friendship. With a girl.

We both lived in families that went to church, she in a catholic family and me in a protestant one. In those days Catholics and protestants didn’t worship much together and we thought that silly and, more importantly, restrictive of our friendship. We set a plan to worship together, but I don’t think it ever happened. I’m almost certain her parents would not let her come to my church. Though perhaps I’m wrong. Who knows?

I do remember clearly, almost vividly, a night we sat together looking at the stars. We both voiced the belief, with impressive conviction, that out there in the universe were sentient, intelligent, self-aware species looking up at the stars. We both desired to be alive when our species made contact with at least one of them. Somehow, that awareness and desire brought us closer together. It was a very special night with a friend sharing imagination, wonder, speculation, and hopes. It was glorious. Being young wasn’t all bad. And sitting in my snug at 3 a.m. I missed her. I wondered what happened to her. Could it be possible that she too remembers that night? Probably not. Most certainly not. I have no idea why I remembered it.

I have to confess, now that it is almost 3 a.m. and I really don’t feel like dancing alone, it saddens me that I will be dead long before we discover that life exists elsewhere in the universe. I’m not talking about First Contact. Just the proof that somewhere some microscopic bug lives and thrives and reproduces who is not a resident of planet earth. I know this is a silly sadness, perhaps a child’s sadness, but in honor of the intelligent, imaginative, desiring girl, I’m going to hold on to it.

Copyright © 2016 Dale Rominger

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