I went walking my dog at dusk tonight, right as the sun was just almost fully hidden by the horizon. I rarely go out at this time. Most nights I hope to be in pajamas and bunking down for the night by 7:00 pm (yes, folks, this is what my post-graduate life has turned out to be), but tonight some circumstances prevented that and so I ended up walking later.
Once upon a time I used to go running in the early hours. I loved my time alone, in the dark, when no one was yet awake. It was like I knew a secret that no one else did; I was sharing a special place in time when no one else would experience it. I’ve since given up running, and while I don’t miss the act of running, I miss the solitary time and the magic of the early morning hours.
Dusk isn’t really my time, because people are still awake at dusk. I spend all day and most nights with people, working with them, dealing with them, teaching them, consoling them, feeding them, communicating with them. Don’t get me wrong, I love people – but oh how I love to be alone. And, at 7:30 at night, people are still awake. If I go on a walk, or go on a run, I will almost undoubtedly run into someone and have to dodge cars and my ability to sink within my own thoughts diminishes with each additional human encounter.
But tonight, I took my dog on a walk at dusk. And there were cars to dodge and someone mowing the grass and fighting the diminishing daylight, but most others were inside already, hunkering down, eating dinner, doing the things you always do after a work day is over and you’re preparing for another.
And because I’m creepy, and because it’s quite easy to do when it’s getting dark and the lights are on and people have not yet taken down their blinds, I peered into houses as I walked by. I love architecture, and I love houses, and I love to see how people decorate, and what might they be doing in there house right now? And what kind of family lives there? And do they have children, and if so how old, and what will these children grow up to do, and what lives might they change, and how might the world be different when they start to take over our politics and our healthcare and will maybe one of them become President? These are things I do for fun. I like making up stories in my head and I like to imagine out the potential.
And as I was getting a feel for people’s decor and enjoying the structure of their houses and seeing a few people scattered here in there in their comfy clothes, I noticed a startling similarity between nearly all houses: the flash of quickly changing light, of different colors, of sounds of multiple people talking throughout the house – things that could only mean that the television is on. And inside these houses, you could see the tiny heads of these people from the street, staring dumbly at the screen, being taken out of their environment and away from their own little world into the world inside a piece of furniture hanging on their wall.
And outside, the moon is just turning, it is barely a sliver, and the trees look different as the light is almost gone now, and the crickets are chirping and you can hear the cicadas, and my sweet precious dog is smelling every little blade of grass that is beginning to collect the first sign of dew, and hunting for every small squirrel running up a tree, and discovering each new bunny in a bush, and it is all so exciting and all so fresh and all so real and so natural and so good.
The air feels nice and cool, like only a spring or a fall night might, and these are the last few days before it gets chilly, and there are empty porches and empty chairs and lawn furniture weeping and sitting lonely knowing it will be out of commission for the next several months, begging for a seat to be had and to realize their potential, and to help these humans enjoy their last few beautiful fall nights, and they will stay lonely because inside are the screens, and the escape, and the ability to no longer be in your house while actually still being in your house, and given it’s a really cheap alternative to traveling and definitely more safe than using drugs and a much more convenient form of escapism than actually stepping outside, where there might be bugs, where they might have to stop and think, where being present might be their only option, where the loneliness may settle like a weight on their heart and the depression might creep in until they can actually feel feelings and they might begin to understand the intricacies of life and their problems and all it has to offer, so they stay in their walls, they protect themselves from nature, they forget about their day and their problems and their feelings and they resort to this screen on the wall to let them forget and to allow them permission to not feel and allow them to forget that we actually live in this magical place, and magic is all around, and it’s beautiful and complex and frustrating and depressing and lonely but beautiful beautiful beautiful.
And so I had to come home, and stare at my own little screen, and type out these words to put out into the universe to maybe reach these lonely people, so that maybe they’ll find it and connect. Or maybe because I’m lonely, too. Or maybe because this is my form of escapism, and how I unwind from the day, and how I’ll never understand you and you’ll never understand me so all we can do is exist side by side, and communicate through screens instead of verbage, texts instead of touch.
And so there it is, and there it will be, and I wish you a night full of loneliness and depression and stars and breeze and no screens and beauty beauty beauty.