It’s a bright sort of darkness, the type city people confuse for the real thing.
Streetlamps and buses, trains and cars, glowing store signs and homes’ motion-activated security systems mean it will never get truly dark here.
No one’s going to stumble and cry out here, lost in an endless black. At worst they’ll look slightly up and a green sign off a lamppost will tell them if they’ve made it to Damen yet.
This neighborhood doesn’t get dangerous at night, just inconvenient. A lone Starbucks provides oasis and pastries to early risers. An independent shop a half-block over promises better coffee if you come back in an hour.
The lone flashlight I see is held by a young woman jogging parallel to the Metra tracks. It’s more for spotting pavement cracks than muggers.
A near-empty bus rolls by. Two or three of the people inside look like early morning workers, headed to suit-and-tie or kitchen staff jobs. One or two look homeless, riding the bus all night for the lulz and shelter.
A dump truck stops for a bin beneath the ‘L’ tracks, its complex brake light system discoing the alley.
There are people about, of course there are. Joggers and early commuters, a cyclist or two and whoever’s on that rumbling, intoxicating train.
Two valiant protector dogs, neither more than 30 pounds, scare the crap out of me from a fenced-in yard. I start to wonder what the others around think of me.
My shorts and T are too casual to be heading to work. I’m not jogging enough to be a jogger.
Maybe they think I’m an early drunk, guts festooned with last last last call. Or a walk of shame luck-getter, although this doesn’t seem the neighborhood where that would be expected.
More likely they don’t think of me at all. I’m just scenery in their monologues, like they are in mine.
A cyclist goes past, yawning as she checks to see if a lane is clear.
Airplanes and cicadas sing from above.
As I continue my amble, light beckons to the east, promising a beautiful, breaking, burning dawn.
I want none of it. I head home to write these lines.
There are more than plenty hymns to daybreak. Here in the dark and empty is where I want to sing my song.