There were days in mid-summer when the sky was grey-white and close and even the birds were subdued in their singing.
Then the roar of the river shoals only whispered and one was tempted to sleep; to fall onto the grassy bank in the dim day and let go of every thought and ambition and rest there on the turning earth as if nothing changed and nothing would ever change. As if one were surrendering nothing; missing nothing.
But after the first of these days, after God had permitted this slip into slumber once or twice, sleep would no longer come and one walked the sidewalks and streets empty of traffic and empty of all emotion and life and wondered and wished for some brilliance somewhere. Some light or wind or even storm that would break this silence and bring music back. Where was the voice of one boy or girl announcing the catch of a great fish or the sighting of the hawks that flew above the ridges in the Spring?
Even the nights, then, grew sleepless. It was as if one had never really been awake in the day and, thus, there was no reason to sleep. Nothing had been used up and there was no need for restoration. This was against all nature and sapped the body of strength and the mind of hope and vigor.
On such evenings and without a word of planning or conspiracy he escaped through his bedroom window and crept along the cindered alley and into the backyard of the old Miller estate that sat at the end of the road and bordered on the edge of the forest. The moon illuminated the clouds and the florid heads of the great oaks and poplars were black against the fluorescent sky, like giant mushrooms.
The last house across the road had one light on and a window open and on the nights when Cincinnati was playing on the west coast he heard the radio broadcast of the baseball games and as he sat in the dewy darkness he imagined the big-league stadiums, lit up like circuses and full of thousands of people for whom it was still day and he then drifted into sleep, perhaps for an hour at a time.
He knew then, somehow, that these sleepless nights, these nights alone on this hillside looking down into the lights of the little town as they shone from the church steeples and car lots would be some kind of marker for him. Something he’d remember for life as a kind of ground zero where consciousness was not affected by emotion one way or another. There was no ecstasy and no pain, only the glowing sky and the charcoal outlines of the trees and the little dots and lines of light in the little town below and the voice of some grown man telling of some hitter’s count in the bottom of the fourth inning in some city far, far away.