The silence at home is nearly deafening. Still, in the fall evening, I could hear crickets and insects in a late summer chorus, 18-wheelers on the other side of the farmers’ meadows that back into their backyard, and silence accompanied by a quiet slumber.
At school, there is a consistent chorus of late night schlepping; at 3 a.m. someone is coming home to his or her apartment from the library, the bar, the club, or the boyfriend/girlfriend’s house. There is a steady stream of ambulances on the highway, our street, or the busy roads that run parallel to mine. There are cars that thump in the night, there are desperate knocks on apartment doors, there are cats howling at the moon, and there are dogs that bark at them. The previous Tuesday night’s activities began around 10 p.m. when the girls next door held a raging party with red Solo cups and jumped from our roof to the worn wooden planks that connect our residencies. Minus the roof jumping, all of this is normal. It is what we expect in my apartment, whether or not we respect and accept it.
The drive home was not planned from the beginning, but it was welcome. I didn’t expect to find a new comfort in home when I drove home, but I’m glad I did.
An acquaintance I am not especially fond of blogged about her own anticipated trip home that weekend. She wrote: “I miss seeing the stars. In [Collegetown] you can’t see stars...but back at home you can see everything.”
I thought she was ridiculous. Our hometowns are similar—mine is slightly more metropolitan, but holds the same elements of country life. I thought of the summer evenings I spent on the deck in my apartment and admired the constellations while on the phone with my best friend. I wouldn’t deny that the street lights and pink haze from civilization is a slight hindrance, but I can’t help but silently dismiss the dramatic claims. When I take open my front door the first thing I see is a dark blue open sky, dotted with tiny points of light. Even in the City, I can see the same pattern of stars, galaxies, an open expanse of Elsewhere. When the August meteoroid shower occurred, it was overcast skies that kept the roommate and I from stargazing, not the traffic or lights. Later when the sky cleared for a few minutes, I saw the wisps of light.
That Sunday night was set for a flurry of comets. Winifred asked that I check the sky at midnight and wake her up if I saw anything. In the basement, engrossed in homework, midnight arrived and left, giving way to 1 a.m., and finally 2 a.m., when I pulled myself away from the glowing screen and into the driveway. Activities in the sky is Winifred's Thing. She knows which planets are in the sky and when to see them.
Only the newest neighbors had left their yardlight on. The neighborhood was silent, and the only activity was a stray cat that briefly crossed my path before darting into the backyard, en route to the meadow which is filled with all sorts of wild cat food.
And when I looked up, I realized how wrong I’d been. My front door still opens to a starfield by night (and bright Simpsons-blue sky by day), but Winifred and The King’s sky is a different atmosphere. They had constellations that I didn’t, darker and more vibrant hues, and the pink hue of civilization was only found in the backyard—and only because their neighborhood is near a Sheetz. I waited for my eyes to adjust so that I could see more—as I do at school—and was disappointed to find out that I was presented with More when I stepped outside.
There was no adjusting for more stars at home, because there is always More of everything. More time and space for laundry, More free dinner, More parental advice, More understanding, More of Everything.
I saw only one flash of light outside; I had missed the comet shower—if we’d been able to see it at all—by doing homework. I stayed outside until I was too cold to remain outdoors and went inside, to finish my homework.
I know that Home with Winifred and The King will always offer More; their laundry is always free, their hugs are always available, and the dinner is always accompanied by conversation. I’m only sorry I’d taken their skies, and these past years of Free More, for granted.