It’s two in the morning on a Thursday. A cloak of thick, oppressive darkness has settled upon Broadway Street, only pierced by the fluorescence of store signs and street lights. Wispy gusts of air send autumn leaves upwards, only for them to gently descend upon the asphalt seconds later. There is a kind of sacred silence, only disrupted by the soft, rhythmic slapping of my sneakers on the sidewalk. To fill the void, I count my steps. One, then two, then three, then four.
I find myself at one hundred and thirty before I finally look up, deciding I’d better scan the street before crossing, en route to GHeav. I’m astonished to find nothing within sight. No vehicles aggressively forcing their way through traffic. No STEM majors furiously peddling to their lectures on Science Hill that started five minutes ago. No “budding entrepreneurs” juggling their coffees and bookbags with one hand, making important business calls with the other. No runners flying past me, their “jogs” outpacing my sprint. No passing half-acquaintances to flash me the overly bright and tight-lipped smile that everyone knows all too well. There is no one.
The only movement comes from two squirrels scrambling towards each other, finding solace within a tree, away from the rain-slicked sidewalk pavement. The two birds I can’t see, but hear softly cooing into the night. The icy breeze that raises goosebumps on my forearms. An open-mouthed smile breaks loose as I watch a cloud frame my every exhale. Suddenly, I am set into motion, twirling on the heels of my sneakers as I admire the magnificent portrait I’ve somehow lost myself in. My fingers grasp the atmosphere, the air yielding to my every curiosity. Some part of me is racked with disbelief; I can’t understand the silence. I shut my eyelids for a moment and remember.
Just hours ago, I was racing down Broadway, pressed for time as I went to collect a package at the bookstore before heading to class. The afternoon sun beamed down rays of gold so bright that I was temporarily blinded after emerging from my darkened dorm room. Still, I heeded neither to the sun’s glare nor to the hubbub of people gliding past me, some loudly discussing their carefully devised summer plans—from White House internships to tech startups—others gossiping with their friends about those two people they saw together yesterday. I didn’t have time. I kept my head down and walked. Step, step, step, step … countless. I callously crushed dried leaves beneath me with the soles of my sneakers.
Soon enough, I bursted through the bookstore’s doors and scurried down the staircase. All thoughts focused on the tasks at hand: show my ID, grab the package, utter a quick and polite “thank you,” before, just like a little rodent, I scuttle out the store’s exit. It was strangely warm outside, but I didn’t have time to take my jacket off, so I proceeded. I jaywalked and hurried past slower pedestrians. Cars angrily blared their horns. And there I was—I can see it now—just about to crack.
I shake my head and force my eyes open. I watch as the night unfolds before me, as nature performs its choreographed dance, as New Haven slips into a deep slumber, as the moon carves a path through the black star-speckled canvas above. Careful, I watch the darkness, and I listen to the silence. It stretches into eternity.