Mornings are not for noise. They are not for making doctor’s appointments or doing laundry. Mornings are for silent conversations between the voice in my head and the voice somewhere else inside me. Mornings are sacred, but the perfect morning is elusive.
Last year, school mornings meant natural light bursting into my single room. It erupted in from College Street. I had to hang dress-bags over the window’s filmy panes and swivel my bed away from the slivers of gold that crept in. A sunrise is nice, but only once in a while. Morning was bad coffee from my Keurig machine washed down with dining-hall oranges and an hour reading the paper just because I could. I didn’t speak until class at 11:35.
May 5 and a return to 46 West 96th brought noise. I had missed home, the constant beat of subways and ambulances and hawkers with cell-phone cases, but I had forgotten about the noise inside our duplex. Now, morning was mom asking me to clear my mug before I was done, to help her plan dinner. Morning was a chance to catch all five of us in the same place at the same time. Not speaking was rude when it had once been ritual.
Instead, I ran every morning with the deafening shudder of the C train to Canal Street. While my family sat downstairs hammering out who was home for dinner and what are we having and can I invite Lexi, I tied my laces. While my mom was making mental lists of errands, I was slamming the door shut and stepping into the early smell of New York. It’s a specific bouquet, perfuming the summer haze before the piss steams from the cracks in the sidewalk and too many cigarettes have been lit.
I sprinted the half a block to the park. After I passed the stone wall between Central Park West and the wooded path with its signs proclaiming, “no biking” and “dogs must be leashed,” I breathed deeper. One minute uphill to the reservoir, to feet crunching dirt instead of thumping pavement.
I only have time for one lap. One lap to hear my breathing become jagged. To feel sweat trickle from my baseball cap into my sports bra. To remember that there’s a clandestine pleasure in New York mornings, when you feel like you’ve stolen that image of the sun reflected on still water. A quirk in a concrete jungle that lets me forget where I am, for just a couple seconds, when I round that final bend, and all I see are sleepy, muted, quiet trees.