3AM by Norah Kratz
3AM and the rain was beating a soprano drum beat down on the roof outside my window. The thunder chimed in with the bass, and the lightning with that glitzy, snapping flute, and chaos never sounded so much like rich jazz. So it was the thunder that woke me up, in the way your Dad wakes you up when you have to drive to the airport early in the morning. With quiet, gentle excitement. Smooth cello, silkily in through the windows, and a-whispering my name until I opened my eyes. It didn’t stay that way for too long, though. Once the rain started beating the snare like a championship pony, and the wind picked up the melody and belted it like Louis Armstrong, I sat right up and listened. It would’ve been disrespectful, I knew, to do anything else.
This is what makes me a little human. Not that I woke up, but that I stayed up. I didn’t give it the usual confession, a peaceful little smile, and a roll over to the cool side of the pillow.
I listened with wide eyes.
Boy, did that orchestra put on a show. I woke up and wrote about the beauty. I woke up and wrote about the noises and the lights like a poetic insomniac, as if I was in the midst of the storm myself. I sit inside, real quiet, and the world rages around me.
I’m a little embarrassed that the thunder had to remind me to appreciate these little things in the first place. I guess I saw the forecast the day before, the little glowing rain clouds smiling up at me from the weather app. I should have set an alarm, should have stayed up all night, just to wait for the thunderstorm, to welcome it in. To give it a mat to wipe its shoes on, and ask if it wanted a sip of coffee. Instead I fell asleep, like I hadn’t missed the rain every second the sun was shining. So I figured I better do good by it then, while I had the chance, and so I slipped off the bed and tip-toed across the linoleum, and got my sketchbook and journal, and crouched by one of the windows. The lights dimmed, except for a spotlight on the rain, and, oh, can she sing!
Did you know I did’t need to wear glasses at 3AM? Did you know the world doesn’t look the same? That it’s milky like chocolate, and the air feels different in your lungs? There are street lights right out my window, and I realized that night that all I need to see is what they show me. All I need to hear is the pitter-patter on the rooftop, the soft tune of the nighttime.
I wrote a little, drew a little, and listened a lot. Once in a while, maybe I would hear something worth remembering, but mostly it was just the same chorus, again and again. That’s just fine, in fact, I think that’s just the way it was supposed to be. I think if I had heard all that the rainy night had to say, I might have hated all the other times of day.
I know that we would be sweeter people, if we lived only at night. If we spoke about the rain early, early yesterday morning. It’s not that we don’t, it’s only that the things told out on a sunny afternoon as you walk to the park, aren’t the same as a story told around the fire where the faces are lit up like Roman statues. Where the eyes don’t move from the flames and yet still we talk.
Fires are for the beating hearts in our chest, and so is this rain.
I am not holy now, but I hear the rain still tapping gently away at the piano, and I know there is a God. Do you see the way the rain caresses the side of the streetlight, sliding softly down the glowing orange lights and slipping off the end like tears on a little boy’s chin? I know there is a God.
This is sublime. I know it is.
I know that when we were a young creation, a Jewish woman woke up as I am awake now, out in the desert with Father Abraham. Maybe she too looked out of her tent and saw the rain clouds rolling in, and thought about her Yahweh. She and I looked up at the same moon, and we wrote about the beauty of the same sun. We are little sisters of the times, holding each other’s grubby hands across centuries and continents. At 3AM, I am closer to her. It’s as if I am about to get the chance to grab her other hand, to look into her eyes and see myself. And still the rain comes on down, down, and down again, through the octaves and then back up again.
But, I think the storm has dissipated. The thunder is lapping down, the lightning polishes the cymbals before sliding them into their cases. Still, the rain plays on, as the maintenance man switches off the lights, and the last guest slips out the door. Rain sings on, a capella and all the better for it, on the roof outside my window.
I went back to bed. Fell asleep, and the thunderstorm saw itself out the back door. But when I woke up the next morning, I remembered that last night, there was a visitor. I remembered that last night, I had been woken up in the nick of time, to watch something beautiful, to listen to something temporary and therefore all the more special. I knew I had a conversation last night that no one else saw, or heard, a conversation I knew I will never really ever be able to do justice to, no matter how much poetry I write, or paintings I create. I listened to a divine concerto. I think I might have even played in it, too.
Wake up at 3AM.
Wake up at 3AM.
Be very quiet, and very thoughtful.
Go back to bed in a minute, or an hour.
You won’t care if you’re a little sleepy the next day, the memory will taste too much like nostalgia and fireflies in jars for you to care.
You made the time to take a deep breath in a world severely deprived of oxygen. You’ve bought front row tickets to the best singer in town, and settled in for the late-night showing. You’ve lent an ear to the oldest orchestra ever known, sat beneath the same moon your great-grandmother did when she was a little girl, you’ve brushed arms with the cosmos, if only for a second.
You’ve remembered what it is to be a little human, and what it is to have a big God.