One of the character traits that I share with Lexie, the protagonist of Inner Moonlight, is insomnia. For the past week, I’ve been lying in bed wide awake at 3:30 am trying to quiet my mind.
She felt each brain cell fizzle like a water droplet on a hot skillet. Tomorrow would tell the same story of burst blood vessels, sullied, flaccid skin, bad breath and sunken eyes.
That was what she had to look forward to in three hours, a self-perpetuating cycle of foolishness and alienation. Lexie had an easy enough time feeling out of place without the motor skills of a drunkard to seal the deal.
Ironically, it was also at these thick, invisible hours where Lexie felt the most at home. She could wade through time like walking on the floor of a warm, dark sea. The night wasn’t the menacing part; it was the threat of dawn that caused her the most grief, when the still and fecund air receded to give way to the glaring and the loud. When the fear of day didn’t trouble her, Lexie felt perfectly comfortable, crossing the night like a raft down a wide, lazy river. But tomorrow held plenty to undo her. New people to meet, to impress, to befriend. Schedules, buildings and texts to commit to memory, and the same befuddling questions that followed her every day, now upgraded to include majors, minors, relationship status, and political identity. The mere thought of it made her stomach roll over itself.
She crumpled in her chair, elbows perched atop her desk next to a stack of books and her laptop, which glared impassively into the darkness of the room. She leaned forward, struggling to open the window with her clumsy, exhausted hands. As the window slid in its casing, tiny branches from the great oak tree beyond screeched against the glass. A flood of cool, moist air swirled into her stale room, almost as clear and blue as Van Gogh’s night sky. Her desk lamp threw light in a golden pool out the window, making the great tree’s bark look as craggy as a relief map. Green leaves, mottled with shocking red, clung to the branches, steeling themselves for slow death. The faintest of breezes gently rustled them. Otherwise, everything was silent.
- from Chapter 2, Inner Moonlight
Sometimes I’ll heed my brain’s need to write or process, but during times of high-stress work, like I’m in right now, it’s hard for me to justify staying up til dawn. It does usually feel better, though, to shake the thoughts out of my head like water from my ears. Some of my best work comes from these headachey, difficult hours, and I’m grateful for them.
My favorite part, though, is the colors. Back in college, it was a regular thing for me to watch the sky move from inky black to violet to indigo to blue. There is a specific color that exists for only a few moments in the spring and fall: a rich, jewel-like indigo. It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it phenomenon so beautiful it makes the headache and scratchy eyes worth it.
Last night as I typed while my household slept, I looked out to the full moon, low and shining straight through my window, and I saw a new color. It was the color I have in my head as part of my book cover: the perfect, deep slate blue. I rushed to the window to memorize it. I mentally sought out my camera, but found it locked away in my car. Then I tried using the camera on my computer to capture the color, but it didn’t work. Finally, I ran to the window with my laptop and opened up photoshop, futzing with hue and tone until I was able to capture the color for myself.
Such evenings remind me of a short story I read in high school English class, about a cold-hearted minister who loathes the nighttime until he discovers love and leaves the house on a moonlit night, to finally witness the glory of nighttime. (If you remember the name of this story, please let me know!)
It is a strange mix of gratitude and frustration that I greet these hours, wading through them so thick I move slowly, deliberately, and painfully. But the solitude and silent beauty of these hours make it worth it.