I have not slept well. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I yearn to be with my family on the Vineyard, but I know staying behind for the last three days of the week will afford me to lock my office and leave Whately Prep for an entire week, barring emergencies. The wind has been howling so hard that it’s been hard to hear the thunder and lightning. The rain hasn’t arrived; the wind carries hot, humid air and tosses it across the Valley. I read from 12:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., click out the light, and wait. I must have dozed off because next time I look at the clock, it reads 3:30. I sit up in bed and peer out the window by my bed. Still that uncomfortable antsy feeling. The oaks alongside the house are bending and thrashing, like drunk sailors riding out a storm. I pull on my running shorts. I can not stay in the house for another minute. I look at the clock again. I started chewing my nails, a habit from long, long ago.
I pull down the shade, just to raise it a bit, but it catches and flies up. The entire window is laid bare and I am afforded a view of the campus from my second story perch in the Head’s house. There are a couple of lights on here and there. I see the golf cart whirl by -- the night watchman doing his rounds. The one house I wonder about most has two lights on. The front porch is illuminated. There is also a dim light in a room on the second floor. I look at the clock again. 3:47a.m. I pull my nightgown over my head, drop it on the floor at the foot of the bed. I pull on a Smith College tee shirt. I zip on a wind breaker that I pull off a hook in the closet. No lights, I do it all by feel and memory.
Down the steps, I pull down on the front door handle, it is never locked. When I step out onto the porch, the warm, humid breeze carries a few drops of rain sideways under the cover of the porch roof. I root around in the shoe basket to find my sneakers. I jam them on with the familiarity of an act I do almost every morning. Looking over my shoulder through the sidelight along the closed front door, I see the time illuminated on the alarm system. 4:03 a.m.. My stomach leaps. I am about to cross an invisible line. I know it. I know it, and can't seem to stop myself. I try, I try to rein in my feelings. I try to reason with myself, but I feel like I am moving on auto-pilot. I set off at a slow jog. Looking for other night time wanderers. I see no-one. By the time that I arrive under his window sill, the rain is falling more steadily. A crack of lightning makes me jump. The sky is eerily bright for an instant. I see a gravel drainage verge and pick up a few round stones. The lightning is followed by a deep, resonant, boom. The storm must be directly overhead. I hurl the stones at the second floor window that glows with a dim light. The first two passes miss; the wind picks them up, hurtling them away from the house. The third stone cracks the glass. Damage I never intended. Maybe this whole thing is a bad idea. I toss one, last, small stone, angling it and putting some muscle behind it. To my dismay, I hear the pane of glass shatter. I expect to see someone’s face in the window. I start to back away, regretting having even come out.
“Julia?” his voice breaks through the raging storm. “Is that you?” His voice comes to me from the first floor on the front porch.
I am drenched to the skin. When I step onto his front porch, I look as bedreaggled as a drowned rat. A particularly close lightning strike causes the hair on my arms to stand on end. The deep skull-splitting percussion of the resounding thunder feels like it will split me in half. Then, I am in Carl’s arms and he is dragging me inside, behind closed doors. He leaves me in the hallway for a minute, then comes out of a room down the hall. Bet dry off,” he says.. I squeeze water from my hair into the heavy, blue towel he hands me.
“Still can’t sleep through thunder and lightning storms, hunh?”
Carl’s arms encircle me. The wind lets up. The persistent train whistle effect of the wind finding its way across campus begins to recede. We are less buffeted by the strong storm. The moon, full and luminous, appears low in the sky. First light hints like hope in the eastern sky. I stand with my ear tight against Carl's chest. Finally, I am tired. All I want to do is fall asleep listening to the beating of his heart, steady and strong.