At 3:30 AM, knuckles rap on my bedroom door,
and my eyes, crusted with sleep, crack open.
While I sleepwalk into a pull-over sweater and slip on some Chucks,
my mom pulls open the front door
To let the cold air’s stinger
Prick my face until I am awake.
The morning haze pools at my feet,
Seeps into my layered clothes,
Until I am soaked in the cold.
The ice crusted on the windshield
Cracks and splinters as I pour water on it.
Driving down Manning, we can only hear
the engine’s soft hum
And the wind that seeps into the
cracked rear window;
The green traffic lights
blur past our heads while we slink through a vacant city.
The empty lot holds a few other
sleepwalkers like me, who keep warm and alive in
Coffee cups, hand warmers, and snowball beanies.
Mom kisses my nose, shouts pick me up at 10:00 AM,
and shuffles through the cold and into the
lighted double doors of Big Lots.
The moon dips back into the skyline
And drives the stars, the car, and my body back home.
Outside my house, with my key clicked into the lock,
I am compelled to stand still and listen—
the baying coyote who lives in the grapevines,
the humming lights of the 24-hour laundromat,
and the pomegranate tree rooting itself into the ground
are loud enough to keep me awake until dawn.
--Gabriella Q., Adult