It’s getting late, and the computer screen has burned itself into my head, words and pictures swimming in a haze of allergies and my own inability to stay up late. Obituaries are filed, random police odds and ends typed and submitted, and now I wait for the hours to tick past, in case something happens that everyone will want to read about when they come home from church tomorrow, find their paper waiting for them.
A newsroom on a Saturday night is a strange place to be. We’re all subdued, tired and focused. Sounds of a pre-season football game turned on low on the television slip into the background; a sports writer’s typing seems loud.
Voices on the scanner come in bursts, speaking their own code I only sometimes understand. “We’ve got a possible 1015,” and I struggle to remember what that means. Someone’s lost consciousness twice in 10 minutes; someone else had a heart attack but paramedics will have him to the hospital in 10 minutes (I don’t know his name, where he’s from, but I know all his vital statistics, and what they’re doing to keep him alive).
Tones sound through the crackling speaker, and I pay attention – tones mean something important. Or not. Not tonight, anyway. Just an alarm, no fire.
Food wrappers littler my desk with the police reports and obituary billing forms and random notes to myself and quarters for the vending machine in case I get hungry and my chocolate is gone. I forgot coffee; food is keeping me awake now.
But everything tonight seems to be reminding me that summer is coming to an end. Football season is almost here, the soul of fall in this corner of the world. The nights have been chiller, the days milder for the past week. My squashes have dried up, tomatoes are ripening on the vine. Stray leaves are falling here and there, like the first drops of rain that warn of the showers just minutes away.
Grocery store banner ads scream their back-to-school prices – crayons and notebooks at give-away prices; backpacks and lunch boxes in glitter and Twilight and whatever else the trends dictate this year. College freshmen idle down the Wal-Mart aisles, tired mothers pushing baskets overflowing with Rubbermaid organizing bins, hangers, sheets and towels for a fresh start to a new time of life.
Even the police log shows it: IUP student cited for making an intersection his urinal, and so every weekend log will be until it’s too cold for drunk half-adults to loiter on the streets.
But the strangest thing is that I didn’t realize summer was passing. Not really, anyway. Days came and went, a loose routine that varied depending on the night meetings and afternoon interviews that came my way. Evening runs in the woods up from the house, enticing Morning Glory vines to climb up posts, not across the grass, drinking iced coffee when I got home from work because it was too hot for anything else – it’s all blurred together.
And yes, I know there’s a month of summer left on the calendar; but he starts studies in a week, and school buses will be passing by my house again, and the air will be crisper before then.
We lay silent for so long last night, listening the fan and the creek and the tree frogs across the road, trying to slow the minutes — after a week where I worked half the nights and he spent all day at the house, laying floors, and we passed in the mornings and I fell asleep before he came home.
“I missed you this week,” I said, but I was thinking about the fall. We’ll be passing in the doorway then for months, not a week. We’ve done this before. He’ll be studying all his waking hours – studying or working for his professors. I’ll keep busy, ferrets for company, lining up projects to keep my attention.
We’ve got one week of summer left; I’d like to slow the clock.