October 8, 2014

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Our Eclipse.


Most nights, I wake up at 3:30 am, but sometimes 4:45 am, to pee. On the nights I fall asleep drunk, I wake up at 1:45 am. It's Fall now, which has made sleeping easier, and being under blankets feels nice. Last night, I went to sleep somewhere between drunk and tired, and cold, but woke up at 5:55 am, having to pee more badly than usual—it was a sensation unpleasant enough to get me out from underneath my warm covers.


When I heard people talking about the lunar eclipse the day before, and about how they were going to wake up at 5:00 am for it, or just stay up waiting for it, I thought that I wouldn't; "I need sleep more than to do that," I thought. My brother said he had set an alarm for it. It's my one day off of work of the week, so "I'm gonna sleep in," I told him.


On my way to the toilet, I saw out the window that the lunar eclipse was still going on at 5:55 am. I went, and realized my brother was still sleeping, so I knocked on his door and told him that the lunar eclipse was happening—that he didn't miss it. "Are you going outside?" he asked, and I told him that I was, but after I put a hat and coat on.


We both walked out quietly and set off the motion sensor lights in the hallway on our way. It was cold and breezy, but not in an unpleasant way. The city was just waking up. When we found the eclipse in the sky, we gazed at it in silence. After a few minutes, I told my brother that the whole scene felt extra weird because of a dream that I had just been having. It was about us riding bikes together in Ireland. He smiled and we returned to the eclipse.


"That's our shadow," he said in the midst of our silence. I saw that it was our shadow, and I thought that was cool—but for me, the overwhelming aspect of this moment was this confluence of wild concepts: the cold wind on our faces all part of a pattern that makes its presence normal and expected, despite that wind having been warm two weeks ago. And that the only reason we were awake to witness this is due to a pattern that I don't understand (peeing in a consistent rhythm that interrupts my inconsistent sleep), but today's timing was off. And that as we stood there in socks on the porch, we were spinning, and the shadowed moon was spinning, and the sun was rising, and the moon was setting. And about three decades ago, all of these things were still normal and expected and I was born from one woman and two years later, my brother was born from that same woman, and now we're standing next to each other, watching "our" world project a shadow onto "our" moon—and we've been raised to possess our massive rocks floating and spinning through space, though this shadow makes me feel like much more of a passenger than a pilot. But, as brothers, we can discuss this.


Our conversation now competed with impatient honks at intersections and passing of police sirens. We talked about how difficult it is to recognize the changes of the eclipse, and whether or not we were imagining its changes. I told my brother that it helps to look away for a second to forget about the image. He tried that, but the motion detector light went off and made it hard to see. We talked about how strange it was to see the sun light up the edge of the moon in the same way that we knew it would light up the large buildings in front of us just a few moments later. We wondered together about if people hundreds of years ago would be as surprised as us at this moment; we agreed that they probably had a much better grasp on the whole thing than we did. We noticed someone try to take a picture of the moon when their flash lit up the side of the building in front of them; we joked about how they might need to get a brighter flash.


The bright sliver sunk behind the school building next to our apartment and the city traffic was much louder now. It was light out. We shuffled back into the building and laughed when we heard my brother's alarm going off. It brought us back to "our" life—the one with deadlines and taxes and interest payments. The alarming shift made me think of baristas, and lattes that get mistakenly served with 2% instead of Skim, and about how that is outrageous and unacceptable. And parking tickets and towing, and loan payments and lunch breaks. And war, and the news, ketchup and Ranch dressing. And the Super Bowl and promotions, and tuition, and luxury automobiles. And certified organic, and resorts, and dessert. And buy-one-get-one-free coupons and paper towel floral patterns, and 4G networks. And Frequent Flyer miles and "old fashioned" donuts. And conference calls and auto-dialers, and vibrating massage chairs and photosynthesis and sitcoms and restless leg syndrome. And the ocean and anti-perspirant deodorant, and BBQ Chips and foreign languages. And energy drinks and heart attacks, and chemotherapy. And plastic forks and Holidays, and "get well soon" cards. And pets, and the "Self Help" section in a bookstore. And cotton candy flavored vodka, seat belts, and acne cream. And the Thanksgiving Day Parade and contact lenses and mirrors. And loafers, and Happy Meals, and tollways. And bankruptcy, and pillow cases, and tempered glass. And golf. And lunar eclipses.


My brother told me that he read this article recently about how it's not that difficult to make soap. So we talked about maybe starting a soap company. But he had to go to work, and I have to go to the store to get a new backpack. But I still don't know what color I want.

Matt Austin