3 A.M. Idyll

Flash
Phebe Kirkham


Photo Credit: Bill Lane/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

My daughter wants to go for a walk after midnight through the summer streets of our neighborhood. She is restless at night, she says. I tell her she cannot go alone. She argues; I refute. After hours of boiling, down at the bottom of the pot is a single reason: she is a girl. She is furious, as she should be, all her anger directed at me, though it is not me who has made this world.

But at three a.m. when I wake as I do every night, I think of all the other women, their tide tables grown erratic in midlife, who find themselves beached on the hard sand of two or three a.m.

I imagine all of us rising from our beds, pulling on our robes and our sweatshirts and our leather jackets, adjusting our hijabs and our wigs, rearranging our side parts and our braids, slipping on sandals and loafers and sneakers and boots, gathering our soporifics—our warm milk in a mug, our tisanes, our hot water with lemon, our shots of vodka and cacha├ža and soju, our books and our knitting and our word searches, our decks of cards and our dominoes and our mahjong tiles.

I imagine us opening our doors and stepping down onto our stoops and out onto our corners, standing like so many pickets in a fence, while all the girls of the city come out for their walks.

We would not speak a word to the girls. We would gather around quiet but fierce games of five-card stud and go. In low voices, or with deft gestures, we would trade our hard-found remedies for flashes of heat and frozen shoulders and forgotten names.

We know that the girls have things to settle within themselves. We remember that to do this work, they must believe they walk unseen in the sweet, thick night.

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Phebe Kirkham teaches writing and literature at York College, CUNY. She holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and lives in Queens with her husband and daughter. Her twitter handle is @7thPhebe. Email: phebekirkham[at]gmail.com

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