Everyday I try, but I’ve yet to sneak into our apartment without waking her up. Today was no exception. 7 am, and the sun was just coming up over city St. Paul. Cold, clean, fresh. The city stretches and groans just like the rest of us, bounces out of bed to attack the day. Just like the rest of us. Except for me, I’m one of those lucky ones, just getting home from the overnight shift at the factory. Creaky door in this creaky apartment cast in the shadow of the Cathedral, no matter what I try, that front door wakes her up. I’m her alarm every 7 am, coming off the overnight.
I can hear her shuffle and stretch in the bedroom, curled up in a nest of comforters and pillows. I’m envious of those pillows, wrapped up with her every night while I’m putting time in with the other union dogs, just keeping our heads down and getting by, doing work, breaking our backs, punching the clock.
Into the bedroom and pulling my grubby work shirt over my head, “Do you still think I’m cute with these raccoon bags under my eyes?” I glance into the mirror; a rough looking dog looks back at me. Not enough sleep, never enough sleep.
From somewhere in the depths of the blankets comes a muffled “I do.” The nest rustles a bit and suddenly her head is visible. She stares up at me with her deep browns, and I’m reminded that it’s all worth it.
The long nights and the sad smiles from coworkers. The writing at the kitchen table in this creaky little apartment most mornings once she heads off to class. The rejection letters that sting a bit more than they used to, even though I laugh them off on the outside. The tired muscles and pale complexion that are the perks of working while most people are sleeping. The constant cycle of coffee and sleeping pills and booze, whatever it takes to get a couple hours snooze in the afternoon, and then stay alert enough at night so as not to lose my hand to a beautifully dangerous piece of unforgiving stainless steal machinery. Someday when I’m a famous writer and she’s found a cure for third world eye disease, we’re going to look back on these as some of the happiest days of our lives.
The hint of a smile she wears with such confident beauty says that she knows that I worry about these things, and that it’s going to be alright. This is the time to be young and poor and happy. Idealistic. We’re too young to be too old, and growing up is so cliché these days anyway. Life is simple right now. We work hard, we keep dreaming. Things will sort out because we have confidence in them. And because we have each other. These are the thoughts we share, but don’t need to say out loud. Shared early morning glances are enough.
“Time to get up cutie, you’ve got class.”
Please take a moment to check out photography by Kayla Houssian